Over the course of 5 years on “Silicon Valley,” Zach Woods has gone from That Guy From “The Office” to a commemorated comedy powerhouse.
Throughout the newest season of HBO’s hit tech satire, which ended Sunday with a refreshing optimistic flurry, Woods confirmed his place because the present’s coronary heart and soul. Jared Dunn, his ever-earnest footman, rose as much as turn into Pied Piper’s chief working officer, proper because the web firm lastly discovered a much-needed stride. With his gangly physique and humble blue eyes, Woods walked off with the season’s finest zingers and most shifting plots, together with a young reference to a semi-sentient synthetic intelligence creation named Fiona.
It’s been a journey for the 33-year-old Woods, who skilled at Upright Citizens Brigade in New York earlier than steadily working his manner by means of Hollywood’s comedy tapestry. “The Office” led him to “Veep,” “The League,” “The Good Wife,” “Playing House” and small components in films like “Spy,” “Ghostbusters,” “Mascots” and “Other People.” Through all of it, he’s maintained a perpetual nice-guy picture, which carried over to our half-hour telephone name final week. Some of Jared’s self-effacing affability appears to return straight from Woods’ bloodstream. We talked about Season 5 of “Silicon Valley,” Jared’s improvement over the course of the collection, Steven Spielberg’s love for the present, and Woods’ love for “Call Me by Your Name.”
It feels just like the present benefited from a renewed sense of spirit this 12 months, largely as a result of Pied Piper has lastly discovered constant success. For so lengthy, the plot revolved across the guys’ fixed setbacks.
Right, it was popping the balloon of their shallowness on the finish of each episode.
Are you relieved to see some ahead momentum?
I’m actually excited. I do suppose it’s completely different and new. Obviously, simply the geography of the present is completely different, in that we’re in these workplaces now. I feel a problem with each sitcom is, how do you keep issues that individuals are connected to with out turning into so reiterative that it simply feels such as you’re form of watching a reenactment of earlier episodes? They did a very good job this season of shifting it ahead in a manner that hopefully doesn’t really feel prefer it violates any of the core qualities of the present however does make it really feel new.
Also, simply personally, it’s fascinating. Your physique — or my physique — is simply form of silly. Like, your physique doesn’t know whether or not you’re appearing one thing as a result of it’s taking place or whether or not you’re appearing it as a result of it’s within the script. In the primary season at TechCrunch, there’s a scene the place we go onstage and everyone seems to be cheering for us. And there was a room filled with background actors who had actually been paid to be there and cheer. But, take after take, if you go onstage, as a result of your physique is so dumb — or as a result of my physique is so dumb — and everyone seems to be cheering, you are feeling form of cheerful. And conversely, in case you’re doing episodes the place each episode one thing shitty occurs or disappointing occurs, you form of really feel dejected on the finish of the day, although it’s not actual.
This is an extremely long-winded and rambling manner of claiming that, sure, it’s nicer to have excellent news.
So, perhaps there’s been a bit extra internalized cheer on the set in consequence.
Yes, you simply mentioned in eight phrases what I mentioned in over 300.
Heading into Season 5, do you know this may be Jared’s second to stand up? Or is that one thing you discovered script by script?
It’s arduous for me to decipher as a result of I don’t watch the present. It makes me self-conscious. I typically don’t know what finally ends up being included within the cuts. Sometimes folks shall be like, “Oh, this was an enormous Jared episode,” and I’ll be like, “I don’t know.” I feel what finally ends up on the display versus what’s within the script may be actually completely different.
I used to be actually excited that he bought promoted to COO. I cherished doing that episode. I actually really feel fondly in direction of Jared. I suppose perhaps it sounds unbearable and pretentious when actors discuss their characters like they’re actual folks, however I do really feel very fondly. So when he bought that promotion, that was actually enjoyable to get to behave. I similar to that he’s unflaggingly respectable besides when he periodically loses his thoughts.
Like when Holden is round?
[Laughs] Yeah, precisely. I actually love that. I assumed the casting of that was superb. That man [Aaron Sanders] is so good. He actually does form of seem to be a mini-Jared, which clearly Jared can be unable to tolerate.
Since you don’t watch the present, I don’t know in case you’re acquainted with how your interactions with Holden are edited. Jared is typically handled like a horror-movie determine, form of stalker-esque. Did you see the connection with Holden as Jared turning into just a little villainous?
