Next Big Thing: Lukas Gage Talks ‘White Lotus’ Secrets, Manifesting a Job on ‘Fargo’ and the ‘You’ Scene Everyone Will Be Talking About (2024)

Let’s get something out of the way. There’s a scene in the just-released season four of Netflix’s You in which Lukas Gage, he of the pivotal salad-tossing scene in The White Lotus, receives a golden shower. The moment isn’t quite as climactic as what we saw from Gage and Murray Bartlett, but it’s something the actor knows people will be talking about, especially since it comes as part of his most high-profile post-Lotus role yet. “I did not know that I was going to get peed on in You when I took the part,” he says with a laugh. “I’m not, like, asking my agents to send me only roles where I’m half naked.”

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In You, Gage plays a haughty London trust-funder who becomes a nemesis of Penn Badgley’s Joe Goldberg. Next month, he’ll premiere Down Low — a dark comedy he co-wrote with Euphoria producer and friend Phoebe Fisher — at SXSW, and immediately after this interview, he’ll fly to the set of Fargo to shoot a recurring role. “I track everyone I want to work with in a notebook, and I found a page from three years ago about how I loved Legion and wanted to work with [Fargo creator] Noah Hawley,” he says with awe.

Gage, who grew up in Encinitas, California, is discussing his flourishing career with an eye toward the past. We’re sitting over flat whites in a cafe near his apartment, a purchase he allowed himself after his breakout on The White Lotus — and, shortly after he went viral for a director’s crass hot-mic judgment of his rental (“These poor people live in these tiny apartments”) during a Zoom audition. “In the moment itself, I don’t think it was an intentional reaction to what happened,” he says. “But looking back, I do think I felt I had to wash that part of my life away.” He recently spoke to THR about the next phase of his career.

It probably makes sense to ask, first, if you have anything more to share about that golden shower scene.

I’ll say it was my idea to wear the googles. With that scene, and in The White Lotus, I wasn’t doing it to be sexy, but for comedic value. I didn’t think it was going to be hot for people. But I did want to go as far as possible. It can’t be a half rim job, or a half golden shower — although we did use a water machine with yellow food coloring.

Do you have any shyness to get over, in that regard?

I guess I’m a little more European in my thoughts on nudity right now. I’m not begging to take my clothes off, but I’m comfortable with it. I want to keep a sense of truthfulness, too: If there’s a scene where I’m having sex with my boss, it’s gonna be pretty f*cking weird if I have clothes on. Those scenes are so mechanical in their filming, anyways. There’s nothing sexy about a director telling you you’re thrusting weird.

What was your experience getting into the business?

As a kid I really wanted to act. I sent out headshots and met with a bunch of agents behind my parents’ back when I was 9 — I literally googled ‘child agencies in L.A.’ — but they all called my mom. They let me do commercials in San Diego until I was old enough to figure out if I really wanted to do it.

Did you know anyone in Los Angeles?

I didn’t have a single friend here, but I did vaguely know of people who had moved here. Emily Ratajkowski actually went to my high school [in San Diego]. She was a few grades older, but her dad was my painting teacher. He was the nicest guy ever, he was so complimentary of me even though my paintings were probably horrible. I told him I was hoping to pursue acting and he told me about Emily having dropped out of college to do the same so it felt a little bit like knowing someone.

Next Big Thing: Lukas Gage Talks ‘White Lotus’ Secrets, Manifesting a Job on ‘Fargo’ and the ‘You’ Scene Everyone Will Be Talking About (3)

Were you always able to have faith that things would happen for you?

I do think everything works out the way it’s supposed to, but I wasn’t always able to see that. I’m getting better at it every year. The older I get, the more I realize I have no control over anything. It’s kind of like dating — when you’re seeking a partner you never find somebody. People can feel that you’re trying too hard. I think the best thing to do in this industry is to build a full life outside of your work and have your work be just a part of that life. Like, this is an accessory to my happiness, not the source of my happiness.

The White Lotus and Euphoria are prestige television with seemingly luxury budgets, but did anything feel different about doing a Netflix show?

I shot in England for seven months. What people don’t realize about a lot of filming situations is that you’re sort of thrown in. I was really struggling to find an apartment in London, and then my friend Suki Waterhouse happened to be out of town. But the amount of money I was getting to supposedly cover living in London, one of the most expensive cities in the world, was tough. I’ve had to use my own money before to cover that sort of thing.

Who do you think had a better experience: the first cast of White Lotus in Hawaii or the second cast in Sicily?

It’s all so luxurious. I actually got to be on both sets. I think maybe the Four Seasons in Taormina was cooler: It’s Italy, but I was also only there for a week or so. We lived in Hawaii for so long you start to get used to it.

…You went to the set in Sicily?

Fred [Hechinger] and I did a scene for season two. When Jennifer [Coolidge’s character] is with the gays in Palermo, she originally opens a door in the villa and sees a shot of me doing drugs that turns out to be an illusion. It got cut because it didn’t work with the show, but I didn’t care because I got a free trip to the Four Seasons. And now for season three, I’m literally writing Mike [White] every day like, hey, remember me!

There seems to be a wide net of former HBO cast and crew who continue to work together; how did you come to collaborate for your upcoming movie?

I was in Assassination Nation, directed by Sam Levinson, and met Phoebe [Fisher], who was his writer’s assistant. And then we worked together on Euphoria and I was sort of another actor trying to be a writer. But she agreed to read my stuff and told me I was actually good, that I had a good voice but just needed to learn structure. Which I did, and then we wrote a couple of movies together.

Would you describe Down Low as a good first screenwriting experience so far?

I probably shouldn’t say this because I don’t want it to be taken the wrong way, but we wrote the first iteration of the script in a single weekend. Once it went out of our hands, I didn’t have the most creative control on the project, but I think that’s normal for a first time. The narrative and the dialogue are still mine, and it’s just the coolest thing in the world to hear people I love — Zachary Quinto and Simon Rex are my co-stars — say my words.

Are there still things that you feel really hungry for at this stage in your career, or do you feel quite satisfied?

I am really grateful for my writing, honestly. With acting, there are so many reasons why you might not get a job. It feels good to make things happen for myself. I’d love to direct, but only when people want me to direct. I have to earn my badge, do more shadowing. I want to produce. Like Sydney [Sweeney, Gage’s Euphoria co-star], she works so hard. I think it’s inspiring. I don’t know if I could ever work that hard — I keep wanting to go run away to Europe for a month and turn off my phone.

Do you feel well suited for fame, or does getting attention from people make you embarrassed?

Well, in what way?

Like, thirst traps, people who obsess over you …

Who’s obsessing over me?

I don’t know, people on the internet.

Oh, the internet. I’ll take it. I can’t give this away. (Laughs.) But seriously, I do take what I can get. I try not to take anything for granted.

Have you considered how your astrological sign might fit into this? Do you know it?

I’m a Gemini. A triple Gemini.

I’ve never met one of those before.

We’re one of the craziest combinations of people. But I really connect to being a Gemini.

So I guess we’re back to: Do you like being famous?

I like doing interviews. I like conversations like this. But the thing that gets hard as I’m becoming more of a public figure is navigating a public versus private life. I never want to feel like I’m hiding or trying to cover up anything, but I have to keep some things for myself.

Interview edited for length and clarity.

A version of this story first appeared in the Feb. 8 issue of The Hollywood Reporter magazine. Click here to subscribe.

Next Big Thing: Lukas Gage Talks ‘White Lotus’ Secrets, Manifesting a Job on ‘Fargo’ and the ‘You’ Scene Everyone Will Be Talking About (2024)
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