Who is The White Lotus creator Mike White?
Who is Jennifer Coolidge’s career saviour Mike White? The White Lotus’ creator’s School Of Rock role, reality show stints and partying with Angelina Jolie and Jennifer Aniston
The White Lotus was the big winner at Tuesday night’s Golden Globes.
And the moment that got everyone talking was when the HBO show’s leading lady Jennifer Coolidge reduced its creator Mike White to tears with her heartfelt and eccentric speech.
Gushing that the writer, producer and director had given her ‘a new beginning’ after years of bit parts, Jennifer said Mike made her ‘want to live longer.’
So who is the talent behind one of the most-talked about shows in recent years?
Winners: Mike White, the man behind the HBO smash hit The White Lotus, starring his friend Jennifer Coolidge, has lent his talents from reality TV to a big screen box office smash
The 52-year-old is the son of writer, activist and clergyman James Melville ‘Mel’ White and his ex wife Lyla Lee Loehr.
During his California childhood, Mike says his creative parents allowed him the space to develop his imagination – the key starting point for his later career.
He says he was inspired by a second grade teacher who was the mother of famed American playwright Sam Shepard, and went on to write his first full-length play in his sophomore year of college.
It was the weather that changed the course of his career though, quipping that after college ‘I was going to be a playwright, and then it was too cold back east, so I came back to LA and fell into the wrong crowd, and I became a screenwriter.’
Tears: The White Lotus was the big winner at Tuesday night’s Golden Globes. And the moment that got everyone talking was when Jennifer reduced Mike to tears with her speech
From Dawson’s Creek to School Of Rock
While at college Mike met his first writing partner Zak Penn, who has gone on to have huge success writing for Marvel movies.
The Penn White partnership ended after a few years but Mike credits his friend with getting him into Hollywood’s social circles.
Mike started out penning scripts for nineties teen hits Dawson’s Creek and Freaks and Geeks.
Career peak: Mike’s creative childhood initially set him on the playwriting path before he was persuaded to move to LA (pictured at Tuesday’s Golden Globes)
As well as writing, he took on acting parts in his projects, admitting that early in his career he thought that would be a career path that would fit his introvert personality, as he couldn’t see himself managing people on set.
After Penn, another key collaborative partner during Mike’s career has been the actor–writer Jack Black, with their most notable hit under their production company banner Black and White, being School Of Rock.
As well as writing the 2003 movie, Mike starred alongside Jack as Ned Schneebly.
A TV flop
Mike had high hopes for his 2011 venture with HBO, the dramatic comedy Enlightened, starring Laura Dern.
Despite being fawned over by critics the show was cancelled by HBO after just two seasons owing to low viewership.
The outrage from Hollywood and a loyal fanbase turned Mike into a posterboy for the fight against the TV industry suits.
Partners: Mike teamed up with Jack Black to form a production company and together they wrote and produced 2003 hit School Of Rock, in which they both also starred
For Mike, he says the cancellation led him to step away from the heavy premise of his show and the pressure of creating a series, explaining ‘it made me feel like I didn’t have the heart to go deep for a little bit.’
‘I was, like, I’ll just take some jobs and write some stuff for hire. I was, like, O.K., they need a writer for ‘Pitch Perfect 3′? I’ll do it.’
‘I did write some movies, some stuff that was meaningful to me. But I guess I was licking my wounds a bit. It’s like being in a relationship where you get burned and you don’t have the stomach to go through that again, so you take some time to heal.’
And the step back also allowed him to indulge his great passion – reality TV.
On screen: A TV cancellation led Mike to take a step away from writing and purse his reality show passion, appearing on the 2019 season of Survivor (pictured)
Mike has appeared in the hit US series Survivor and two runs of the long-running round the world gameshow The Amazing Race, alongside his father.
Mike says his number one reason for appearing on reality shows is because he’s a genuine fan of the often ridiculed genre, but he also reveals his co-stars have served as inspiration for his writing.
