HBO has terminated cooperation with Serbian actor Miloš Biković, whose participation in the upcoming third season of the White Lotus miniseries was criticized by the Ukrainian Foreign Ministry. It bothered him that the actor did not condemn the invasion of Ukraine, accepted the Pushkin medal from President Vladimir Putin and has long expressed himself favorably towards Russia, where he lives.
The New York Times reported on Biković’s firing. “We have decided to end our collaboration with Miloš Biković. The character will be filled by someone else,” confirmed an HBO spokeswoman for Variety.com.
The actor sent out a statement on the case through his agent. “I became a victim of a targeted campaign. This decision was clearly made after outside intervention. It sets a dangerous precedent overshadowing artistic freedom,” said Biković. “It is the triumph of absurdity and the defeat of art. I will not submit to any narrative that would compromise my integrity,” he adds.
In 2018, the 36-year-old Biković received the Pushkin Medal for contribution to Russian culture from Russian President Vladimir Putin in the Kremlin. At the same time, he received the Czech singer-songwriter Jaromír Nohavica. A year later, the actor announced that he was denied entry to Ukraine for security reasons.
In 2021, Biković became a holder of Russian citizenship and this time received a presidential order from Putin. “It is a great honor for me that today I can declare Russia my motherland,” he wrote on the Instagram social network, where he described himself as “an active member of Russian society.”
According to Deadline.com, today the artist lives and works in Russia and recently had a child there. He became the center of attention at a time when the Kremlin harshly suppresses any criticism and punishes opponents of the special military operation, as the government calls the invasion of Ukraine, even with many years behind bars.
Russian President Vladimir Putin with actor Miloš Biković. | Photo: Profimedia.cz
However, Biković spoke favorably of his new homeland already in the days when he was not threatened with anything like today for criticizing the Kremlin. In one of his first interviews for the local media in 2020, he praised Russia for “taking a different path than Europe, the so-called civilized world, which bombed my country and which does not recognize democracy or any values”. By bombing, Biković meant NATO’s military intervention in the 1999 war in Kosovo.
At the beginning of this January, HBO announced that it had cast Biković in the upcoming third season of the White Lotus miniseries. The first two series of this globally popular social satire about affluent tourists who solve their family problems while on vacation in a foreign resort were set in Hawaii and Sicily. They have won 14 Emmy and Golden Globe television awards.
The third, planned for 2025, will move to Thailand. In it, Biković was supposed to portray Valentin, a flirtatious Russian guru from a wellness center.
However, his casting in the role was noticed by the Ukrainian Foreign Ministry. His comments came nearly two years after Russia launched a full-scale invasion of Ukraine.
“Serbian actor Miloš Biković, who has supported Russia since the start of the full-scale invasion, is set to star in the third season of White Lotus. HBO, do you think it’s okay to work with someone who supports genocide and violates international law?” https://twitter.com/MFA_Ukraine/status/1750209346666160293 the English-language account of the Ukrainian ministry on the social network X, formerly known as Twitter. The question was accompanied by a short video with a montage of some of Biković’s statements.
Official Ukrainian account on Instagram spread a picture in which he called the actor a supporter of genocide.
Bikovič did not condemn the Russian invasion of Ukraine. Shortly after it started in 2022, he only wrote that he remembers the war in the former Yugoslavia as a child, so he wishes “that there would be no more wars, even though I know it’s naive”. The Serbian Ministry of Foreign Affairs later came to his defense, calling him “one of the most popular and talented Serbian actors of his generation”.
Miloš Biković acted in many Russian films and series, viewers may know him for example from the historical drama Úžeh, directed by Nikita Michalkov, one of the leading supporters of the Kremlin. Among other things, he also filmed the Russians in the annexed Ukrainian Crimea, the British newspaper The Times found out.
For a long time, the Ukrainians have been barring people who entered the annexed territory from the Russian side from entering Ukraine, citing the threat to national security.
Video: Trailer from the second season of White Lotus
The first two series of the series Bílý lotos can be seen in the HBO Max video library with Czech subtitles. | Video: HBO Max