I don’t suppose he’s villainous. The factor I like about that’s, there’s a hazard when you could have a personality like Jared who is mostly so candy. It’s form of like what I used to be enthusiastic about earlier: You don’t need to simply reiterate the identical factor many times ― A) as a result of it’s boring, however B) as a result of I don’t suppose that’s how folks truly are. And particularly somebody like Jared, who’s so unendingly constructive. No one is de facto like that, so your extra aggressive or darkish impulses should leak out not directly in case you’re not expressing them in your waking life. They come out in these bizarre methods, like when he yells in German in his sleep. I don’t know if it made it within the minimize, however there’s a scene the place a camper mentioned one thing imply to Dinesh, and I threaten to kill him within the finale.
There are folks like that who I’ve met who’re genuinely type folks, however as a result of they don’t essentially have a wholesome outlet for his or her aggression, it comes out in these bizarre suits and begins. I really feel like Jared is like that. I don’t suppose he’s a “Single White Female”-like killer.
The line you’re referring to did make the finale, and it’s superb. It’s “how would you prefer to die at present, motherfucker?” Given your deep improv background, if you’re performing a line like that, or if you’re reacting emotionally to Richard selling Jared to COO, do you explicitly put together your supply?
Oh wow, that’s such an fascinating query. No one’s ever requested me that. Well, the “I’m going to kill you,” or no matter it’s, that was improvised. So I didn’t put together for that. I really feel like Jared is so protecting of the Pied Piper guys that when that man mentioned, [“Will you shut the fuck up?”] within the scene, it made me mad. I used to be like, “You motherfucker! You don’t discuss to Dinesh that manner!”
In the scene after I turn into COO, I don’t suppose I ready particularly what my response can be. I bear in mind enthusiastic about it and saying, “Try to not cry, strive to not cry, strive to not cry,” as a result of I really feel like Jared wouldn’t need to make a scene. He wouldn’t need to take up an excessive amount of room in that second. If you’re attempting to cry, it seems creepy on digital camera. It’s like watching any individual jerk off or one thing. It’s masturbatory and peculiar. But in case you strive to withstand it, often that conveys the identical factor.
So I suppose in that manner I ready, like, “When he says that, I’ll simply strive to not cry.” Does that make sense? I really feel like I’m speaking about this in such an obnoxiously self-aggrandizing manner, like I’m enjoying Richard III or one thing. I don’t need to lose observe of the truth that it’s a half-hour comedy.
Hey, there’s an artwork to comedy. Those of us who don’t do improv and aren’t comedians of any stripe are perplexed by the overseas nature of find out how to react to those kinds of moments. Which results in a broader query: By now, Jared is seen as the center of this present. Are you aware of that?
One of the advantages of not googling your self ever and never watching the present is that the one actual suggestions you get is from folks on the road. And the individuals who hate you don’t come as much as you, so that you solely meet the individuals who have good issues to say. From the beginning, folks have been so candy. It’s humorous; I feel I’m at a stage of recognizability — is that even a phrase? — the place it’s simply very nice. I feel when individuals are actually well-known, it may be arduous for them as a result of they really feel prefer it’s an invasion. But for me, it’s just some instances on daily basis when somebody will say one thing candy and validating, and it’s simply the perfect. I actually like it.
I feel with a present like this, any comedic or inventive success any of us has on the present is due on to what the opposite folks on the present are doing. We’ll be on set and I’ll be doing a scene, and Kumail [Nanjiani] shall be like, “Try this joke.” Or Martin [Starr] shall be like, “Try it this fashion.” Or I’ll pitch one thing to Thomas [Middleditch]. It’s so collaborative, and in addition we attempt to set one another up on a regular basis. It’s probably the greatest environments I’ve ever been in. In phrases of non-competitive collaboration, it looks like everyone seems to be rooting for one another, and that makes it a lot simpler for all of us to be humorous. I notice that seems like a pat press reply, however that’s actually true. There’s a real affection underlying, even when the characters are hostile. I like Gilfoyle and Dinesh as a result of I really feel like that’s such an important love story expressed by means of petty hostility.
Which the writers definitely leaned into in a serious manner this season. It’s at all times been there, however it’s reached a brand new zenith.
Well, good. All love tales should develop, proper?
To your level in regards to the ensemble, you probably did lose a serious solid member this 12 months in T.J. Miller. Everyone is aware of what it’s prefer to lose a colleague. Things really feel completely different. How would you say this season of the present felt or operated otherwise than in earlier years?
It’s humorous; that change coincided with so many different modifications within the present, like the truth that Pied Piper was now extra profitable, and we had been in a distinct workplace. The story modified a lot, separate from T.J. leaving, that it’s arduous to establish what’s as a consequence of him leaving and what’s as a result of new model of the present. But he’s such a selected power. He’s such a wild id, or no matter. He’s a voracious presence within the fictional world of the present, and in addition simply in particular person. I feel it felt, in some methods, perhaps just a little calmer. But other than that, not drastically completely different.
