From Mike Judge and Alec Berg, the HBO comedy series Silicon Valley is back for a fourth season, and Richard (Thomas Middleditch) is having a hard time letting go of his dream to put his algorithm to better use than for a video chat app at Pied Piper. But his decision to do something more puts him at odd with his friends, Erlich (T.J. Miller), Jared (Zach Woods), Dinesh (Kumail Nanjiani) and Gilfoyle (Martin Starr).
At a press day for the hilarious Emmy-winning series, actor Thomas Middleditch spoke to Collider for this 1-on-1 interview about the new direction Richard decides to go in this season, the techie stuff that he’s personally interested in, where Richard’s friendships are this season, why he wishes the show had a blooper reel, who cracks up during filming the most, how long the show might go on for, and what being a part of Silicon Valley has meant to him. He also talked about making the sci-fi movie Replicas with Keanu Reeves, and that he’s curious to see how it turns out.
Collider: It feels like Season 4 is a little bit of a re-set, with Richard wanting to do something beyond Pied Piper. Were you more excited or nervous when you learned about the different path that Richard would be taking, this season?
THOMAS MIDDLEDITCH: I wasn’t nervous for the show, but with Richard being in a transitional period, he’s questioning if this new direction for the company is really what he has a true passion for. I remember reading some of those early scripts and being like, “Where am I, in this thing?” For awhile, the point is to miss Richard for a second. When Richard makes this choice to go make new internet, he goes away for a little bit ‘cause no one else is on board. He goes back to being a solitary intrepid explorer. He also leaves behind some friends. So, the first few episodes break the cookie apart, and then the rest of the episodes melt the cookie down, pat it together, and back it into a cake. You’ve got this kind of serious plot going on and there’s suspense in each episode. I shoot them and, at the end of them, I’m like, “What are the guys gonna do next?!” But then, you also have comedy at the forefront. Some of the serious moments, the guys will let exist as a moment of emotional weight, but a lot of the time, they undercut it with a good joke or a silly bit.
Do you think this is something that Richard has been thinking about for awhile? Did he have to take the time to work up to this, or is it more of an epiphany for him?
MIDDLEDITCH: I think new internet, as a concept, was probably something he had thought about years ago and thought, “That sounds neat, but no one would really know how to do it.” But as of late, especially since they’ve gone down the video chat road, Richard gave it more thought. What ends up happening, with Pied Piper becoming a video chat company, is that it’s just not his dream being realized. He doesn’t necessarily know what his dream is. I think he just wants to embody that quintessential Silicon Valley idiom of changing the world and making it a better place. His whole thing is like, “Everyone else is bullshit when they say that, so I’m gonna be the one that really does it.” He thinks his compression algorithm is going to do that, and for awhile it’s just that, but this internet 2.0 is the grand opus application of such a thing. Using that, you could actually make a totally free internet on mobile devices.
Have you personally gotten more interested in the tech industry and what’s happening there because of the show, or have you always been a techie guy?
MIDDLEDITCH: I was a little bit of a tech lord. Not a lord. More of a duke or a nobleman. I was into that stuff, as a kid. Nothing too crazy. Mainly, it was always centered around gaming and PC gamer stuff. That has spilled into swapping out computer parts and being in a couple of weird folds of the internet, designing a couple of basic HTML web pages and messing around in flash. I understand what scripting and programming is, but do I know how to do it? Not really. But, I think that even knocking on the door allows you to understand a little bit of that kind of stuff. Mainly what Silicon Valley has taught me, in that respect, is the business side of it, with that gold rush element as opposed to creating software.
Do you think the show would ever lean into the development of artificial intelligence, at all?
MIDDLEDITCH: It’s theoretically possible, in the sense that I’m sure that Richard’s compression could be applied to that. But it doesn’t seem like that’s too much in the same sphere, I would guess. But, what do I know? Season 7 will just be Richard, as a hollow brain. He’s dead, and it’s his A.I. that lives. They did that in a Johnny Depp movie, right?
How will this new shift for Richard affect his relationship with his friends?
MIDDLEDITCH: I don’t want to give it away, but the transition that happens in the first episode and the idea that this new manifestation of Pied Piper is not something that Richard is 100% on board with, that leads him to take action to go do something else, has its repercussions. There are some growing pains, for sure, and the first few episodes of the season deal with that. There is some time spent there, but that can’t be the entire season. It’s not Girls. That wasn’t a slam. The show is just not about everyone’s feelings.
Because so much of this humor is so deadpan, does that make it easier or harder for you not to break? Do you ever break?
MIDDLEDITCH: Oh, yeah! Mike [Judge] poo-poos blooper reels. I get the moral stance on it, but I love blooper reels. I think they’re the best.
Mike Judge has a moral stance on blooper reels?
MIDDLEDITCH: He just thinks, “Why put it in there? If the blooper reel ends up being funnier than the show, than you’ve made a poor show.” And I get it. But, I love them. I like to see people break, or trying to be serious and they’re not. So, if there were blooper reels of this show, there’s a lot of material there. It’s usually either someone saying something funny, or we’re just messing around, at times. We’re all pretty good friends, so in between takes and sometimes during takes, we try to make each other laugh.
Is there one of you that cracks up the most?
MIDDLEDITCH: I might be the one that breaks the most and ruins takes the most. Kumail [Nanjiani] may be second. Zach Woods is the one who comes to set with ten alt-lines. He’s the most professional actor. He studies the night before and comes in with various alts. If you’re trying something funny and surprising and hilarious, chances are I’ll probably ruin it by smirking, or trying to turn my face away from the camera, or just outright laughing at the person, as we roll.
Have you had any conversations with Mike Judge about how long he wants to keep making this show?
MIDDLEDITCH: Why, because you’re like, “How long is this going to go?”
No, because we want more!
MIDDLEDITCH: Yeah, we have. I don’t think there’s a definitive answer. We check with him like, “Are you tired of it?” And he checks in with us and says, “Are you guys tired of it?” Since we all say, “No, we’re not tired of it,” I think there’s room for more. I don’t know. I would be hesitant to make that call. But, there’s more.
What have you most enjoyed about getting to be a part of this show, playing this character with this cast, and working with Mike Judge?
MIDDLEDITCH: I don’t know. There’s a lot to enjoy. In order to put it into perspective, as an actor, it’s super hard to get on a TV show. If you get on one, it’s super hard for that show to be reasonably successful, let alone something that can have a press day and some Emmy losses, let along that show being on HBO and being comprised of a cast of people that you are friends with and who are regularly performing comedians that you do shows with, let alone it’s helmed by Mike Judge and Alec Berg and a very, very talented group of writers and crew. All of that, on paper, seems pretty special. It’s the sum of the parts, really. To roll the dice and come up with this particular show is pretty fortunate. I’m very happy about it. It’s changed everything for me.
You also did the sci-fi movie called Replicas, and if you’re going to do a sci-fi film, there’s no one better to do one with than Keanu Reeves.
MIDDLEDITCH: That’s the dream.
What was that like to do?
MIDDLEDITCH: It was cool. I’ve been a Keanu Reeves fan for a very long time, since Bill and Ted and Point Break, and stuff like that. I was like, “This is the coolest!” I just love action movies. People are like, “What comedy movies did you grow up watching?” And I’m like, “Not many.” I watched [Sylvester] Stallone and [Arnold] Schwarzenegger, and that kind of stuff. But, I’m not sure what that’s gonna be. We’ll have to see. It was trippy and we were feeling it out, as we’d go. We’ll just have to see how that comes out. It’s very different, although I do play a scientist in it.
Silicon Valley airs on Sunday nights on HBO.