Alexandra Daddario is Looking Forward to Brighter Days

Outfit Stella McCartney

Photographs by
Raul Romo

Styling by 
Shaojun Chen

Alexandra Daddario first appeared on my television screen back in 2003 on All My Children. It wasn’t long after that I recognized she was a fascinating actor. Abbreviated into neat squares on a chess board, Daddario’s career would look a little like the following: a successful onset with starring roles in the Percy Jackson films, then a four-episodic arc in True Detective that practically broke the internet (well before Kim K, mind you), then two films that she starred in and produced. From there and in-between, she has never stopped, not even for a breather. Her dossier of work is varied and compelling—a touchstone to Daddario’s quicksilver instinct that enables her to acclimate and withstand professional longevity. There is no small amount of emotional intelligence invested into her characters, whether she’s wearing a one-piece in Baywatch or profiling mad men in Night Hunter. She has vicariously bent Hollywood to her will. 

This summer, HBO will release the limited series The White Lotus, written and directed by Mike White. The six-part series materializes at an exclusive tropical resort and follows the exploits of a sundry of guests and employees. Daddario stars alongside an ensemble cast that includes Jennifer Coolidge, Connie Britton, Sydney Sweeney, Murray Bartlett, and many others. Daddario is remarkable here—her character is newlywed, cached behind a madcap smile with a pressing vulnerability. As she discovers more about her husband, we find her to be notably pragmatic and strong. Daddario will also star in Die In A Gunfight opposite Diego Boneta, a modern-day rendition of the classic Romeo and Juliet. 

Although Daddario appears to have come out of nowhere, hers is not one of those storybook careers. She’s spent years crafting a record that’s reflective of her indelible talent that’s confident in a manner that’s uniquely her own. With more projects on the books, we can expect her vertiginous ascent into the stratosphere. From there and in-between, Alexandra Daddario seems as though she’ll never stop, not even for a breather.

Jacket and pants 3.1 Phillip Lim; Ring Juste un ClouCartier; Watch Panthère de Cartier

I’m so happy to connect with you, Alex. Where are you in the world these days? What are you doing?

I’m in Los Angeles. I’m just doing basically Los Angeles. 

I’m actually calling from Costa Rica. I’ve been here for the last few months now so the connection might be weak.

I’m obsessed with Costa Rica!

It’s beautiful, it’s so lovely. I was really lucky I was able to get away, but it’s been tough. How has the pandemic been for you?

Yeah, definitely tough. I mean, we all had that initial shock. I got to travel to London, and I had to go through a two-week quarantine, which was very intense. So it was just very odd, because I was very grateful to be working and very grateful to even be able to get on an airplane.

What was quarantine like in London?

Well, I was in quarantine basically, the whole time I was there. And then when I got out of quarantine, and this was back in July, things changed, people were out and about right at when they were reopened a bit more they had another wave.  

You’ve been good? And your family’s good? Everyone’s okay?

Everyone’s okay. I lost my poor sweet dog during the pandemic, obviously, not from COVID. But besides that, I honestly am just grateful that everyone in my life is healthy.

I also lost my dog during the pandemic. He was 15, he was like a little dumpster dog. But you know, they’re too good for us.

I have a very big problem with adopted dogs. I will foster dogs.

When you foster, don’t you just want them forever? I’m sure it’s so hard to let them go.

Sometimes it’s very easy to let them go actually! You let them go into a safe environment. Sometimes you’re just like, wow, this dog really, you know, is annoying. (Laughs) You love them but sometimes it’s not the right fit. But there’s still that connection and that joy, you know, saving and making sure that the dog is happy but sometimes you know when it’s not the right fit. I fostered a dog when I got back from Hawaii at the end of the year. I was actually happy to let him go, because I knew he was going to this amazing place. That there would be people who had all this land up in upstate New York. And I just knew that he was going to have the greatest life. And so then, you actually get very happy.

That’s so amazing. And you also shot Songbird during the pandemic, as well? How was that?

Yeah, that was the first thing I did. It was good. I was very excited to just get back to work, and actually, just do a scene. I also was, I was very excited to work with Bradley Whitford, I’m a big fan. It was strange because you know, everything was shut down, and then things started to pick up and you’re just so eager to work. And it makes you have more appreciation for being on set.

Jacket and pants 3.1 Phillip Lim; Ring Juste un ClouCartier; Watch Panthère de Cartier

The world can be very rough, as we all know. I think that I took some of that too much to heart. There were a lot of moments where I really struggled because of things that people would tell me.

