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The second season of The White Lotus will premiere on Oct. 30.FABIO LOVINO/HBO

Early in the second season of HBO’s The White Lotus, a group of extremely wealthy, extremely obnoxious characters get into a discussion about just how much there is to watch on television these days. Is it better to pace yourself or binge? How can you decide which shows to make a priority and which to ignore? And what about Ted Lasso? (“Oh we love Ted Lasso!” one of the more vapid characters gushes.) The moment is one of the series’ best gags – a meta-contextual dig at just how unlikely of a success The White Lotus is itself.

Created as an experiment in pandemic-proof television by the acclaimed if perpetually underrated writer-director Mike White (HBO’s short-lived Enlightened), the dramedy about the privileged guests and beleaguered staff at an elite Hawaiian resort arrived last summer as an under-the-radar cable curiosity. Good on HBO and White for finding creative ways to produce a television series while operating under challenging COVID-19 isolation protocols – if you’re going to quarantine your cast and crew in one luxury hotel for a prolonged stretch of time, why not make your show about life in a luxury hotel? – but there was hardly an expectation that The White Lotus would capture the zeitgeist and become the must-watch show of the season. Or, at the very least, give audiences something to talk about other than that Ted Lasso fella.

Yet here we are just more than a year later, and The White Lotus is the little franchise that could, returning for a second go-round starting Oct. 30 – and now competing with arguably more high-profile, must-watch television series than just 12 months ago.

“That’s a conversation that you find yourself in so often these days, isn’t it? There is just so much content, so how do you stand out? Hopefully we can get there this season, too,” says Adam DiMarco, the Canadian actor who joins the series this season as White refreshes his cast of compellingly awful (or is that awfully compelling?) well-to-do hotel guests.

DiMarco, who grew up in the Toronto suburb of Oakville, Ont., plays Albie, the college-grad son of movie producer Dom (The Sopranos’ Michael Imperioli) and grandson of aging lothario Bert (Oscar-winner F. Murray Abraham). The trio are visiting the Sicily property of the White Lotus resort chain to trace their family’s Italian ancestry – though like all the other guests, the trio get sidetracked by the pursuit of various personal hang-ups and vices.

The show's second season puts the servant class in the background to zero in on the financial and sexual frustrations of those who should, on the surface, have no worries at all.FABIO LOVINO/HBO

“No character is just one thing here, and that’s because Mike is so great at writing these three-dimensional characters. Albie has resentment toward his father, embarrassment toward his grandfather and also complications in relationships with women. Corny as it sounds, though, everything is just on the page,” DiMarco says during an interview in Toronto earlier this week. “As an actor, you just have to show up. Mike’s writing is so strong that it’s all there.”

Certainly, DiMarco and his castmates – including Aubrey Plaza, Tom Hollander and Haley Lu Richardson, plus returning season one players Jennifer Coolidge and Jon Gries – all walked into the production well-aware of audience expectations. The first batch of White Lotus episodes earned five Emmys, including the award for best TV movie, limited or anthology series, plus several water-cooler factories’ worth of social-media chatter for the show’s expert balancing act of sexual, social and racial anxieties.

“Season one was so well loved, so a lot of us were like, ‘What if they don’t like our season?’ But these scripts are foolproof,” DiMarco says. “We were spoiled by Mike’s writing. And he doesn’t even use a writers’ room! He’s directing every episode! He’s a true auteur.”

Apprehensions were also cushioned by the show’s environs. Just as the first season’s production took over the decadent Four Seasons Maui property, season two’s cast and crew commandeered the Four Seasons location in Taormina, a sun-dappled town in Sicily that whisper-screams Old World charm. But this time looser health and safety protocols meant that the cast members could actually wander away from their high-thread-count prisons this time around.

“I would still be shooting this if I could. It was a long shoot, I was there about four months, but we didn’t want to leave, much like a vacation. Time moves differently there,” DiMarco recalls, noting that he would escape with fellow cast members Theo James (who plays a cocky money manager) and Meghann Fahy (a bored but mischievous housewife) to nearby Palermo and Savoca, where parts of The Godfather were filmed. (There is one delightful scene in the series’ third episode where Albie, Dom and Bert visit a Godfather tourist trap complete with T-shirts and a replica of the car in which Apollonia Corleone was burnt to death. Alas, this destination is an invention on the part of show.)

While the first season of The White Lotus was mostly an upstairs/downstairs drama of class tensions, the second puts the servant class in the background to zero in on the financial and sexual frustrations of those who should, on the surface, have no worries at all.

“Mike described it as a bedroom farce this time around. All the class privileges and those themes of inequity that he explored in the first season are still there obviously, but he wanted to explore something different this time,” DiMarco says. “I never asked him, ‘Why sex?’ But sex sells. And I’m buying whatever Mike is putting down.”

Given that White writes and directs every episode, though, was DiMarco ever concerned that he would be under the thumb of a perfectionist?

“He wants you to bring as much of yourself into the role as he’s written. He’s an observer of the human condition, he relishes stirring the pot that way,” DiMarco says. “We ended up ad-libbing quite a bit, respectfully, around the scripts. Not everything would make it. But then Jennifer would get a free pass to do whatever she wants because, well, she’s Jennifer Coolidge. She says something off the beaten path and it makes it into the show because it’s so random and funny and perfect.”