“Things, in order to be really fixed, need to be broken first”.
Beatrice Grannò opens up with us between rationality and emotions, singing and acting, a French realist movie and a teen drama.
Now, Beatrice is Mia in HBO “The White Lotus”, an incredible experience that allowed her to test herself and feel free to give all of herself in something she’d never tried before. Her voice is one to be listened to, not only for what she says and how she does it but also for the music she creates and the messages hidden in it.
For us, Beatrice is an extraordinary friend, singer, actress, and a wise soul who’s realized how sometimes it only takes a caress to make your voice heard. And that to break rules, there always are small revolutions to be made.
We met on the rooftops of Rome two years ago now, and now we met again in Milan, always with music playing as a fil rouge. How has Beatrice changed over these couple of years, both personally and professionally?
It feels crazy to think about the time we met, two years ago, at my house, with that green dress and my ukulele, it feels like a lifetime ago but it also feels like yesterday. My understanding of time is a bit unstable, maybe it’s because of the pandemic, or perhaps it’s because lots of things have actually happened: honestly, I don’t know how I’ve changed and whether I’ve changed. I’ve certainly become much more aware of my job: now I feel more focused, but this is something I would say two years ago as well! [laughs] A part of me is a bit scared to say that I’ve changed because change is always scary, like growing up, becoming something different, and, consequently, leaving something else behind. However, I’m very proud of where I am today. If two years ago, when we met, I’d told myself all that I would have achieved in two years’ time, I don’t know if I would have believed it.
“The White Lotus” is now a cult: how wonderful was it to be a part of it? Do you remember your first day on set?
“The White Lotus” was one of the biggest changes that have happened to me over the past few years, I would have never expected it, it’s a project that rained on me like a meteorite, and it totally upset my life. Even now, I feel like I’m in some blender. It all happened so fast because after the production and the director had told me that I’d got the part, a week later I was already in Taormina to film. It was fast but beautiful and exciting.
I remember my first day on set when I told myself that I was happy to be a part of a comedy show where I could bring into play things that I’d never brought into play. I kind of felt like I was traveling back in time because English is the language in which I’ve learned to act and, above all, with my theater company we put up comedy shows, so I felt like I was going back to wearing those past shoes, back to London, and I remember thinking, “right now I need to be free, to allow myself to be ‘stupid’ on the set”, but in a positive way, which means with no judgment, without being too clever, not to self-analyze too much but rather be free when doing anything. It’s the key to this project and I’m so happy, I was very thrilled.
“…not to self-analyze too much but rather be free when doing anything.”
A classic question: what was it like to film your first international project? How does the attention in the character-building process change as opposed to other sets?
I sensed a difference: I don’t know whether this difference was linked to the fact that the project was international, or to the fact that “The White Lotus” really is a special show and so it required a certain kind of attention and preservation when it comes to the artistic side of it, from cinematography to sound and acting. Anyhow, I felt like there was a kind of attention that I hadn’t found anywhere before; I don’t want to say that in Italy we don’t pay attention, on the contrary, in so many projects I’ve taken part in, like the movie “Gli indifferenti”, I found such gentleness and grace in the way of telling of the story, but on the set of “The White Lotus” this element was so particularly present, and I don’t know whether it was due to the fact that the production was American or something else.
A great, real difference I found was the presence of the intimacy coordinator, whom I’d never seen in Italy: an expert who’s on the set to take care of all the intimate scenes, where actors are supposed to be naked and might feel uncomfortable. Such a figure makes you feel protected, and allows you to speak up if something feels wrong, and it was a great discovery. Now, should I film any scene like that in Italy, I think I’d ask for the presence of this expert on the set because I think it’s very important.
The chemistry between you and Simona Tabasco is so powerful. How did you work with each other and with Mike White to shape the dynamics between your characters?
Working with Simona is wonderful, we had so much fun. Now, we’re bonded for life; furthermore, we would carry with us a significant background of experience, that is the TV show “Doc”. One day, while we were filming “Doc”, Simona called me and said: “Look, Bea, I need a sidekick in English because I have to film a self-tape for ‘The White Lotus’”; I freaked out and said: “I’ve just done it for the other character, Mia, so yes, let’s do it together!”. I went to her place and we had so much fun, to the point where I said: “I want to film my self-tape again because it works with you, it’s fun!”. So, we eventually sent this self-tape and told each other, “It’s never gonna happen, but if it does happen, can you imagine you and me in Taormina doing this thing?”. And then it happened!
Simona and I got very close to each other during “The White Lotus” and the funny thing is that Mike left us so much space to improvise, so when Mike would give us the go-ahead, we would make up so many games, laughing out loud all the time, it was such a wonderful gift.
At first, Mia seems a bit naïve, but then we witness the evolution of the character who becomes more and more disenchanted and willing to accept extreme trade-offs in order to get what she wants. We constantly hear stories like this, but how current is it in your opinion?
