‘The White Lotus’: Why Did Mike White Cast His ‘Survivor’ Ally Although He Never Acted?

Did you spy The White Lotus cast member from Mike White’s Survivor season in the HBO series? He might be hard to spot, but Alec Merlino from Survivor Season 37 appears as a bartender named Hutch. During their time together in Fiji in 2018, White and Merlino became friends. Evidently, they stayed in contact because the creator cast his buddy in a role, although Merlino never acted a day in his life.

The White Lotus stars Jennifer Coolidge, Murray Bartlett and Jolene Purdy walking at the resort
‘The White Lotus’: Jennifer Coolidge, Murray Bartlett and Jolene Purdy | Mario Perez/HBO

‘The White Lotus’ director Mike White on his ‘Survivor’ season

In 2018, Mike White participated in Survivor: David vs. Goliath, the long-running Reality TV show’s 37th season. The “David” participants became the underdogs, while the “Goliath” contestants were the overachievers. The producers surprised White by placing him on the Goliath team. He always felt like an underdog. White told The New Yorker that many people thought he went on Survivor as a joke. However, the director is a die-hard reality TV fan who claims he never misses an episode. 

“Survivor is the only show I really devotedly watch, even though I get frustrated with it,” White explained to the outlet. “Part of my job and my way of life is studying people and analyzing motivation and character. I still feel like, even on the most contrived reality show, the people are human, and they’re more interesting than some of the most well-scripted drama.”

White explained that reality TV inspires him to continue writing engaging and unique characters.  

“And for me, as a writer of drama, I aspire to do what reality television already does,” he added. “To create characters that are surprising and dimensional and do weird shit and capture your attention.”

Why did Mike White cast his fellow teammate from ‘Survivor,’ Alec Merlino?

Although Alec Merlino didn’t vote for Mike White in the final tribal council of Survivor Season 37, the director didn’t harbor any hard feelings. Instead, the two men kept in touch, and White cast Merlino in The White Lotus

“Alec’s part isn’t huge, but it was still a stretch — he plays a hunky bartender at a resort hotel,” White teased to Entertainment Weekly. “When people see him mixing cocktails and winking at the guests, they’ll never believe he hasn’t taken a single acting class.”

Merlino was a bartender in his real life, so that’s why White felt the part was right for him. He also enjoyed the time they all spent together in Hawaii filming The White Lotus.

“I spent three months in Maui with Alec,” White added. “He loves me despite all my physical flaws.”

Alec Merlino, on acting in the HBO series

The Survivor alum is active on social media and shared a few posts about his time acting in The White Lotus.

“Cheers to an epic stay at the @thewhitelotus,” one Instagram post read. “To everyone I met that made the experience unforgettable, mahalo. Now, as any great hotel employee would say, ‘I hope you enjoyed your stay, and we’ll be right back with season 2.'”


‘The White Lotus’ Season 2: Director Mike White Worries About Making It

Since Merlino is one of the resort’s staff members, it seems possible that he could transfer to a sister hotel. We might see Hutch in The White Lotus Season 2.