‘As a writer, one, I spend a lot of time alone, and two, at the computer. I have spent a lot of time feeling like an observer of things and there are parts of me as I get older that want to participate, I don’t want to just observe,’ he explained to The Genius List.
‘I liked the idea of playing those games, having an adventure, and participating in these shows that I enjoy watching for the character study aspect of it, because the people are so weird.’
TV star: Mike has appeared in the hit US series Survivor and two runs of the long-running round the world gameshow The Amazing Race, alongside his father
Mike didn’t let his Hollywood circle put him off his pursuit of fun, revealing during an interview with The New Yorker last year that not even Jennifer Aniston could dissuade him from his TV adventures.
‘I remember I was at a party at Courteney Cox’s house—I’m not really good friends with her, but I was there. And I was just about to go on ‘Amazing Race.’ And Jennifer Aniston was there, and I was so proud and excited.’
‘I was, like, ‘I’m going on ‘Amazing Race’ with my dad!’ I could see Jennifer Aniston’s eyes being, like, Why the f**k . . . ? That’s not anything that anyone aspires to, to be a reality contestant.’
His 2018 stint on Survivor though did gain him an a-lister fan in Angeline Jolie, who turned up at the show’s wrap party with her kids after befriending Mike on the set of their Disney project The One and Only Ivan.
‘I had a party for the penultimate episode I was on, at my house,’ Mike recalls. ‘And, you know, it was the best night of my life… I had friends from childhood there. I had the ‘Survivor’ contestants there. And then I had people like Diane Keaton and Angelina Jolie!’
‘I was, like, This is the best. So, you know, maybe they think I’m crazy. Doing those shows, I thought, I’m not going to let losing the credibility of some ritzy-titzy person or critic or whatever prevent me from having this experience.’
Old pals: Mike and his White Lotus lead Jennifer met when they played a couple in 2009’s Gentlemen Broncos
Jennifer and The White Lotus
When the global pandemic hit in 2020 Mike was feeling stagnant.
He received an email from HBO and his known ability to speedily turn around a project from the writing room to screen set him on the path to The White Lotus.
HBO had a content void to fill and quickly. Mike saw it as an opportunity, after his experience with Enlightenment, to go in all guns blazing.
‘It’ll be like a boulder they can’t stop. I can do exactly what I want to do,’ he recalled to The New Yorker.
Hit: When the global pandemic hit in 2020 Mike was feeling stagnant. But when he received an email from HBO his known ability to speedily turn around a project from the writing room to screens set him on the path to The White Lotus
Setting the first season of The White Lotus in his beloved Hawaii, where he holidayed as a child and where he now owns a home, Mike cast his friend Jennifer, who had previously starred in a pilot of his which was turned down by network after network.
The two had met when they played a couple in 2009’s Gentlemen Broncos and Jennifer recalls joining him on a safari vacation in Africa bonded them for life, admitting he saw an ‘unedited’ version of her.
‘Mike discovered, on this trip, that I was sort of sad I wasn’t in a relationship, and he saw me watching these wedding videos on my iPhone in the middle of the night,’ she has revealed, admitting that night most likely provided inspiration for her White Lotus character.
Star: The first season was the most-awarded series at the 74th Primetime Emmy Awards while at this week’s Golden Globes the second series earned a gong for Coolidge
The black comedy premiered in July 2021 to critical acclaim and high ratings, leading to a second season based in Sicily, released last year, and the recent pick-up of a third run.
The first season was the most-awarded series at the 74th Primetime Emmy Awards, winning 10 awards, while at this week’s Golden Globes the second series earned gongs for Coolidge and in the Best Limited or Anthology Series or Television Film category.
Jennifer brought Mike to tears with her eccentric speech as she picked up her first ever Golden Globe, telling him:
‘Mike White, you have given me hope — you’ve given me a new beginning. Even if this is the end, you changed my life in a million different ways’.
A moment: Jennifer brought Mike to tears with her eccentric speech as she picked up her first ever Golden Globe, telling him: ‘Mike White, you have given me hope’
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