'The White Lotus': Actors Playing Paula and Olivia on Making Gen Z Scary

In The White Lotus, the two characters who put up the most united front, however truthful, are Olivia and Paula. In the HBO series, the two friends are Gen Z vacationers who judge every person around them. They’re portrayed by Sydney Sweeney and Brittany O’Grady, who are both quick to emphasize that they are nothing like their characters in real life.

Sweeney and O’Grady play college sophomores in ‘The White Lotus’

Olivia and Paula’s friendship is defined by its power dynamics. While the two girls spend nearly every moment together in the series, their time is punctuated by tense, passive aggression. By the end of the series, Olivia snatches back control by uncovering a devastating secret of Paula’s.

To the other guests and the hotel staff, however, the two friends are slightly terrifying. They’re sarcastic and intelligent; throughout the series, they read multiple philosophical texts. They are rarely outwardly rude, but their gaze is sardonic and analytical. Through a raised eyebrow, a quirked lip, a glance at one another, they are able to convey absolute derision. 

The actors recognize that their characters are intimidating

Sweeney and O’Grady note that they have little in common with their characters. 

I’m super sensitive, so I was like, ‘Oh, gosh, we’re not that awful,’ and then I’m looking back, and I’m like, ‘Oh gosh, we really did our job,’” O’Grady said in an interview with The New York Times.

“Can you imagine having a friendship with Paula or Olivia?” Sweeney added.

They explain that Olivia and Paula would be frustrating friends because their relationship is so fraught.

“Their friendship was definitely the definition of the kinds of friendships that Olivia has in her life, where she likes to feel like she is in control and she is No. 1,” Sweeney said. 

To do so, Olivia attempts to capture the attention of Paula’s love interest, Kai. The series implies that this is not the first time she’s done something like this. When that doesn’t work, Olivia wields her knowledge of Paula’s role in Kai’s arrest as a form of control.

“Their friendship kind of crumbles under the circumstances of the world and how they view it or their experiences in it. And it’s not necessarily good or bad. It is what it is,” O’Grady said. “But I do think in the beginning that they have this emotional comfort. We kind of created that dynamic together.”

‘The White Lotus’ was renewed for a second season

Ahead of the season finale, HBO announced that it had renewed The White Lotus for a second season. Fans hoping to revisit the complicated dynamics of Olivia and Paula’s relationship are likely out of luck, though. While the second season will be set at a White Lotus resort, it will feature a new cast. 

“I don’t think you can credibly have [all the Season 1 guests] on the same vacation again,” creator Mike White said. “But maybe it could be a Marvel universe type thing, where some of them would come back.”

While there’s a small possibility that Sweeney and O’Grady return for the second season, it doesn’t seem likely that Paula would join Olivia’s family for another vacation after their time in Hawaii.

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