Steve Zahn on Leaving His Rural Kentucky Life for HBO’s ‘White Lotus’

Steve Zahn was running a few minutes late because he was tending to a horse that had undergone surgery and needed a bandage. “Life on a farm is peaceful,” says Zahn, “until your horse becomes lame and you have to turn into a veterinarian.” The actor has spent the past two decades living in rural Kentucky – and 2020 marks the longest period of time the project hasn’t pulled him off the farm. So when he was invited to star with Connie Britton, Natasha Rothwell and Murray Bartlett in HBO’s White Lotusa dark comic miniseries (from EnlightenMike White) about people with and without bumps at a Hawaii resort, he needed a bit of convincing. Zahn, 53, talks about the gig, his dildo and his traumatic history of underwater shooting.

Are you anxious to return to work?

I have been sitting on this farm for eight months, living in 1850, and worrying about not working. I would do anything, really. To get this amazing script to fall on my lap and is it in Hawaii? It’s a green light on all roads. We were at Maui Four Seasons. It’s closed, so we’re really in a bubble. It’s like movie camp.

How does this display compare to your family vacation?

Completely opposite. Do not misunderstand me. I love sitting on the beach and drinking beer, but [the hotel in the show] Not my speed. When my son graduated from high school, we went to France. We just drove around Normandy to do this World War II tour.

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Zahn with co-star Connie Britton on HBO’s The White Lotus, which premieres July 11.
Courtesy of HBO

Are you a history buff? I remember you campaigning for the Kentucky Senate hopeful Amy McGrath dressed in Revolutionary War attire.

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Oh, yes. I have a lot of outfits, so I look for opportunities to wear them. I had it in New Orleans for Mardi Gras. I wear it every 4th of July when setting off fireworks. I got in the back of the Kawasaki Mule and let my son drive me around with the American flag, down the neighbor’s driveway and yell, “Fireworks are coming!”

Forgive me if this is crude, but your character has a revealing moment in the first episode. Is it a prosthetic that you have worn?

I didn’t even have to do that part. It was another person wearing a prosthetic leg. That makes no sense, right?

Are you interested in Hawaii?

It’s limited, like getting a car from the airport to the hotel. Even though we did scuba diving. [Co-star] Fred [Hechinger] and I both have our PADI [scuba] license. None of us really liked it. (Laughter.) Our instructor was a bit bewildered. Ninety-nine percent of the time, people were excited, but I was wondering, “How many ways can I die underwater?” I had a bad experience shooting Crimson Tide. There’s a scene where we all drown in the sub. They told us we would be underwater for 30 seconds. Thirty seconds doesn’t seem long. But when you are acting that you are going to die, it becomes difficult. They say, “If you feel like you need help, just fold your arms and we’ll come help you.” First, everyone crossed their arms.

The edited interview is long and clear.

This story first appeared in the July 16 issue of The Hollywood Reporter. Click here to subscribe.

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