What was it prefer to act reverse Fiona, the robotic Jared falls in love with?
That was so enjoyable. I cherished that a lot. I don’t suppose [Suzanne Lenz, the actress who played Fiona] had ever finished an enormous TV half, and she or he was superb. I assumed she was so unbelievable. It was form of a thankless job. She needed to preserve her arms pinned behind her, and it was chilly and she or he couldn’t put on lengthy sleeves for some cause. She was a trooper.
They had her on this inexperienced bald cap, and they’d put her in all these bizarro rigs and stuff. Then additionally they had a robotic on set that they might photograph. I do know so little about digital results that I’ve no perception into how they really pulled it off. But I like that story a lot. I assumed it was a tragic story. This lady — I imply, she’s not a girl; she’s a robotic — will get preyed upon by her creepy overlord, after which she escapes and is ripped to items. I like that little love story after we’re out on the pool deck ingesting Zinfandel collectively and speaking about campfires. I felt like, in a bizarre manner, she’s form of like Jared. She’s relentlessly constructive, form of attempting to be useful, perhaps just a little minimize off from sure components of herself. There’s a number of overlap between the 2 characters. I cherished taking pictures that.
In actual life, I’m fearful of these issues, although.
In protecting with that unhappy storyline, do you could have an lively philosophy about grounding Jared’s tragic backstory with a way of lightness?
Did you ever have these toys if you had been a child that had been these blowup clowns with sand within the backside? It’s like an inflatable clown and you may punch it, and it goes again for a second and is derived ahead. And it will at all times have a smile on its face. I really feel like Jared is a kind of clowns with the sand on the underside. No matter how arduous or what number of instances he will get hit, he simply gently resurfaces with a benign smile.
I imply, my favourite stuff to improvise — and a few of my favourite stuff that they write — is simply Jared’s tortured mosaic of a previous. Before enjoying Jared, I performed a number of characters who’re form of ego-driven. They needed to be in management, or they needed to be highly effective or they needed to be revered. They had been individuals who needed to be dominating or not less than have their ego massaged. I feel Jared is absolutely the reverse. He nearly has a harmful lack of ego, the place for him it’s nearly how a lot he loves Richard, how a lot he loves the corporate.
I really consider he would stroll into visitors if he thought it will assist Pied Piper. To me, that’s a enjoyable factor to play. It’s enjoyable to have the ability to attempt to discover comedy from a personality’s extra kindness or extra love. There’s a number of comedy that may really feel imply, and I’ve finished a number of that, the place characters are being shitty to at least one one other. I feel that may be actually humorous, however I suppose I like enjoying a personality the place the comedy comes from his self-sacrificial impulses as an alternative of his ego.
That goes again to what we had been saying at the beginning of this chat. When characters are up towards fixed failure, it may be punishing for the viewer. You want somebody like Jared who operates with a distinct inside compass to contradict everybody who’s responding to the depressive actuality of the tech trade and all the pieces occurring of their lives.
Totally, and that additionally goes again to what I used to be saying in regards to the ensemble factor. That’s why I feel the writing is so nice, and the opposite guys are so great. Because, with out Gilfoyle within the present, Jared would most likely appear saccharine and annoying. Without Jared, Gilfoyle may appear too cynical. The flavors are effectively balanced by Alec Berg and Mike Judge, and the truth that these guys are so particular creates room so that you can do your personal particular factor. Does that make sense?
Absolutely. One of the perfect traces from this season is “I do know what it’s prefer to solely be capable of rescue half of your loved ones.” Going again to the origins of the present, who dropped at the desk the concept Jared would slowly reveal these heinous tidbits about his life? And at this level, how a lot of that’s improv?
That line was truly improvised. I’m glad that made it in. That was a enjoyable line. I used to be questioning in the event that they had been going to make use of that.
It’s this five-year dialog, I feel, between writers and actors, in a pleasant manner. There’s this nice author on the present named Carson Mell, who wrote the second episode of the present. He put on this line. I present up on the home, and I need to work for Pied Piper, and I say, “I’m sorry, I hope I didn’t frighten you. I do know I’ve a considerably ghostlike look.” Just from that little line, I used to be like, oh, OK, I see what they’re doing: Jared is self-critical, doesn’t need to hassle anybody. Then, after I heard that line, after we had been taking pictures the episode, I might attempt to improvise stuff that mirrored that. If I’ve a ghostlike look, what different shitty issues have I heard about myself? What else have I been by means of? I might improvise that stuff, and they’d write it into the episode. It was forwards and backwards.
