‘The White Lotus’: Miloš Biković Exits HBO Series Amid Controversy; Actor Slams “Targeted Campaign”

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EXCLUSIVE, updated with Biković’s statement: HBO has parted ways with actor Miloš Biković who will no longer be part of The White Lotus‘ upcoming third season set at a Thailand hotel, sources tell Deadline.

The series does not reveal character details but Biković is believed to have been cast in the small recurring role of a Russian. The part will now be recast as production is about to start in and around Koh Samui, Phuket, and Bangkok.

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“I was honored to be chosen to be a part of White Lotus, a TV series that I hold in high regard and with colleagues whom I deeply respect,” Biković said in a statement, which you can read in full below. “However, my participation is not possible due to reasons beyond the realm of art and I will not bow to any narrative that seeks to compromise my integrity.”

The decision comes more than a week after Ukraine’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs called out HBO over the casting of Biković.

Tagging the U.S. network in a video post featuring public comments by Biković, Ukraine’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs asked: “Is it all right for you to work with a person who supports genocide & violates international law?”

In the soundbites from Biković interviews, juxtaposed in the video with snippets from White Lotus, he appears to back Russia’s occupation of Crimea, which became a precursor to the 2022 invasion of Ukraine. The actor has traveled to the peninsula multiple times, including for work, resulting in Ukraine putting him on a no-entry list in 2019. That could’ve put Biković’s name on the Ukraine government’s radar quickly after his casting in The White Lotus was announced Jan. 12.

RELATED: ‘The White Lotus’ Season 3: Everything We Know About The Cast, Premiere Date & More

In his statement, Biković called the events of the last week “a targeted campaign [that] has been unleashed against me, seemingly as an external maneuver to influence decisions that can create a disturbing precedent shadowing the essence of artistic freedom.”

“The result of such a narrative is the triumph of absurdity and the defeat of art,” he said.

The 36-year-old Serbian national has worked in Russia for over a decade, becoming one of the most popular actors in the country and working with such prominent directors as Oscar winner Nikita Mikhalkov who was sanctioned by the EU for his support of Russia’s 2022 invasion. In 2021, Bikovic was granted Russian citizenship by a decree signed by Russian President Vladimir Putin who also awarded Biković a medal in 2018.

Video of that award ceremony is included in the Ukraine video, in which the MFA accused Biković of supporting the war.

On Twitter (now X) soon after the invasion, Biković shared a poll showing trust in Putin was higher than U.S. President Joe Biden and Ukraine’s Volodymyr Zelenskyy. And in an Instagram post at that time, he wished there were no wars, adding, “God save the lives of all those who are now in danger.” Recalling growing up during the 1990s Yugoslav wars, Biković shared a similar sentiment in his statement today.

There is no public record of Biković supporting Kremlin’s invasion of Ukraine. But he did not condemn it in 2022 and he hasn’t done it since the release of last week’s damaging video.

His silence likely contributed to his exit from The White Lotus as it put HBO in a difficult position trying to navigate geo-political and artistic landmines.

Biković, who saw the Serbian Ministry of Foreign Affairs jump to his defense last week, found himself in an even tighter spot. Denouncing Russia’s actions in Ukraine could’ve protected his shot at a Hollywood career — at a great personal risk.

The actor, who welcomed his first child only a couple of days before his White Lotus casting was announced, was put in the spotlight amid a major crackdown on dissent about the Ukraine war in Russia, with private citizens who voice opposition facing long prison terms.

Here is Biković’s full statement:

I grew up in a war-torn country. At the age of 11 I endured days and nights in shelters while my homeland and my hometown were bombed. And could never wish such devastation on anyone.

There are more and more active conflicts in the entire world. Each one is different. Each one is heartbreaking. I wish all of them to stop and principles of love to prevail.

Today, a targeted campaign has been unleashed against me, seemingly as an external maneuver to influence decisions that can create a disturbing precedent shadowing the essence of artistic freedom. The result of such a narrative is the triumph of absurdity and the defeat of art.

I was honored to be chosen to be a part of White Lotus, a TV series that I hold in high regard and with colleagues whom I deeply respect. However, my participation is not possible due to reasons beyond the realm of art and I will not bow to any narrative that seeks to compromise my integrity.

I would like to thank everyone who stood by me. I wish my colleagues great success in creating the next season.

Regardless of everything, I strongly believe that art can heal. I believe it can help humanity unite. My beliefs and my dedication to art will remain unchanged.

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