In ‘The White Lotus,’ Mike White Takes You on Vacation

About 10 years ago, White bought a writer’s retreat on the Hawaiian island of Kauai. He often spends half the year there. He has read up ...


About 10 years ago, White bought a writer’s retreat on the Hawaiian island of Kauai. He often spends half the year there. He has read up on Hawaii’s history, particularly the wounds U.S. imperialism has inflicted. And he has thought about the ways in which people like him keep those wounds from healing. As a kid, he loved luau night, when hotel employees would don traditional dress and dance for the guests. He thinks about that experience differently now.

“There’s something about vacationing in other people’s realities,” he said.

So when Orsi made the call, he knew almost immediately that he wanted to set a show there. “I just was like, I should just do a show about people on vacation who have money, and how money is impacting all of their relationships,” he said.

Because his work always combines imagination and self-interrogation, he drew on his own hula-positive experiences to create the squirmy feel of “The White Lotus.” Here is Nicole, Connie Britton’s oblivious fempreneur, on luau night: “I think it’s just a way for them to honor their culture and they seem to be having a really good time.” As Nicole’s daughter says, “Mom! Cringe!”

White wrote the first episode at the end of August and had the other five completed by the end of September. In late October the shoot began, with the entire cast — Coolidge, Britton, Steve Zahn, Natasha Rothwell and Jake Lacy among them — quarantining together at the Maui hotel. Sometimes, during prep, White would look out of the window of his room and see some of the actors splashing below. (An occasional actor, White did not write a role for himself into the script.)

“I felt like I was like the host who had a cool party, but I had to work the kitchen. But it still felt good,” he said. “It was a pleasure to feel like people had been bounced out of their pandemic prisons to come and party at the Four Seasons.”

While White’s stories typically focus on a sole protagonist, “The White Lotus” is an ensemble piece, with multiple subplots exploring the perversions of power against a background of astonishing natural beauty. Actors quickly signed on, even though the salaries were unspectacular.

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Newsrust - US Top News: In ‘The White Lotus,’ Mike White Takes You on Vacation
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