It’s very interesting, this interpretation of Mia’s character as an enchanted girl who needs to disenchant in order to make her dreams come true and obtain what she wants. It sort of mirrors the concept of women who need to break and give up their fragility and their grace, in order to get where they want. However, at the same time, I don’t totally agree with it. This element that we called “enchantment” is more of a block, I think: at the beginning, Mia is stuck, she can’t be as free as Lucia is, and it’s Lucia the one who pushes her, it’s her energy that inspires her, taking her inside the loop, and once she’s inside, a glimpse of reality and possibilities which so far, she hadn’t considered, opens up in front of her.
There’s a specific moment in the show, in the episode of the wild night with Ethan and Cameron, where Mia and Lucia are sitting on the poolside, one in front of the other, and I think that’s a magical moment where they look at each other and exchange bodies for a while, like in “Freaky Friday”: Lucia starts doubting about what she’s doing, she feels guilty and loses that characteristic freshness and freedom of hers, while Mia absorbs those very elements and so it feels like things tip over, like they’re two different faces of the same coin – Lucia steals Mia’s grace, sweetness, and fearfulness in order to make Albie fall for her and get what she wants, while Mia steals Lucia’s energy to get what she’s looking for, so a greater awareness of her body and its possibilities.
In the show, there certainly are so many references to a social kind of criticism towards women, power, and sex; anyway, I noticed that there’s widespread interest in trying and finding a moral, a special kind of importance in Mia and Lucia’s character in terms of the representation of women, which is true, for sure, but at the end of the day, it isn’t the purpose of these two characters. It’s true, Lucia is a prostitute because she wants to be rich, Mia gives her body away because she wants to be a musician, but in the end, I think that Lucia and Mia are two fairies or “witches” that live in this story to subvert pre-existing balances; it’s as if they were two marbles thrown with a super powerful speed inside this resort and brought down all groups and all situations like pins. Anyway, deep down, in doing so, in breaking all these balances, they somehow started to fix them: it’s as if they unmasked all the existing problems. For example, it’s thanks to Lucia that Ethan re-establishes a connection with Harper, as that couple needed that kind of danger to be able to find their intimacy again, as well as Albie needed that lesson, as well as Valentina needed to rediscover her sexuality, and let loose; so, Mia and Lucia show up, destroy everything, but in the end, they somehow build everything again from scratch. The lesson to learn from these characters, I think, is that things, in order to be fixed, need to be broken first, or exposed to external elements, especially when they’re crystallized in frozen dynamics.
“things, in order to be fixed, need to be broken first”
This season of “The White Lotus” puts its focus on the theme of betrayal, declined through the various couples of characters, in various manifestations and with different consequences for each storyline: in your experience, what’s the most unacceptable form of betrayal, both if you think about those portrayed in the show and generally speaking?
That’s hard, I wouldn’t really know what form of betrayal I’d define unacceptable because it’s actually against my personality. I’m trying to think about it: maybe in love, maybe in friendship, maybe in the family? I don’t know because I always think that behind every betrayal, behind every pain, there’s always something deeper, an explanation, some reason behind that can originate from meanness, sometimes, but in most cases from a need, so it’s hard for me to give you an answer. I believe that betrayal, non-transparency, and all those ambiguous personality traits that perhaps you can or cannot see, are part of the nature of human beings. You can’t always be faithful all the time, there are moments in which we fall, and face difficult situations, and “The White Lotus” is an example of this: both Ethan and Harper jump into it, and they somehow betray the honesty of their relationship, but they do it because they need to awaken something that’s not there anymore. However, that’s not necessarily the only way.
To be honest, I’m not sure this is a real form of betrayal, but it’s unacceptable for me and it hurts me when, while sharing artistic ideas or when I’m asked to support a project by putting out some ideas, then I find myself abandoned, with the others going on with my artistic ideas without involving me, taking ownership of what was mine. This is a huge form of betrayal for me because, somehow, I feel like people have taken something from me and made it theirs without involving me, almost as if they didn’t realize that I was the one to put it out.
“The White Lotus” is also about living holidays as adventures, as space-time bubbles where to shapeshift and become some version of ourselves that we’ve often dreamed of, but for some reason, in our everyday life, we never have the chance or we’re never brave enough to be: who do you turn into when you’re on holiday?
Honestly, even though from time to time I do spend two or three days far from home to unplug, it’s been a long time since I had a proper holiday, so I might not even remember the feeling. I can surely relate to the idea of self-expectation you have before going on holiday, though: on the days before leaving, I imagine myself there and I imagine what I’m going to be like, what I’m going to think, what I’m going to experience, and often that expectation, that dream to be that very thing that in that very moment you don’t know what it’s like, fuels the desire to go there.
Inevitably, when you’re away and far from home, everything crumbles, the wards go down and you can enjoy everything because you don’t feel the responsibility of your home. Every time I go back to my place in Rome, even when I’m off for a day, I always have so many things to do, while for example a few weeks ago I went to London because I had to play a show with my theater company, and on those days my only thought when I woke up was the rehearsals I had to do.
So, when I go on holiday, I certainly turn into a softer version of myself, I’m much more open to what happens, without the burden of the things to do.
