Jake Lacy on Unsettling 'A Friend of the Family' Role and Possible Return to 'The White Lotus' (Exclusive)
Now halfway through its season on Peacock, A Friend of the Family is a limited series depicting the unbelievably true story about a teenage girl’s multiple abductions and assaults by the same man. That unsettling man is played by Jake Lacy, the Emmy-nominated White Lotus star who opens up to ET about bringing Robert Berchtold’s harrowing crimes to life onscreen in the star-studded adaptation of Jan Broberg’s life and if he’ll ever return to creator Mike White’s HBO anthology series and social satire about overlapping lives at a luxury resort.
In addition to Lacy as Berchtold, who was commonly referred to as "B," A Friend of the Family also stars Mckenna Grace as a 14-year-old version of Jan with Anna Paquin as her mother, Mary Ann, and Colin Hanks as her father Bob, both of whom got caught up in their neighbor’s decades-long manipulation of their family.
As for B, he was a wolf in sheep’s clothing who used the guise as a friendly neighbor and nonthreatening married father of multiple children to slowly groom and manipulate the Broberg family as he kidnapped Jan not once, but twice over several years. "It was my understanding, and in our telling of it, a master manipulator had this innate ability to read people and know what they wanted, what they needed and how to provide that for them," Lacy previously said of Berchtold.
In order to channel this person for the screen, showrunner Nick Antosca provided Lacy with several of Jan and Mary Ann’s personal items, from letters to diary entries, documenting their experiences at the time. "Nick Antosca and [executive producer and director] Eliza Hittman sort of cherry-picked what to share with each cast member based on what they thought would be helpful," the actor says now.
He adds, "The thing for me that was most useful were these recordings that the FBI took of Berchtold calling the Brobergs when he’s taken Jan for the second time but is feigning not knowing where she is and claims to be speaking to her on the phone and is basically positioning himself to the Brobergs as like a third member of their team."
In those tapes, Berchtold is also claiming that Jan is "making these crazy demands" and that the only way for her parents to get her back is if they allow her to go through with them. "And Mary Ann knows that he’s got her and knows that the FBI is probably tapping their phones," Lacy continues, shocked by "the levels that are happening" on the calls.
For him, as an actor, "it was fulfilling and creatively fun to play," he shares, noting that the "dynamic that you hear on those tapes between Berchtold and Mary Ann is what blew me away, or maybe gave me a way into the character that I wouldn’t have had before."
And it’s in ET’s exclusive clip from episode 6, "Son of Perdition," that one of those calls plays out, as a furious Mary Ann demands to know where Jan is and Berchtold pretends to be as distraught and upset about the fact that she’s missing.
Here, Lacy credits Paquin for helping him sell his turn as B. "So much of my performance only resonates if her reaction sells what we’re trying to tell about him being a master manipulator," he says. "It only registers with the audience if the other person appears to be seduced." And in the series, Paquin does just that, from being coerced into doing his bidding to falling for him romantically. "Anna is a wonderful actor, obviously. But also, she’s generous and giving and supportive and present and prepared. All the things that you hope for."
It’s at this point in the series, after Jan has run away to Wyoming to be with Berchtold, that his veneer is finally wearing off and that the darker side of this monster is starting to be seen. "He’s having a more difficult time, you know, getting people to do his bidding and that the ease with which he manipulated the Brobergs and the authorities has started to falter a bit," Lacy says. "His actions start to get a little more extreme, if that’s even possible."
"And you really continue to see that for the remainder of the series, that things in his life unravel further, or his control unravels even further and then he has to take crazier measures to try to get that back," the actor adds.
The remainder of the season also sees Lacy acting opposite of Grace, who takes over as an older version of Jan from Hendrix Yancey and helps remind the audience that this is Jan’s story. "If we don’t see the light that she has in her and then also the complexity of what she is struggling with, particularly after the abuse begins, then the story doesn’t work," Lacy says.
He adds, "The amount of nuance and layered storytelling that’s built into that character and her experience, you know, from 14 [years old] on, it’s remarkable for Mckenna, who is actually 16, to be playing it at that level. I could not have done that at 16."
Lacy is also not sure if he could have done a role like this even five years ago, before his darker turn as Shane on The White Lotus, or even 10 years ago, when he was breaking out as “New Jim” on the final seasons of The Office.
"I’ve been really fortunate to get the roles that I needed or was ready for when I got them," he says, explaining that it is the same way with The White Lotus. By the time he got on set for White’s series, he was ready "to totally give over to this and that probably -- not that I'm a dick -- but, like, let more of me to come through than some kind of polite artifice that maybe I felt was more necessary earlier" in his career.
Following the success of that, which garnered him his first Emmy nomination, Lacy felt that with A Friend of the Family, "I don’t have a thing to prove here," he says of embarking on an incredibly varied acting career that sees him going from playing nice guys to darker roles to whatever else may come his way.
And while A Friend of the Family is "an incredible opportunity to start that," Lacy says he wouldn’t pass up the chance to work with White again. Although The White Lotus has not officially been renewed for a third season, the creator has expressed interest in another installment that could see the series moving to Japan or another international location as he brings back more characters from season 1.
"I would do anything with Mike White. Like, White Lotus season 3, something totally different. You know, help him move boxes into a new house, Like, whatever he wants. I absolutely adore him and think he’s a genius. So, if he’s got something going and I get a call, I will be there," Lacy says. "100 percent."
New episodes of A Friend of the Family debut Thursdays on Peacock.
'A Friend of the Family' Cast on Retelling the Broberg Family's 'Terrifying' Abduction Story (Exclusive)
'A Friend of the Family': What Jan Broberg Says About Getting Abducted and Sharing Her Story (Exclusive)
'A Friend of the Family' Trailer: Jake Lacy, Mckenna Grace Star in the Unbelievably True Kidnapping Saga