Jennifer Coolidge on Life as a Surprise Superstar: 'People Like That I'm the Underdog'

The White Lotus star opens up to PEOPLE about her Hollywood hot streak and what's next

HOLLYWOOD, CALIFORNIA - JANUARY 18: Jennifer Coolidge attends the Los Angeles premiere of Prime Video's "Shotgun Wedding" at TCL Chinese Theatre on January 18, 2023 in Hollywood, California. (Photo by Emma McIntyre/Getty Images)
Photo: Emma McIntyre/Getty

Jennifer Coolidge is having the best year ever.

The White Lotus star — who kicked off 2023 with a Golden Globe, a Critics Choice Award, a Hasty Pudding Theatricals Woman of Year honor, a Super Bowl commercial for e.l.f. Cosmetics and lots of memorable memes — is now opening up to PEOPLE about her whirlwind few months.

Turns out, despite all the attention from Hollywood and beyond, Coolidge, 61, remains humble by her "It Girl" status.

"I think people liked that I was the underdog," she tells PEOPLE exclusively in this week's issue. "I played a lot of strange women, and people were amused by the comedies I've done. Then Mike White put me in The White Lotus and it was a drama and comedy at the same time — I never really had that."

And it seems everyone on the red carpet — and off — wants to snap a selfie with her.

"Something happened this awards season. I don't know if they just played clips of me so many times on the Internet or Instagram, but it doesn't matter what disguise I have on, I can be wearing a frog costume with a helmet and people know it's me," she says. "I was recently walking in the North End in Boston, and I couldn't make it down the street. I think it's so interesting. I guess it's the Internet. I don't know — or maybe I have a weird walk."

Jennifer Coolidge Rollout
Jennifer Coolidge. Jeff Lipsky

Earlier this month, the Boston native was in town to be presented with the Hasty Pudding Theatricals Woman of the Year award, an honor which meant a great deal to her as her father and three uncles are all Harvard alum.

Hundreds of Coolidge's fans lined the streets of Cambridge to wave and cheer her on, before she was roasted by the comedy troop and took part in a number of tasks — including singing like a dolphin — to earn her coveted pudding pot.

"It was unbelievable," she tells PEOPLE. "They wrote and choreographed this mind-blowing show, and it was brilliant. They gave me a parade and we had dinners and I got to hang out with the kids and I got indoctrinated."

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Jennifer Coolidge
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She adds that she was blown away by the rising talent.

"These kids could all have jobs right now — they're all such winners at such an early age. Everyone in that show has such a developed comedic timing at just 18, 19, 20. I didn't have that at that age," she recalls. "I was just blown away. I thought it was so moving to see these young people who are going to have huge careers."

So what's next for the star? "I just want to lie in my bed for a week with my dog," she says. "I want to absolutely not move."

That is unless Mike White calls to cast the ghost of Tanya McQuoid in The White Lotus season 3.

"That would get me out of bed, for sure," she jokes.

For more on Jennifer Coolidge, pick up the latest issue of PEOPLE, on newsstands Friday, or subscribe here.

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