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Creator Mike White Talks Filming HBO's 'The White Lotus' on Maui, His Personal Connection to Hawaiʻi

"The White Lotus"
Courtesy HBO
"The White Lotus" premieres Sunday, July 11, 2021.

With the start of filming for the new "NCIS: Hawaiʻi" series in recent weeks, television and film productions in Hawaiʻi continue to thrive as COVID-19 restrictions loosen.

It’s a trend that started as far back as October 2020, when HBO ordered "The White Lotus," a new series filmed on Maui from writer-director Mike White. The industry veteran is best known for comedies "School of Rock" and "Nacho Libre," but has several dramatic series and films to his credit.

"(HBO) came to me in the beginning of August and we were shooting by October. So I had to write all the scripts and prep the show, cast the show, all of that in the span of two and a half months," White said.

"The White Lotus" is a smart and funny character study that focuses on several mainland guests at a fictitious Maui boutique hotel, and the problems they think they have.

When filming began at the Four Seasons Resort Maui at Wailea, the cast and crew had to follow strict COVID-19 guidelines.

"We had a lot of local crew, we had some people from the mainland, it was a mix," he said. "I think everybody wanted to work, but they also wanted to feel safe. So we had a lot of protocols. Everyone was tested every day, they weren't able to leave the resort—the bubble of it."

"The White Lotus" debuts Sunday, July 11.
Courtesy HBO
"The White Lotus" debuts Sunday, July 11.

The Conversation’s Russell Subiono had the opportunity to talk with White and actress Jolene Purdy about filming during a pandemic, and their personal connections to Hawaiʻi.

Each time White comes to Hawaiʻi, he said he falls in love with the islands more.

"But I'm also more humbled by the history of the islands and it's a relationship that I am still a novice. But I feel like I'm going to hopefully have a lifetime relationship with the islands," he told Hawaiʻi Public Radio.

The six-episode limited series debuts Sunday on HBO and HBO Max.

Listen to Mike White's complete, extended interview with HPR's Russell Subiono below.

"The White Lotus" Creator, Writer and Director Mike White - July 8, 2021
Extended Interview - The Conversation

Also take a listen to Jolene Purdy's complete, extended interview. Purdy is a recurring character in "The White Lotus" and has appeared in shows like "Orange Is The New Black" and "WandaVision."

"The White Lotus" Actress Jolene Purdy - July 8, 2021
Extended Interview - The Conversation

This segment aired on The Conversation on July 8, 2021.

Russell Subiono is the executive producer of The Conversation and host of HPR's This Is Our Hawaiʻi podcast. Born in Honolulu and raised on Hawaiʻi Island, he’s spent the last decade working in local film, television and radio. Contact him at talkback@hawaiipublicradio.org.
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