Leo Woodall’s Performance As Essex Boy Jack In ‘The White Lotus’ Was So Damn Good

In the season finale of The White Lotus, Jack pulls off the side of the road at night in an abandoned and creepy part of Italy, an airport in the far distance. “Why did we stop? Jack?” Portia asks. Jack says nothing. Without looking at or acknowledging Portia, he gets out of the car and lights a cigarette. Jack tells Portia, his back to her, that he’s not taking her back to the hotel. He turns around slowly and heavily, his silver chain shining in the moonlight. Wait, did Jack watch Normal People? I’m already digressing.

“Do you want my advice?” Jack says, in his signature Essex accent that sometimes sounds like he has his mouth full of marbles and mashed potatoes. “Don’t go to the hotel. Don’t wait around. Just get on your flight tomorrow, get the f**k out of Sicily.” Jack tells her that “these people are powerful,” meaning, of course, the sinister gays who conspired both successfully and unsuccessfully to murder Tanya, Portia’s boss. It’s a chilling performance that communicates a lot about the character: Jack has more depth than we see on the surface: he’s smarter, but also frightening.

Jack, the equally trashy and charming West Ham fan from Essex who may or may not be Quentin’s nephew finds himself in a hole. A “deep fucking hole,” but not his fake uncle’s hole. (Sorry!) Jack is on a mission: keep Portia away from the Tanya murder plot. To do so, Jack has essentially abducted Portia. He took her away from the palazzo in Palermo for the night against her wishes and is avoiding taking her back to the White Lotus.

In the penultimate episode, Jack got wasted and started saying weird, cryptic shit to Portia (again, “a deep fucking hole”) that indicated something was wrong. In the finale, Jack is weird but menacing. He’s cold to Portia but subliminally shows that he cares, just a little bit about her. Leo Woodall, the 26-year-old British actor who plays Jack, accomplishes this brilliantly. His performance is subtle, but the slightest changes in his body language from when we first met Jack earlier in the season show a difference: Jack is a broken man, one who might also be capable of killing Portia. But he might also be saving her. Jack was trying to help Portia by leaving his phone out for her to use, dropping her off near the airport, and advising her not to go back to the hotel. It’s unclear by design from the writing and from Woodall’s performance what Jack was supposed to do with Portia. Mike White leaves Jack’s intentionality a mystery, and Woodall’s performance honors that. Was Jack supposed to simply keep her out of the way, or was he supposed to kill her and eliminate a witness?

The White Lotus season two had its obvious fan favorites and performances, including Aubrey Plaza as Harper and Meghann Fahy as Daphne, Tom Hollander as Quentin, and, obviously, Jennifer Coolidge as Tanya. But looking back on the season, Woodall had one of the most essential and most powerful performances of the season. Episode by episode, Woodall progressively and precisely adds depth to Jack. At first, he’s just a basic but overly confident Essex bro, the kind you’d see as a contestant on Love Island. He had a spark in his eye and an intoxicating confidence that Portia fell for instantly. But with each episode, Woodall adds more and more. The more emotional Jack gets, the scarier he becomes, and, consequently, the more convincing the sinister gays’ plot against Tanya gets. As a whole, the storyline doesn’t work without Jack, and Jack doesn’t work without Woodall.