Haley Lu Richardson, best known for playing Gen-Z poster child Portia on “The White Lotus” Season 2, has been angling to dance in a musical for at least 12 years. “I’ve been putting this out into the universe since I was 16. That’s my biggest dream, for sure,” Richardson tells us. (She’s currently “talking to people about it.” There are “ideas circulating.”)
That desire isn’t just a throwback to Richardson’s days as a dancer before she transitioned to acting—it’s an extension of how she still approaches performing. “The thing I love about acting the most is the thing I love about dancing the most. It’s this thing that comes from your soul; it’s just such a vulnerable, abandoned thing,” she says. “The first time I really felt like I was acting was actually through dance. Now when I think about: What is my [acting] process? It is such an internal thing. It’s in my body; it’s listening to music.”
On this episode of In the Envelope: The Actor’s Podcast, Richardson discusses what she’s discovered about her acting process, gets candid about viewer reactions to her “White Lotus” character, and reveals which iconic script she passed on.
Even after her many successes, Richardson still struggles with insecurity.
“When people say, ‘Don’t take [rejection] personally,’ that only goes so far. Because, truly, acting is [personal]. It’s your body, it’s your emotions, it’s your voice, it’s your ability, it’s your energy. It’s all of these things. This is something that I’ve gotten over or found peace a little bit more with auditioning. Or even if I just don’t get a job or if it goes to someone else, this is something I found more peace with at this point in my life. So it does get better!
But I feel like the energy of taking it [personally]…has shifted into the work that I do, and the struggles that I experience on set, whether it’s with people I’m trying to collaborate with or just being hard on myself. It’s this thing of: How do I show up to the work that I do when the whole point of the work that I do is being vulnerable, and being ready to give and play with my emotions disguised as this other person’s emotions? How do I show up to that work without—if there’s another external problem on set—letting it just destroy me, because I’m in this extremely vulnerable, exposed emotional space? So that taking it [personally] idea has shape-shifted throughout my career. But it is something that I’m still trying to figure out—how to protect myself while also doing the thing that is needed for me to act.”