When I speak with Sabrina Impacciatore, she’s in Los Angeles, more than 10,000 kilometres from her hometown of Rome, promoting the new season of creator Mike White’s Golden Globe-winning megahit The White Lotus. The second iteration of the show, which airs on Crave in Canada, is set at the namesake hotel chain’s Sicilian outpost and features an almost entirely new cast of characters. Impacciatore plays a pivotal role as the hotel manager, Valentina: Terse, confident and seemingly in control, Valentina is in deep conflict, stirred by her attraction to a fellow female employee. As was the case with the show’s first season, a number of storylines swirl around a murder as the characters—including beloved returning cast member Jennifer Coolidge, who took home a Golden Globe for best actress, as well as new additions Aubrey Plaza, Michael Imperioli and F. Murray Abraham—intermingle with one another. Impacciatore, who at 54 is a seasoned award-winning actor, is pitch-perfect as this endearing and often deadpan character. She recounts how shocked she was by the reaction to the scene-stealing moment when she tells Coolidge’s character— dressed in pink and about to jump on a Vespa—that she looks like Peppa Pig. “It was improvised!” exclaims Impacciatore. “I said that line like that, and now it has become a meme. And people are talking about it and playing with it all over TikTok. It’s fascinating.”

The actor, whose effervescent personality and passion for her craft give her undeniable magnetism, confesses that she didn’t watch her season before everyone else—she saw it for the first time when it aired. “I’m too scared to watch all the episodes,” she says. “But I remember what I felt—what I felt was real. So I hope that the reality from my heart will arrive somewhere [on the screen].” Impacciatore’s reluctance is largely due to nerves, but it’s also related to her broader in-the-now life philosophy. “I’m really happy that I’m enjoying this moment here and now,” she says. “I only live for the current moment, so I have to make it the best moment. I don’t believe in future plans. But I do believe in dreams.”

I only live for the current moment, so I have to make it the best moment. I don’t believe in future plans. But I do believe in dreams.

Landing a lead role on a hit American series was indeed a dream come true for the actor. But it was one she had to actively pursue, and she now calls it “a very long adventure.” The production company had searched far and wide without success to find the right person to play Valentina. Impacciatore was shooting a project in northern Italy when her agent told her that the White Lotus producers wanted her to audition and that she needed to send in a self-tape straight away. In a frenzy, she watched the first season of the show for the first time that night. “I didn’t sleep because I watched all the episodes,” says Impacciatore. “It was like eating chips—I couldn’t get enough. I was enlightened. I thought, ‘If this is the project, I have to get this role.’”

After spending 10 hours doing countless takes, which were filmed by her brother, Impacciatore sent the tape to her agent. A few days later, she got word that White wanted to meet her in person. When she finally got to audition, White told her that she could only do three takes of the scene she was performing. “I gave all my heart—I gave everything I could,” she recalls. “And I remember that he was laughing so much [but] was also moved.” Although White told her that the direction she took the character in was very interesting—different from what he’d expected—and he would love to explore it, Impacciatore did not get her hopes up. “Then I got this call that I will never forget,” she says. “And I can say without a doubt that it was my highest professional joy.”

Sabrina Impacciatore in the second season of The White Lotus. (Courtesy of HBO)

Along with being captivating to watch thanks to her character’s slow-burning presence, Impacciatore truly embodies the sassy hotel manager—a tall order considering Murray Barlett’s unforgettable performance in the role in the first season. “His character was explosive, and he is a genius as an actor,” she says. “When I read [the script], I loved Valentina right away, but I knew this was going to be a hard job because [she] is very implosive. And she’s very hidden. It’s difficult because she has to keep things inside. I felt her conflict deeply, and I made this conflict mine.”

Working with White was also a very positive and moving experience for Impacciatore as he was fully invested in the show—he not only created the characters but also wrote and directed all the episodes. His profound understanding of the overall story helped him work with Impacciatore as she explored all the sides of Valentina. “Mike is a genius,” she says. “And I’m not exaggerating. He can understand every single character very deeply—there’s this lightness and this darkness at the same time, and they work together. It’s cathartic.” As for the other cast members, Impacciatore can barely contain her enthusiasm, especially when I ask about working with Coolidge. “Jennifer is a goddess!” she exclaims. “I am crazy in love with her.”

For now, Impacciatore is taking the time to simply enjoy the afterglow of the show and, true to her nature, is not planning ahead. The White Lotus has been such an important part of her career, putting her smack dab in the middle of the Hollywood map, so she’s excited to see what’s ahead. “What comes next is the question,” she says smiling. “But [I believe the answer] comes down to destiny. [For now], it’s just fantastic to imagine that I am related to the world because this show is everywhere. It’s a beautiful feeling.” 

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