Murray Bartlett never expected to find fame at 50, but the Australian actor sure is enjoying it now.
Thanks to his role as high-strung hotel manager Armond in HBO’s TV series The White Lotus, Bartlett is in high demand.
“I loved that show, but you don’t know if people are going to respond to it,” he says. “It had an impact in a way that I don’t know anyone could have predicted.” The satirical comedy-drama — which follows the exploits of employees and pampered guests at a luxury resort in Hawaii — took the No. 1 spot on the network’s streaming service after its July 2021 and inspired countless memes (thanks, in part to one scene where Bartlett defecated in a guest’s suitcase).
“It’s been a great year for me,” says Bartlett, now 51, who stars as Vinnie Green, an ’80s fitness instructor, on the second season of Apple TV+’s Physical, premiering Friday. “I’ve had choices in a way that I haven’t had before.”
He continues, “One of the wonderful things about an experience like that happening at my age is, I’m very aware of the ebb and flow of things. I’m much more able to fully be in this moment and enjoy it without stressing out too much. Once you get to a certain age, you’re like, ‘Well, I’ve got nothing left to lose, so I might as well just fully lean into this and love the hell out of it!'”
Bartlett’s career began in Australia, where he appeared on several TV shows. He relocated to New York in 2000 and landed a guest role on Sex and the City as Oliver Spencer, a gay shoe importer who befriends Carrie (Sarah Jessica Parker).
In 2007, he was cast on the CBS soap opera Guiding Light, went on to play two high-profile gay TV roles: Dominic “Dom” Basaluzzo on HBO’s Looking in 2014 and Michael “Mouse” Tolliver in Netflix’s Tales of the City in 2019.
“I like being able to show intimacy between men that feels genuine and loving and real, because I didn’t get to see that in TV and film very much when I was growing up,” says Bartlett, who is gay. “We’re all human beings with strengths and vulnerabilities. I love being able to show all those sides.”
As Bartlett enjoys the unexpected career surge, he’s grateful for every minute, telling PEOPLE: “I love where my life is right now.”
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Physical premieres Friday on AppleTV+, and The White Lotus season 1 is streaming in its entirety on HBO Max.