While most people slowed down during the pandemic, Jake Lacy’s schedule accelerated. It began with filming “The White Lotus” for HBO, where his portrayal of an entitled newlywed dissatisfied with his honeymoon hotel room earned Lacy his first Emmy nomination.
“Since ‘White Lotus,’ I feel like I haven’t stopped moving. If I’m home between now and New Year’s, that’ll be the longest we’ve been in one place in two plus years,” said Lacy, 38, over Zoom from his home in Connecticut that he shares with his wife and two sons.
But he’s also quick to note his good fortune because “My love for this work fires every one of my cylinders. When it’s good, it’s good. There’s just nothing better for me (besides) my family and this work. Maybe reading books. That’s it.”
Lacy has been recognizable for more than a decade, popping up, for instance, on the final season of “The Office” as Pete, a new salesman at Dunder Mifflin, or as a suitor for Rooney Mara in “Carol.” There was also a recurring role as Lena Dunham’s good-guy boyfriend, Fran, in HBO’s “Girls.”
Although he was “working consistently,” Lacy said doubt about that next job would creep in. “I felt like, ’I don’t know how I’m going to have two kids and buy a house and do this, like it just might not happen’… then a job would come along and buoy me long enough to not feel that way anymore.”
When “White Lotus” began production, Lacy said the set was energized by having cameras roll again.
“I think because of the pandemic, none of us had filmed in a year or eight months at best. There was a real enthusiasm and kind of gnawing excitement to be like, ‘Get me out there, let’s do this,’ you know? Murray Bartlett remembers the first scene he and I had when I’m coming to complain about the room. He was like, ‘I remember we both came at each other like two wild dogs.’ (Creator) Mike White had to go like, ‘All right. This is the first time, let’s pull it back a little bit,’ Lacy laughed.
His latest role, in the new Peacock limited series “ A Friend of the Family,” is more sinister. He portrays a man who ingrains himself into a church-going family in the 1970s, only to abduct one of the daughters twice.
“A Friend of the Family” drops its first four episodes Thursday with the remaining five doled out weekly. Lacy plays Robert Berchtold or “B” who meets the Broberg family and immediately zeros in on one of the young daughters, Jan. “B” manipulates the Brobergs in a multitude of ways to gain access to Jan. The series is based on true events with the real Jan Broberg and her mother, Mary Ann, signed on as producers. (A documentary about the case, “ Abducted in Plain Sight,” began streaming on Netflix in 2019.)
When he took the job, Lacy wanted to make sure the children who worked on the series would be regarded with care.
“Right from the jump, I asked (showrunner) Nick (Antosca), ‘How are you handling the abuse?’ He was like, ‘We don’t. We don’t show it.’ Narratively, I have no interest in it. As a producer, I don’t want to create that kind of television.”
As the person portraying the abuser, Lacy said he wanted to make sure both the kids and their parents felt safe because “the worst thing would be to try to tell a story about grooming and trauma and in the process, traumatize a kid. His concerns were lessened by production who he credits with checking “every box you could ask for.”
“The production went out of their way to do that as well, both having a therapist on set always by union regulations, and then also changing the sides and scripts that were given to the kids, to protect them from what the experience was.”
The series also stars Lio Tipton, as Berchtold’s long-suffering wife, and Colin Hanks and Anna Paquin as Jan’s parents who each experience their own entanglements with the man. On screen they were adversaries, but Hanks says working with Lacy sparked a new friendship.
“I’ll be quite honest, we were cracking jokes nonstop all the way up until action and then immediately after cut,” said Hanks. “I think that made the work that much easier. It became very evident that we were kind of cut from the same cloth and that we needed to be able to think about everything else, anything else, and then we can go and do all the dark stuff that we have to do. We had an absolute blast. He’s an incredibly talented individual, and I’m really, really proud of the work that we did together.”
Also this month, Lacy co-stars in the genre-blending film “ Significant Other,” premiering Friday on Paramount+. Lacy and Maika Monroe play a young couple on a camping trip in Oregon.
“It’s a tough thing to talk about because the basis of the movie is a spoiler. You can only kind of offer up the first act and be like, ‘They’re camping and a thing happens,” he laughed. “But when the switch flips, it was a lot of fun to do.”
This story has been corrected to show that Mike White is the creator of “The White Lotus.”