From a pleasant guy to the viewer-hated character, Jake Lacy

Talking to Amanda Whiting, the actor who transitioned from romcoms to portraying a repulsive honeymooner in “The White Lotus,” on his most recent performance as a charismatic child molester, the morality of true-crime dramas, and the fans who won’t let him forget about “the Pineapple Suite.”

On a recent weekday evening, I had tacos with actor Jake Lacy, who has an all-American good look that borders on caricature. He has brown hair, blue eyes, and a chin that is so powerful it must be exercised.

He appears to have been created using a 3-D printer after being given pictures of lacrosse players. His expression of repose suggests a man who captained a team or two in high school before joining a fraternity in college, even though it was that way only very infrequently during meals. lover of craft breweries. a person dressed in fleece.

He admitted, “There’s a bro element to my outfit,” as the guacamole was delivered.

His co-star on the HBO blockbuster “The White Lotus,” Murray Bartlett, told me, “He’s got this lovely blank canvas thing.” However, he is remarkably adaptable thanks to his gorgeous blank canvas. He has a lot of options for that.

The majority of those films, including “Obvious Child,” “High Fidelity,” and “Girls,” up until lately, reinforced Lacy as the go-to nice guy. Vulture once compiled a list of his characters’ level of niceness.

Many of these people served only as starting points or destinations for the stories’ female protagonists. And Lacy thought that was OK, referencing the patriarchal history of TV and film in a very un-bro way.

He truly exclaimed, “What a terrific way to start this business.”

But he changed that identity for “The White Lotus” last year, a role that earned him his first Emmy nomination. He portrayed Shane, a paragon of white male entitlement dressed in a succession of sherbet-colored polos. (According to how he tells the story, his scene partner Bartlett triumphed over him at the event last month.)

His new program, the fact-based drama “A Friend of the Family,” makes use of that unimpressive good looks as both a disguise and a weapon. Lacy said, “Weaponizing that.”

He proposed that we meet at La Superior, a taco joint with a Michelin star in Williamsburg, Brooklyn, close to a number of his previous apartments. (He and his wife, Lauren DeLeo Lacy, moved to Connecticut mid-pandemic.)

Although he appeared uneasy in a faded red T-shirt with a few holes in the torso, this was a comfortable place for him. He frequently apologized for rambling, stopping, and veering off-topic.

Bartlett had remarked, “He’s really earnest, not in a cheesy sense; he’s simply a decent guy.” This appeared to be true enough. While playing likable characters is not something Lacy is particularly interested in doing professionally, he does have a personal need for likeability that most people share.

Yes, he is. (I’ve improved in regard to my own people-pleasing, he claimed.) More subtly and less humorously than in “The White Lotus,” “A Friend of the Family” plays with and against that likeability.

In this nine-episode limited series, which is available to watch on Peacock, Lacy portrays Robert Berchtold, a husband, and father from Idaho who kidnapped Jan Broberg, the eldest daughter of a family he had known for years, twice in the middle of the 1970s. (Abducted in Plain Sight, a Netflix documentary, already examined this subject.)

The story goes that Berchtold, or B as those close to him knew him, utilized his grin, his jokes, and his wonderful charisma to insinuate himself with the Brobergs. This was corroborated by Broberg in a recent interview. The two families were so intertwined that Jan’s parents put off telling the FBI when she was originally stolen.

(After the initial kidnapping, Berchtold was found guilty of the crime. He was given a five-year sentence but only spent 45 days. After the second, he avoided going to jail totally and spent five months in a mental health facility. He committed suicide in 2005 after being found guilty of aggravated assault and possessing a handgun for a subsequent violation.)

Before casting began, the majority of the episodes of “A Friend of the Family” had already been written. It was difficult to find the appropriate Berchtold since the performer had to exude an eerie charm.

According to Broberg, a producer on the show, “He had to have a natural charisma that would come through the screen and drop into the living room of whoever was watching the show.” Because B’s superpower was charisma, she continued. But that same actor would also have to visit some really gloomy locations.

The showrunner of “A Friend of the Family,” Nick Antosca (“The Act,” “Candy”), was captivated by Lacy’s performance in “The White Lotus” and the empathy he brought to such a repulsive character. It’s not intended for the spectator to feel sorry for B, Antosca said. He added, “But you have to comprehend how that family fell in love with him.

Despite undoubtedly being a monster, B doesn’t see himself as one. Antosca had a hunch that Lacy would be able to play both roles simultaneously.

Not every actor on a roll would pick the role of a paedophile for his next role. And Lacy, a mother of two small boys, was on the verge of declining the gig. But he was drawn to the character’s challenge as much as the writing, and he valued the input of both Jan Broberg and her mother, Mary Ann, a producer.

If they hadn’t been involved, Lacy claimed, “it would have been so voyeuristic, so tabloid, and not founded in some bigger reason.”

He thinks it serves the objective of demonstrating how abuse can occur and how intimates are typically the ones who commit it. Before filming started, Broberg had written Lacy a letter outlining all the good qualities she remembered about B, such as his charisma and sense of humor. The letter also urged Lacy to own the part and reassured him that the decisions he made would not injure her more.

That degree of grace, I was insanely impressed, Lacy remarked.

This gave him the freedom to give the part everything he had. He is a loving parent and a very kind man, according to Broberg of Lacy. “For the role to work, you must bring all of those elements to it.”

The more sinister elements were filled in by Lacy’s investigation, which included trial testimony, audio recordings made by Berchtold, and psychological literature. He occasionally had to set a deadline for that research. He remarked, “Like, that’s enough for now.” “Let’s not listen to these Robert Berchtold tapes all night long.”

He did read “Lolita,” but he didn’t have any inventive places to go when it came to pedophilia. Instead, he practiced what he called “substitutions,” confident that if he showed love to his young scene partners, the camera would interpret that love as dark and dangerous. (Since there are no rape sequences on the program, Lacy hasn’t had to directly depict these atrocities.)

He and Antosca didn’t think it was necessary to find Berchtold’s humanity. Antosca said, “He was a psychopath who continued telling himself self-justifying stories. So, he explained, it was sufficient to understand B’s goals and methods in almost every scenario without getting bogged down in the way.

Lacy remarked, “There was no need to delve into his thinking. “Because my judgmental point of view on his views is so deservedly justified.”

Lacy has previously had trouble separating himself from the roles he has portrayed. This did not take place. When people questioned whether it was difficult to leave that on set, He stated, “I was like, ‘No, it’s a really clean break.

Antosca attested to it. He claimed that the actor was “super-thoughtful and technical, not technique.” I didn’t observe him trying to behave differently.

Lacy is unsure of his future role, whether he’ll stick with this particular heel turn, go back to playing the nice guy, or try something else. He has a wide range that hasn’t yet been fully utilized, according to Antosca. He alluded to a project in Los Angeles. The second is in London. He is happy to have written “A Friend of the Family,” happy to promote it, and happy to put it behind him.

He exclaimed, “I’m extremely glad to just take a small breath and cuddle my kids.”

Related Article:

  1. A Friend of The Family Review: The Most Unbelievable True-Crime Tale Ever!
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