Fiji will be getting a taste of Hollywood this fall when Survivor: David vs. Goliath premieres Sept. 26 on CBS. That’s because one of the 20 contestants vying for the $1 million dollar prize will be none other than Mike White, who wrote and starred in such beloved films and TV shows as Chuck & Buck, School of Rock, and Enlightened.
The other players may also be familiar with his previous forays into reality TV, since White appeared on CBS’ The Amazing Race twice with his dad, Mel. How would he compare the two shows? Who is his favorite Survivor player? And what season does he deem the best ever? We asked the Goliath all that and whether there could be a third CBS reality show in his future.
ENTERTAINMENT WEEKLY: I have to say, I had always hoped to chat with you but never imagined it would be Survivor that brought us together.
MIKE WHITE: Hey, man, I’m a big fan of yours, dude. You’re a Survivor super-fan like me. So I read your recaps, and I watch all your stuff on the island. Oh my God, Dalton Ross!
Oh my God, Mike White! Okay, so we know you did The Amazing Race twice with your dad and that was a great father-and-son bonding experience. But why compete on Survivor?
Honestly, when the first season of Survivor aired in the summer of 2000, I was so gripped by that. That was like the most excited I’ve ever been about a TV series ever. And I’ve watched every episode since. It’s the best soap opera on TV. So I’ve watched every episode, and you just get to a point where you’re like, “I want to do this. I’m a good liar. I should give it a shot!” And so I’ve just been hounding them and I kept saying, “Please, I want to do Survivor! I want to do Survivor!” and finally they just gave in.
Who is your favorite Survivor player ever?
I would probably have to say Parvati. She’s such a good vixen and was so good. There were lots of others that I enjoyed over the years, but like she is just next-level. Russell was amazing too. I think he just gave the game a new whole layer of excitement.
What about your favorite season?
Heroes vs. Villains. There was a five-episode run on there between JT giving his idol away to Danielle being voted off. The relationship between Russell and Parvati and their weird pervy thing that was going on with them? That’s the best TV I’ve ever seen. It was so good. That would probably be my favorite season. But the first season blew my mind, and there are lots. I mean, throughout it’s been incredible.
What are the mental, emotional, and physical differences between Survivor and The Amazing Race?
They’re a lot different. What I loved about Amazing Race is just the immersive quality, where you just leave your real life totally behind you and you have no idea who this cast of characters is, and suddenly they are looming really large and you’re just completely immersed in a race. There’s nothing like that in real life — to completely drop your phone, drop all your anxieties of your regular life, and create new anxieties. So in that way, they’re similar. I found The Amazing Race more stressful, and I felt Survivor is more of a psychological slow burn. It’s stressful, but I guess The Amazing Race is much more hectic. You’re just always panicking, and Survivor is more like just slowly dying on the vine.
Everyone says that Survivor is mentally exhausting from trying to constantly figure out whether people are lying to you or telling the truth. I could never do Amazing Race, though, because the two things I hate most in life are being late and being lost, and I feel like that’s all that show is, is being late and being lost.
I hate being late and I hate being lost, and because of that I was like, “This is going to play to my strengths.” I never want to be lost and I’m always hustling. What’s funny is that traveling ever since, now I’m in an airport and I’m like, “What’s missing here?” Like, there’s a ticking clock missing here. So they’re both super-fun. I mean, they’re both incredible shows. I just feel so lucky to be one of the few that have been able to experience both.
Are you going to complete the trifecta? Are you going to do Big Brother next?
The idea of living in a soundstage in the Valley, that’s the one game I’m not interested in. I’ve already done that.
For more Survivor scoop, follow Dalton on Twitter @DaltonRoss.