‘Goodfellas’: The Actor Who Played Lois Also Had a Key Role in ‘The Irishman’
When The Irishman hit theaters (and Netflix) in 2019, the focus went on the big-ticket reunion: Robert De Niro and Joe Pesci together again in a Martin Scorsese mob film. Given the trio’s history, which dates back to Raging Bull (1990) and includes Goodfellas (1990), that makes perfect sense.
But they weren’t the only familiar faces returning from Scorsese’s first great mob film. Bo Dietl, who plays the taunting arresting officer with his gun trained on Henry Hill (Ray Liotta) in Goodfellas, returned as Joey Glimco in The Irishman.
And Dietl made another stop in a Scorsese film along the way: The Wolf of Wall Street (2013). That run in Scorsese features mirrored that of Welker White, who plays Hill’s babysitter and drug transporter, Lois Byrd, in Goodfellas.
Lois had her biggest scenes on the phone in Goodfellas. Thirty years later, she was once again on the other hand of a phone call in The Irishman — one that changed everything for the characters in the film.
Welker White played Lois in ‘Goodfellas’ 30 years before playing Josephine Hoffa in ‘The Irishman’
If you want to do a “Where are they now?” for the cast of Goodfellas, you’ll want a copy of Glenn Kenny’s Made Men: The Story of Goodfellas (2020). Timed for the film’s 30th anniversary, Kenny got to speak with most of the cast from the classic film.
That included White, whose Lois joins the action at the film’s most chaotic moments. Helicopters are circling above; Hill is unable to offload guns to Jimmy Conway (De Niro); Hill’s girlfriend Sandy is pestering him; and Hill nearly crashes his car while heading to the hospital to pick up his brother.
Meanwhile, an involved pasta sauce (“meat gravy,” to be precise) must be made, which involves a great deal of monitoring. But Lois doesn’t care. She’s the airhead of the bunch. All she needs is her lucky hat, and she’s not going to a payphone to make arrangements for her drug drop — even after she says she will.
“That was sort of my take on [Lois],” White said in Made Men. “She’s, like, a pothead. […] She didn’t really care what happened to these people, she wasn’t invested one way or the other.” Her portrayal obviously made an impression on Scorsese, who summoned her back for the key role of Josephine Hoffa in The Irishman.
White’s biggest ‘Irishman’ moment comes when she thinks her car might blow up
In The Irishman, union officials don’t just play hardball; they kill to grab and maintain power. So when “Jo” Hoffa (White) gets in her car after a rival of her husband Jimmy (Al Pacino) fires her from her job, she hesitates, wondering if he had planted a bomb inside.
That’s probably the biggest on-screen moment for White, and it nicely mirrored the arrest scene in the car in Goodfellas. You can say the same about the phone call she gets in The Irishman from Frank Sheeran (De Niro), whose voice breaks as he tells Jo to keep hope about Jimmy being alive.
Back in Goodfellas, the phone conversation she has (and immediately ignores) with Hill leads to his unraveling. White enjoyed the symmetry. “Yes, 30 years later I’m working on The Irishman with [Scorsese],” she told Kenny for Made Men. “And again, there is at least one key scene with a phone call.”