You additionally appeared in “The Post” final 12 months. Tell me what it was prefer to make a Steven Spielberg film.
That was actually fascinating. I’ve a reasonably small half in that film, however he’s such an establishment. There’s so many individuals I like in that film. It was form of surreal. People use Spielberg nearly as a synonym for the movie trade. He’s such an iconic man, clearly. I’m attempting to suppose if I’ve any good tales. Oh, you realize what I assumed was fascinating from that? A variety of well-known individuals are so distant if you discuss to them, understandably. They’re so withdrawn or recessed, or they’re providing you with some model of themselves that they cultivated to guard their privateness.
And I used to be so excited to fulfill Meryl Streep, clearly. I genuinely don’t perceive how this was potential, however she was so open. She was so receptive to folks. She would discuss to anybody. She would reply questions. I used to be form of asking her nosy questions, and she or he would reply them. She was essentially the most accessible well-known particular person, and possibly the most well-known particular person I’ve ever met. I used to be considering, “Is that the rationale she’s such an unbelievable actor, that she by some means discovered a approach to keep emotionally current, even regardless of the ludicrous quantity of worldwide consideration she will get?”
And then Spielberg advised me he preferred the present loads, which I assumed was thrilling. Maybe he was simply being good, however I used to be asking him what he associated to within the present, and he was speaking in regards to the entrepreneurial spirit. I feel when he was arising, he felt just like the underdog, perhaps, and he pertains to the scrappiness of the Pied Piper guys. That was actually cool to listen to from Steven Spielberg.
That’s what you need to hear in regards to the folks we exalt a lot, like Meryl Streep and Steven Spielberg: that they deserve the pedestal we’ve put them on.
That was the great factor. With Meryl Streep, it appeared like she was regardless of the feminine model of a mensch is. Maybe that’s nonetheless only a mensch.
But I additionally don’t know. I talked to her for just a few days. Maybe if I bought to know her extra, it will prove she was truly a sadistic psychopath. I notice as I say this that this seems like essentially the most name-droppy interview. “Well, Meryl and Steven!”
But the solid of that film is stacked. You can’t not name-drop. Everywhere you look, it’s somebody spectacular.
You know what drives me loopy is, Michael Stuhlbarg was in that film. You know, the daddy from “Call Me by Your Name”? And he’s in “The Shape of Water.”
Yes! I like Michael Stuhlbarg.
I hadn’t seen “The Shape of Water” or “Call Me by Your Name” but. I met him, and I didn’t know who he was. And then I noticed these films and I used to be like, “Fuck!” It’s very fortunate for him that I hadn’t seen these films but, as a result of I might have simply cornered him and requested him 1,000 appearing questions. I assumed that monologue on the finish of “Call Me by Your Name” was one of the crucial lovely monologues.
When you see that monologue on the web page, it’s so professorial and literary. You nearly suppose, effectively, no one speaks that poetically. But in his mouth, it turns to gold. It’s lovely.
Yeah! That’s a very good level, that it’s so soulful. It reads as very intellectualized and summary. And when he delivers it, you are feeling it in your coronary heart. I like that man a lot. He’s unbelievable.
Final query: What have you ever seen these days that you just love?
Oh, that’s enjoyable. These are enjoyable questions. I actually love “Fleabag.” I’ve been harassing my brokers, like, “Can you please get me a gathering with Phoebe Waller-Bridge?” I simply need to discuss to her.
Have you seen her different present, “Killing Eve”?
No, I need to see it so unhealthy. I’ve been bouncing round for just a few weeks, however as quickly as I’ve time to observe tv, that’s on the prime of my record. I feel she’s so sensible. And “Fleabag” is a present that, when it begins out, feels so caustic and darkish. It’s actually humorous, however it’s form of harsh in the beginning. And then, by the tip, it’s the most heartbreaking. It’s such a deep present, and I feel she’s simply unbelievable. I’ve a serious expertise crush on Phoebe Waller-Bridge.
I like “Broad City.” I like “High Maintenance.” That’s a present with folks on it. It’s not these bleach-toothed, excellent creatures. I like that they’re recognizable human beings on that present. It’s so humorous and stunning.
What else? Let me suppose. Oh, I cherished “The Death of Stalin.”
Made by your former “Veep” collaborator.
Yeah! I like him, Armando Iannucci. I assumed that was actually unbelievable.
And then there’s this playwright I like named Samuel Hunter. This goes to sound so hoity-toity, however I’ve been devouring his performs. I’ve seen just a few of them, and I’m studying a bunch. But if anybody reads this interview, I strongly encourage them to take a look at Samuel Hunter. He has these lovely, humane performs.
This interview has been edited for readability and condensed for size.