'White Lotus' ' Haley Lu Richardson Says She 'Never' Expected Such 'Intense Discourse' About Portia's Outfits

"People are very opinionated about her style," the actress told PEOPLE at the FASHIONPHILE x Fred Segal pop-up event in Los Angeles on Wednesday

hailey lu richardson
Photo: BFA

The only thing more dramatic than The White Lotus' twists and turns this season has been the reaction to star Haley Lu Richardson's on-screen wardrobe.

Since the season two premiere of the hit HBO show in October, the actress' character Portia's outfits have spawned countless debates on Reddit and Twitter, with some people crediting Richardson and costume designer Alex Bovaird for perfectly holding a mirror to Gen Z fashion and others criticizing the pieces, simply, as bad.

"I mean I could never have expected the intense discourse about it all," Richardson told PEOPLE at the FASHIONPHILE x Fred Segal pop-up event in Los Angeles on Wednesday. "People are very opinionated about her style. I had strong feelings about her wardrobe, but when you're making a movie or a show or something, you don't really — or at least I don't — think about what people are going to think of it. I just try to do what's right for that character I'm playing, and I'm just thinking about that person."

Throughout the filming process, Richardson, 27, said that Portia's wardrobe was very much a "collaboration" between her and Bovaird.

"I go into a project hoping that it's a collaboration with the hair department, the makeup department, the costume department," she said. "Figuring out a character's style informs me as an actor about who she is on the inside, and who she is as a person. It's really important for me to be involved in and understand 'cause it helps me get that person more."

As to Richardson's favorite piece of Portia's wardrobe? The House of Sunny Swan Lake sleeveless knitted jumper seen in the first episode.

"I get that it's an insane article of clothing, but I personally love it," she said. "I love it so much because I feel like when I close my eyes and think of Portia and what she would wear in her day-to-day life as Tanya's assistant, it's that. When I think of her, it's classic San Francisco Portia."

hailey lu richardson
Haley Lu Richardson. hailey lu richardson/instagram

When she thinks of Portia shopping for herself, Richardson said she imagines she goes "to Goodwill and finds some chaotic pieces there."

"There's a top that I wear with the faces on it, and it was worn in the Princess Diaries," she said. "A lot of Portia's clothes are thrifted and Alex would go to thrift shops, and vintage shops, and stuff and find those things. It's the best way to shop."

At the FASHIONPHILE event, Richardson also wore secondhand pieces from the online fashion resale website, including Hermés Fusion earrings, a silver Tiffany Heart Tag necklace and a Prada Satin Crystal Mini Re-Edition 2000 bag.

Beyond her White Lotus style, Richardson has gone viral recently for just how much she looks like a young Jennifer Coolidge, who plays her boss Tanya in the show. During the penultimate episode of the season that aired last Sunday, Tanya even told Portia in one scene, "When I see you, I see a younger version of me."

"I'm honored because I think that woman is so hot," Richardson said. "I saw those two pictures of us side by side and the eyebrows, the cheeks, even the swoop of the hair [are the same]."

hailey lu richardson
Haley Lu Richardson in White Lotus. HBO

Though Richardson couldn't say much about Sunday's upcoming finale, which airs Sunday at 9 p.m. ET on HBO, she did say that she thinks people will make sense of "a lot of Easter eggs" after it.

"Mike White is an extremely thoughtful person," she said. "He is a very specific, detail-oriented, nuanced writer and director, and he collaborates and works on things with all the different departments. I think by the end of the seventh episode, people will be able to look back like, 'Oh my God, there's that. Oh my God, there's that.'"

"You know how last season you got to episode six and you were like, 'How is it going to end? How is this going to be the last episode?' And then episode six happens and so much s— goes on? That's what happens in seven," she added. "You're like, 'How is there so many loose ends?'"

Richardson added that she's yet to tell any of her friends or family about what actually ends up going down in the finale.

"My friends and family keep sending me theories hoping that I'll give them something with a response, so I'm literally just not responding to any of my friends or family right now," she said. "I literally have not told anybody, and that's big of me because I'm really bad at keeping secrets. People have guessed the ending right to me, and people have guessed very wrong as well, but I've done really good with not giving anything away. HBO should be really proud of me."

Also excited for the White Lotus finale is Tell Me Lies star Grace Van Patten, who was on hand at the FASHIONPHILE event wearing gold Louis Vuitton Nanogram hoop earrings and a Christian Dior Calfskin Mini Saddle bag.

"I'm loving the new season of White Lotus," she said, "so I'm just excited to see what happens."

In the New Year, Van Patten, 26, said she's looking forward to finding more about Tell Me Lies' second season, as the show's renewal on Hulu was just announced last month.

"It was a total surprise," she said of the renewal. "I mean, I was really hoping for it and it seemed hopeful, but you never know. So I am so happy. I can't wait to do it again and find out for myself what happened."

Though she has no idea what's to come in season two for her character Lucy and her toxic relationship with on-again-off-again boyfriend Stephen, Van Patten has some hopes.

"Because I love Lucy so much, I want her not to be with Stephen, but then there would be no show," she said. "So there's probably still going to be some back and forth. But I hope she figures her s— out. I really do."

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