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Let Matt Berry Be the Sad, Drunk Heir in The White Lotus Season 2

Hello, dealer? Yes, please, put it all on Berry. Illustration: by Carolyn Figel

These are hard times, and when things get really dark, we at Vulture like to double down on the things that are still capable of bringing us happiness. That’s why we’re running this recurring column, which serves as half-celebration and half-brainstorm for someone we’re consistently delighted to see on our screens: the beloved British performer of stage and screen Matt Berry. He’s best known for shows like Toast of LondonThe IT Crowd, and What We Do in the Shadows, but we’re confident that a performance by Berry would spruce up all sorts of film and TV stories, big and small. 

So a few times a month, we’ll be using this space to propose new, occasionally out-of-the-box opportunities or roles for Mr. Berry. We are confident that should he ever see this column, he will find it both confusing and mortifying.

Editors note: This article contains spoilers for The White Lotus.

In the season-one finale of HBO’s The White Lotus, as the guests of the titular resort file onto their flight back to Honolulu — a corpse tucked neatly below them in cargo — Quinn Mossbacher, the only son of the wealthy Mossbacher family, sees his chance to escape. Falling behind as they board and feigning a reluctance to cut the line, Quinn waits until his father is just out of sight to make a run for it before rejoining his newfound Native Hawaiian friends to continue training for a trip to Polynesia on a hōkūleʻa. It is perhaps the best possible outcome for a privileged little lost boy of the internet like Quinn, who appears to have found a real, fulfilling purpose in joining a team of comrades with a shared goal. The sea gives Quinn the life-or-death struggle all humans need on some level — and which his life of privilege has denied him — as he literally says when begging his parents to stay, “I want to live!” This journey was one of the most fascinating of the series’s first season to me, and I’m desperate to explore where a guy like Quinn could end up in life. With this in mind, I declare unto you this day: Matt Berry should be cast in season two of The White Lotus as an aged heir on a continued quest for meaning.

When the show returns, it will do so with an all-new cast at a different White Lotus resort property. It will therefore need all-new rich whites to torture us with. But without the magnetic charm of Jennifer Coolidge as Tanya McQuoid, they’ll need someone very special to fill that void. After all, without a tragically comedic figure, it would just be a show about a bunch of people I hate and the hotel staff who must endure them. I believe Berry is just about the only performer able to even attempt to fill Coolidge’s seat at the bar. Coolidge and Berry have a lot in common: They’re both character actors whose characters are made whole through their unique personae, and just as Coolidge defined our generation’s concept of a MILF, Berry introduced millennials to the idiotic playboy alpha male with his Douglas Reynholm in The IT Crowd. And it’s his time as Reynholm — a failson who inherits his CEO job from his late father — that speaks most clearly to his obvious ability to play an insufferably privileged buffoon.

The above scene is old hat to any Berry fan; it’s the moment his particular brand of machismo was launched into the mainstream. But take this character, make it slightly less cartoonish, and add 20 years of failed marriages and business ventures and you get the lonely heir: an echo of both Quinn and Coolidge’s Tanya. What does it look like when the rich boy who ran away grows up? Does he try to heal the rift with his parents? Does he find love only to lose it once it started to require work? Is he maybe here at this resort hiding from the consequence of some heinous act? (I’m thinking perhaps a Succession-style vehicular-manslaughter situation.) Any number of scenarios would be a juicy, fulfilling role for Berry, who is as good at playing a wealthy dilettante as he is at wearing a white suit.

Also, obviously, I want to hear how he pronounces the word pineapple, but any role that sets Berry down at a bar opens up an opportunity to revisit one of his greatest hits: the word whiskey. It was a common refrain of his character in Snuff Box, another privileged wayward son.

Now I realize that to have him scream “WHISKEYYYY!” would ruin the tone of the show, so obviously he could just whisper it or abbreviate it in a way that offers a small bread crumb to us, the pathologically obsessed. We could also explore other drinks for him to order that might be more fitting for a resort. The list of drinks I’d like to hear him say include piña colada, margarita, sex on the beach, mai tai, and, as an ultimate challenge, caipirinha.

Also, not enough is being said these days about Berry’s hair, but it’s really good. It has gotten even better over quarantine, a period when many men began to rock lengths they wouldn’t have otherwise. This is the hair of a man who has been blessed by nature with locks that make him look like a cross between Jesus and John Lennon, and it works on Berry because he’s a legitimate rock star who is firmly committed to a ’70s aesthetic. It is also absolutely what a man raised in Quinn’s world would rock after a life of hopping beach-to-beach with his mom’s credit card. It’s the hair of a man who cannot be told anything, let alone “Go get a haircut.” For a guy like that, it’s rebellion in its pettiest, laziest form — a way of saying he does what he wants but only because it drives his parents nuts.

Berry’s role in The White Lotus also feels like a no-brainer because he practically is a character in The White Lotus. Beholden by obligations to family or public image, a sad heir has a lot in common with Berry, someone who always seems as if he’s had fame foisted upon him as opposed to having sought it out. (I’ve written about this at length before.) He was born not with the gift of wealth but with the gift of being a great performer, and like almost every other White Lotus guest, he is confined to this role, unable to even see how life would work outside of it. At the 2021 Television Critics Association panel for What We Do in the Shadows on August 13, Berry was asked how he manages to have a “normal life” given his many, many jobs in both television and voice-over work. “I don’t have a normal life, I’m afraid,” he said. “This is normal to me … I’ve always done this stuff. It isn’t odd. It isn’t abnormal to me.” I think this makes him particularly good at playing characters who feel to us like they’ve been taken hostage by greatness. One example of this that isn’t so widely known is this 2011 music video for “Reset,” by Three Trapped Tigers, in which Berry plays a godlike figure who seems a bit out of his depth.

Look, I can make as many hoity-toity big-word arguments as I want, but in the end, I think we can all agree that hearing Matt Berry say the names of tropical fruit (imagine kumquat or tangerine) while rocking a white suit and fedora with some fancy-ass cinematography is just the thing season two of The White Lotus needs to be truly great. Also, it’s a chance to basically go on a tropical vacation paid for by HBO, and he deserves that much at least.

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Let Matt Berry Be the Sad Drunk Heir in White Lotus Season 2