‘White Lotus’ Actor Says Filming That Lesbian Sex Scene Was a ‘Deep Experience’ for Her

“I remember what I felt. I was not acting, I was living the conflict of this character in a very deep way,” Sabrina Impacciatore told Variety.

‘White Lotus’ Actor Says Filming That Lesbian Sex Scene Was a ‘Deep Experience’ for Her
Photo:Warner Media

By Season 2, Episode 6 of HBO MAX’s White Lotus, the shiny veneer of indulgent wealth and unrestricted vice is at the brink of collapse. Newbie tech millionaire Ethan (Will Sharpe) has driven himself mad thinking that his uptight and anxious wife Harper (Aubrey Plaza) has cheated on him with his college roommate, Cameron (Theo James); miserable Gen Z assistant Portia (Haley Lu Richardson) feels increasingly scared about how little she knows of her once dreamy vacation fling Jack (Leo Woodall); and the ever-gullible Tanya (Jennifer Coolidge) is headed for bankruptcy in the joyous but conniving company of gay faux aristocrats. But for uptight Four Seasons hotel manager Valentina (Sabrina Impacciatore), who has been quietly and clumsily grappling with her queerness all season, things are just beginning to blossom.

Valentina finds herself vulnerable and sexually awakened after spending the night with Mia (Beatrice Grannò), the sex worker-turned-hotel-pianist who struck a deal with her after accidentally drugging the hotel’s usual musician. In exchange for her singing gig, Mia taunted in a previous episode, “You’re gay, right? Im a little bit gay too. Give me this job, and I promise you and I can have some fun.” At the time, Valentina was appalled by the proposition, squashing the possibility before it amounted to anything.

But after finally working up the nerve to invite her crush, receptionist Isabella (Eleonora Romandini), out for a birthday drink, Valentina is devastated when she finds out that Isabella is actually engaged to their other worker, Rocco (Federico Ferrante). Later that evening, drinking at the hotel bar alone, Mia approaches the dejected manageress and remind her that the sex offer still stands. After a few moments of embarrassed resistance and a heartbreaking confession about having never been with a woman before, Valentina caves, and the two sneak into an empty hotel suite to fool around. What ensues is as touching as much as it is racy—instead of denying herself sexual pleasure, Valentina gives up the illusion of control that’s been getting in the way of her happiness this whole time.

Photo:Warner Media

In pushing her to break her own managerial rules and boundaries, Mia offers Valentina a sense of adventure so lacking in her character, someone who Impacciatore herself described as “repressed and compressed.” “[Valentina] has a huge conflict inside,” Impacciatore explained in a recent interview with Variety. “She doesn’t know herself, until something happens and she cannot escape anymore.”

And while these scenes were certainly earth-shifting for Valentina, the experience (which was the actor’s first sex scene after 25 years of acting) was similarly impactful for Impacciatore. After filming the scene in which Valentina confesses to never having been with a woman before, Impacciatore recalls empathizing deeply with her character. “I remember what I felt. I was not acting, I was living the conflict of this character in a very deep way,” she recalled. “It made me understand, how do people that don’t accept themselves live their lives?” Because queer people “have no rights” in Italy, Impacciatore said, she “started to understand the responsibility as an actress. We should accept and respect every different nature. So this scene was a deep experience for me.”

And as for Valentina: “She is finally free.”

In a show rife with man butts and gargantuan prosthetic shlongs, to see these two women—both of whom are still learning about themselves—share such a tender moment of intimacy was thrilling in a completely new way. While Mia may have motives beyond showing Valentina a good time, it’s one of the few scenes in the show where sex isn’t overtly weaponized—whether by being coerced, withheld, or used to cover up past transgressions—giving it an emotional resonance distinct from the rest of the season. Valentina is soft in a way she tries so hard not to be, learning what happens when she leans into becoming more herself.

It’s feels unlikely that Valentina and Mia are on a path to become true lovers—Mia, after all, is newly learning that sex can get her what she wants—but the trajectory of their experience matters little compared to what it’s allowed to open up. “It’s something that is going to change [Valentina’s] life forever,” Impacciatore said in an HBO MAX clip unpacking the episode. “I think that probably Valentina finally accepts the idea that a new life could be possible for her.”

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