This was fitting on multiple levels. Ms. Richardson once gave the cast and crew on one of her films customized condoms, she said. (She played a college student who becomes pregnant with twins.)
Also, Diesel is very Portia, a role now so associated with Ms. Richardson that people stop her in the street to yell “Portia!” The brand’s attitude is funny and horny, with a sense of 1990s nostalgia that has given it a Gen Z edge. (Last year, it used sex toys as show invitations and went viral for its micro-micro-miniskirts.) On the show, Portia dressed like a scrambled Y2K mood board and chose adventure with a “Love Island” type of lad over romance with a polite Stanford boy.
But it would be a mistake to conflate the actress with her character, as some people have done.
“When the show was airing and I was going on the internet, searching ‘Portia’ and my name on Twitter — that was overwhelming,” Ms. Richardson said in her hotel room before the show. “It was making me kind of sensitive, because I was like, ‘Hey, just because Portia is annoying and you can’t stand her, I’m pretty great, I promise.’”
Some actors ooze media training, and they seem impenetrable to journalists seeking off-the-cuff authenticity. Ms. Richardson is not that. She told an interviewer two weeks ago, at a New York event, that she was “PMS-ing,” which became the New York Post’s headline. In my interview with her, she asked for permission to use the bathroom and, when complimented on the scent of her hand cream, tried very hard to give it to me.
She also wasn’t flanked in Milan by an agent or publicist or manager or stylist but by her mother, Valerie, whom she’d invited when Diesel offered to pay for a guest. Her mother lives in Phoenix, helping to run her husband’s golf course architecture business. She briefly relocated to Los Angeles when Ms. Richardson was 16 so her daughter could start her career.
Still, even without a publicist, Ms. Richardson knows when to be vague. Asked about rumors that “The White Lotus” cast members hooked up on set — she was on location for five months — she said, “We were there for a long time, and we all got along.” Several cast members lived at a hotel, but Ms. Richardson rented an apartment nearby so that she could bring her cat.