Absolutely, even with everyone on set being careful. It was so interesting when I was reading your bio and noted that much of your family is in law and politics. And you ventured into the arts, which is such a departure. What was that process like for you?

I started acting very young and quite frankly, I balanced out the logic of it with a lot of instinct, if that makes sense. I was sort of a sensitive child—I love to read, I love stories. I was always buried in a book. And then I remember I was left alone for a weekend, and I was maybe 13, I went and rented American Beauty and Moulin Rouge from the corner video store. And I remember it was like a religious experience. I think it was the combination of becoming a teenager and there was something about it that I was like, Oh my god, I didn’t know that this existed in life. I just became obsessed with those movies and it just was an instinct that I really wanted to be an actor. I had already been auditioning and doing commercials. I was obsessed with Broadway, with Les Misérables. I was obsessed with dancing and singing, neither of which I’m very good at (laughs), but I loved performing. 

You talk about being an artist. If you could talk to your younger self, what kind of advice would you give?

I want to say to worry less? The world can be very rough, as we all know. I think that I took some of that too much to heart. There were a lot of moments where I really struggled because of things that people would tell me. People, you know, they have an opinion, sometimes it comes from a caring place, and sometimes it doesn’t.

You’ve done so much in your career, if you could pick out a moment where you felt like, this is why I’m doing what I’m doing. This is the project. This is really what brought me to where I am.

I have that moment on almost every project I do when I’m actually in a scene. There’s usually at least a day where you’re acting or you’re doing your work and you’re just being lost in the moment and doing what you love. I really, really love acting. The project that I really felt I was like, Oh my gosh, I love this project every single day was a little movie I did called We Have Always Lived in the Castle—that was a very magical experience for me. And I felt that way quite a bit on The White Lotus, despite the difficulties of quarantine and COVID.

Jacket and skirt Giambattista Valli; Ring Juste un ClouCartier; Boots Louis Vuitton

I really want things to feel authentic and natural, and I think likeability is so important, which means really opening your heart and letting whatever aspects of you shine through. And I think that’s why the best villains are kinda likable. It’s all about creating vulnerability.

How would you kind of delve into these characters and develop them? I know it can be complicated getting into these complex people and dynamics. How do you get yourself into that space?

I read the script multiple times. I really want things to feel authentic and natural, and I think likeability is so important, which means really opening your heart and letting whatever aspects of you shine through. And I think that’s why the best villains are kinda likable. It’s all about creating vulnerability.

Absolutely. Which goes into The White Lotus, what a fantastic show. I went in not knowing anything, and it was beautiful. I was truly impressed by your performance, amazing. You’ve talked about your characters and process, how you work through these very difficult emotions? What was that like for you in this project?

Thank you for saying that. It was great. I got to Hawaii, and I go, ‘Oh, my gosh, I’m in the middle of a pandemic. And I get to stay at the Four Seasons Maui.’ And it is amazing. And then a little bit of Cabin Fever starts to set in and you have things going on at home and you’re scared of COVID and that all is very hard. 

My character had a tremendous amount of anxiety about where she was in her life, which we can all relate to, especially now. But she is also very comfortable at the same time. So that’s where her confusion sets in. She’s married to this very wealthy man. She’s not very wealthy herself. And she’s all of a sudden thrust into this world of privilege. And there’s expectations of what she’s going to do with her life. And I think part of the dark humor of the show is, what are we ignoring around us when we’re so obsessed with things that we think are problems? But on the flip side, your own problems are your life, you know? So I think that that’s what she’s really struggling with.

I found your performance so nuanced, you brought a lot of complexity to how human beings feel about where we should be going, or where we think we should be? I would love to hear your thoughts on all these characters that you worked with. Jennifer Coolidge, of course, she was just so ridiculously amazing in this role. You all have your interactions with each other where it’s very intimate. You’re thrown into these difficult situations while you’re on vacation and you really see people at their core.

Yeah, one of the amazing things about the career path that I’ve chosen, and that I’ve been lucky enough to be in, is that you spend intimate time with all kinds of people that you otherwise wouldn’t meet. And I don’t just mean celebrities, but people from different walks of life, who are in different places in their lives. And that was true on this path. Everybody was so amazing, and so supportive of each other, we were all in the same boat, we were stuffed in a hotel together. Especially after my dog died while I was there, people were very, very kind and supportive. It was difficult for me, and it was nice to have had these lovely people. And that’s the crew as well and not just the cast. We were all together. And as far as Mike White and his writing goes, I absolutely adore him. I think he has such an interesting perspective on life that I gravitate to—is that life is very hard. It’s very complicated. And it’s very funny. And finding humor through the dark times is how we get through everything.