Do you tend to be more instinctive or rational when you approach your characters?
Until a while ago, I would have instantly answered “rational”; however, now something new has bloomed inside me, I’m leaving so much space for my instincts, which is something that I wouldn’t be able to tame before, I couldn’t let in and let out when I wanted. Today, instead, I feel that my instincts are much more present inside me, so I can answer you “instinctive”, but it’s the first time that I say something like this.
Maybe, the reason why I’ve been feeling like a more instinctive actress lately is that b is occupying an always bigger part of my life, and is taking always more space. With acting, I’ve always had an extremely rational approach, while with music, I can’t find this rationality and stability in me: every time I have to perform and play music, some almost ephemeral emotional element come about and I can’t completely control it. I’m much more vulnerable when I approach music, I’m more emotional, and so I’m also more instinctive, and this very component of music is what scares me but also gives me a lot of energy. Before concerts, I wish I turned into a rock because I have no idea what to expect, while with acting I’ve always been so rational and controlled. For sure, though, I really feel the presence of this instinctive influence in my acting now, so who knows?
“Every time I have to perform and play music, some almost ephemeral emotional element come about and I can’t completely control it.”
What’s your favorite cinematographic genre to watch and your favorite one to play?
A genre that’s always fascinated me and with which I dream to work because I still haven’t had a proper occasion to do it – apart from “Mi chiedo quando ti mancherò”, which has a bit of that energy – is realism, which is the aesthetic of movies like “The Florida Project”, or “Rosetta” by Dardenne. I love it when you can’t really value the performance of an actor because the movie isn’t performative and so you let yourself be absorbed by the story, and I also think that I can give my best artistic contribution in that world, rather than in other situations.
A genre that I like to watch… If I wanted to sound intellectual, I’d answer the same, that I like French cinema, the realism we’ve just mentioned, but the truth is that when I lay on the couch in the evening, I go on Netflix and watch teen dramas.
Your latest binge-watch?
What was your biggest act of rebellion?
Yesterday night, I ordered a supplì but it was cold when they brought it to me. I slammed down my fists and they brought me a new one. For me, it was a big act of rebellion.
What about the best “fuck you” of your life?
I can’t really think of a big “fuck you” as a single block. Maybe, it still has to happen, or maybe in my life I try and savor the small revolutions to choose the lesser evil, small “fuck yous”, from time to time, improve the quality of life, even though for me it’s not always easy to leave a conversation without first having made sure that on the other side everything’s all right.
“In my life, I try and savor the small revolutions to choose the lesser evil”.
Last time, we asked you about the latest lie you’d told; today we ask you about the latest lie you’ve told yourself.
I love the nighttime, it’s the moment when no one looks for me, no one finds me, so I feel free and full of motivation. Unfortunately, though, it’s also a time to get some sleep, but sleep has never been my forte. Sometimes, I pretend to sleep: if I lie to my body, maybe it’ll believe it and I can really fall asleep. Sometimes it works, but sometimes I feel like I’m acting even during the night. After all, everyone pretends they’re falling asleep before actually doing it.
Is there some ritual, habit, or something you do on a regular basis that helps you feel good about yourself, keep your feet on the ground, and clear your mind? Some people write things down, some meditate, some fill out gratitude lists… What do you do?
So many things: I skate through Rome, play the piano… but only hardly ever. The problem is to remember you need it and save some time for that. I’m also learning to do that.
If you could bring someone on holiday with you, from any time, any dimension, who would you invite and why?
Dodie, because she currently is one of my favorite musicians, and any excuse is good to get closer to her and be inspired by her, maybe on a road trip with the guitar.
What’s your happy place? And when do you feel the safest?
In a tavern, drinking a glass of wine with a friend of mine, I feel free and safe when I’m embraced by the warmth of a judgment-free moment of sharing.
“A judgment-free moment of sharing”
What’s the latest thing you discovered about yourself?
I discovered that I can be intimidating even with a graceful gesture, that I can be scary with a caress, and that I don’t need sharp teeth and claws to get what I want. Even though I shouldn’t say it too often because the risk is that I lower the volume of my voice too much and turn up that of the others.
I’ve learned that sometimes I need to sing a pitch higher in order to own the right space, make an effort to run and get past everyone, and think about my run with no shyness. Ho imparato che a volte mi serve cantare una tonalità sopra la mia per prendermi lo spazio giusto, fare lo sforzo di correre e superare tutti, e pensare alla mia corsa senza timidezza.
Photos & Video by Johnny Carrano.
Makeup and Hair by Vanessa Vastola.
Location: Davide Cafiero
Thanks to Lapalumbo Comunicazione.
Dress: Art Dealer
Shoes A. Bocca
Jewels: Voodoo Jewels
Top and Skirt: Antonio Marras
Shoes: Antonio Marras
Jewels: Voodoo Jewels
Total Look: Missoni
Jewels: Voodoo Jewels
Total Look: Antonio Marras
Shoes: Paola Venturi
Jewels: Voodoo Jewels