It’s easy to be in a good mood when your belly is full and you’re relaxing in bed in a climate-controlled room. But what happens when you’e starving? And haven’t slept? And are getting hammered by a cyclone? That’s exactly what happened to the contestants on Survivor: David vs. Goliath (premiering Sept. 26 on CBS). And Mike White, for one, was worried about how he would respond to the lack of basic necessities — especially food.
That’s what the writer/actor (best known for School of Rock, Chuck & Buck, Enlightened, and getting rid of the Redemption Island twist back in season 29) told us when we chatted about his time on his island. He also discussed how he planned to handle his celebrity, spying on fellow contestants during pregame, and his feelings about being labeled a Goliath. (Also make sure to read his thoughts comparing Survivor and The Amazing Race.)
ENTERTAINMENT WEEKLY: So we know this season is called David vs. Goliath, and you are a Goliath, as someone who has achieved a lot of success in his industry. How did you feel about having that term applied to you?
MIKE WHITE: I didn’t know what the theme was going into it. When I realized I was a Goliath, I was like, oh my gosh, I’m a villain! I’m already a villain right out of the gate. David is like the underdog who has God on his side; Goliath is the beast that has to be defeated. So in my mind, I was like, I’m like the hero of this story! But I guess I’m the villain.
Well, yeah. You’re a screenwriter, and you know basically every plot revolves around the underdog protagonist.
Right. And you don’t want to be the one who’s standing in the way of the underdog winning. But in my mind, I was like, I’ve got to play. I’ve got to be Goliath. A David is destined to win this. We’ve got to make sure that doesn’t happen.
What was your plan in terms of handling who you are and the success you’ve had so you weren’t perceived as some rich and famous Hollywood type, which could work against you?
Definitely my plan was not to lie. I wasn’t going to pretend I was somebody I wasn’t. All it takes is one person to key in and you really look like an idiot. So my plan was to be real about who I am, and then use it. That was my plan. Use that as a way to seem less like a threat to win the game.
How did your pregame impressions of your fellow contestants line up to the people you actually liked and worked with out on the island once the game started?
That was the one advantage that I had coming in having done The Amazing Race, because they have a similar orientation period and you don’t talk to everybody. And I realized on Race that all of the presumptions that you make in that period turn out to be bogus. The people that you think are, like, dumb yokels or whatever are geniuses. People have hidden sides, and you kind of have to just kind of let it play out. I tried not to make too many judgments, although as a reader, when people have books — that was one thing where I was like, okay, when someone’s reading BTK: Inside the Mind of a Serial Killer, that’s probably not someone you want to put a lot of faith into.
What was your biggest concern going into this? Was it the elements, the environment, the lack of food? Was it the mental exhaustion? What were you most worried about?
My biggest worry was, I was like, am I going to lose my sense of humor after like two days of not eating? That was my biggest concern. My biggest concern was that I’ll come in and be a funny narrator, but I’m an L.A. guy and I’ve gone on cleanses; the second day, I become a grumpy little bitch. And I was like, if that happens there, (1) I’ll be voted out. And (2) the casting hopes of me being, like, fun and funny are going to go out the window. So that was my biggest anxiety. It was just the hunger, and that I would be a cranky, hangry bitch.
Well, I guess we’ll see whether we get the cranky, hangry bitch when the show premieres.
Oh, you’ll get it. You’ll get it. My biggest hope is that you like our season. That’s my dream, that you are a fan of our season.
I hope I like your season too! You’ll know one way or the other.
I think you will.
For more Survivor scoop, follow Dalton on Twitter @DaltonRoss.