Outfit Louis Vuitton

I think part of the dark humor of [The White Lotus] is, what are we ignoring around us when we’re so obsessed with things that we think are problems? And finding humor through the dark times is how we get through everything.

I haven’t watched anything in a long time that was this interesting. I mean, Jake (Lacy) as your partner in this show! How many times did you want to just smack him… (laughs)

(Laughs) Jake is the LOVELIEST guy!!

His character was quite complicated, and Molly Shannon coming in as his mother was so perfect. I am really excited for the masses to watch this because it’s beautifully done. What can we look forward to seeing you in next?

Well, at the moment, The White Lotus, which is what I’m promoting right now, I really am very proud of it. I have a film coming out called Die In A Gunfight coming out in mid-July. That’s a love story with Billy Crudup, Diego Boneta, Justin Chatwin, amongst many others. And I have a couple other things I’m working on I can’t talk about (laughs).

Through your experience, what are some wise words you would give to someone who is transitioning back into the world after having been in the pandemic. And what does that look like for you?

I think that we all have varying degrees of instincts about things. Personally, coming out of it, I’ve been practicing a lot of gratitude for the things that I have. I do a lot of yoga and meditation. With social media and seeing people put their perfect lives out, I think it can be very easy to get lost in what other people have. I think gratitude for being in the present moment, has been very helpful for me. And letting go, this was years ago, I must have been 23 or 24, I adjusted to LA, and I couldn’t get a job. And I was all panicked about work and money. I didn’t know anyone and I was still sort of running around with my New Yorker energy. And I went to get like a juice somewhere on Santa Monica Boulevard, and this man walked in, he took a plastic chicken out of his pocket. And he said ‘here’ and he put it in my hand. He said, ‘you need this, I just want you to know, let go and the world will be yours.’ It was a very strange experience. But it was strangely meaningful to me because it is true even though I don’t know what that guy was doing and I still have the little plastic chicken actually in my jewelry box. It is good to remember to let go because I think we have all these ideas of how things are supposed to be. And we want to try to force them to be a certain way and what we need to be and that’s a lot of what The White Lotus is about. I think that letting go is a very important thing because you can’t force anything. And from what we’ve seen the last year, we had to let go and just relinquish ourselves to the universe and the uncontrollable. That’s, that’s very hard. But, I think it’s easier to move through the world like that.

Outfit Stella McCartney

Hair by
Bobby Eliot/The Wall Group

Makeup by
Jenna Kristina/The Wall Group

Special thanks
Rogers & Cowan PMK

You know, that’s very poignant. I think that your character in The White Lotus, from the viewer’s perspective, was very vulnerable because I think all people kind of feel that way? We’re in these situations, and we’re living our lives or making decisions. And she found strength in a loss. That’s a gift for all of us. If you weren’t acting, what do you think you would do otherwise? 

I do think I like working with kids, I like teaching them. But before acting, I was pretty lost without any other options. Teaching kids or rescuing dogs. Yeah, you know that kind of thing. But acting is what I really want.

Some might not know this, but you’ve actually starred in a number of music videos—including Maroon 5 and Imagine Dragons, which had more than a billion views. I’m really curious, what kind of music you are listening to, what’s on your playlist these days?

I love Fiona Apple. I love classical music. I love WC and Mozart and Bach and I listen to all the greats. I like country music a lot as it’s about the life I didn’t have in New York. You know, out with a boy in the back of a pickup truck to go to homecoming. I like all kinds of music. I love The Lumineers but it’s really about the mood I think, and then sometimes I’m just in the mood to sing and dance to a pop song or Disney classics from our childhoods like The Little Mermaid. I find music to be a great source of joy. You know, like, putting on a great song and dancing with your friends, you know, especially after the year of no clubs, no bars, no dancing.

Well, I’m going to dance to these songs in this Costa Rican jungle. Thank you for the recommendations.

Enjoy all of that! Not just the jungle, but the beach!

Thank you so much for the time that you spent with me. It was really great getting to know you. 

Of course, thank you so much for doing this, and have so much fun out there.

The White Lotus is now streaming on HBO Max and HBO GO
Watch the trailer below

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