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Zach Woods Tells Us About What Happens When You Push Jared Too Far On ‘Silicon Valley’

The mystery, the allure, the under-rug-swept chaos that exists within him — truly Jared is one of Silicon Valley‘s most intriguing characters. Yes, in the words of Russ Hanneman, “this guy fucks,” but what happens when everything the writers have been building towards opens up like the face flaps of that acid-spitting dinosaur from the first Jurassic Park? We found out last week as Richard poked the bear with too-pointy a stick, freeing a tear-strewn melange of anger, violence, and despair that actor Zach Woods played with untethered menace.

How did that come to be and what are the underpinnings of it? Uproxx had a conversation with Woods recently about that, with the interview spilling into his overall feelings on the show’s looming end, the “quantity time” he’s going to miss while shooting the shit on set, and, well, shooting the shit in general. Though, we may have scared him away from that last thing.

How do you feel about the show ending? Is it time? Are you at peace with it? Or are you just pissed off and want to say some nasty things about HBO and (Silicon Valley co-creators) Mike Judge and Alec Berg and help get me some extra clicks on this article?

Finally, someone is giving me a platform for how I really feel about HBO and Mike Judge. They’re dirty dogs, they’re rats.

Let it out.

Yeah. That’s the end of the interview. Please, can you just post that, in whatever space you’re going to devote to this? Can you just make the font on “they’re dirty dogs” and “they’re rats” as big as that space would have been? And then that’s it.

Yeah. We’ll work it out.

Honestly, I’m really sad. I am monumentally sad that Silicon is ending. I think I feel grateful to feel so sad, you know? I mean, when you really get one of those gut-punch losses in your life, you know you’ve had something that was pretty spectacular. I’m sad and I’m happy that I had it, that I got to do it, that I got to know those people, and that I got to know those characters. It’s so improbable. It’s so improbable that you ever get to make your living as an actor. I mean… I’d be monumentally lucky if I was working on a show that I actively hated, but was able to support myself playing pretend. But to work on a show that you love with people who you love and characters you love: it’s just, it’s unrealistic.

HBO

I’ll mention the freedom that you’ve had because I talked with Mike and Alec recently, and I specifically brought up your character, and they were talking a little bit about some of the things that you’ve injected into the role. I imagine that level of freedom is uncommon and also something that kind of causes a bit of an ache to say goodbye too.

Oh yeah, for sure. I mean those guys are like… I’ve said this before, but I think if anyone has justification for being comedy autocrats, it’s those guys. Those guys have the resumes that would backup the most tyrannical behavior if they so chose to be tyrannical. Alec Berg was running Seinfeld when he was 27. Mike Judge has come up with some of the greatest comedy ideas of the past 50 years. But they’re so collaborative. They’re so flexible, they’re so friendly, they have so much humility.

I find that collaboration often corresponds with confidence. That the people who are least experienced or least confident are the ones who have sort of a stranglehold on the process of making something, and the ones who know, who trust their own taste and trust their own talent, are much more interested in other people’s ideas because they don’t have to use them if they don’t like them. But they’re not threatened by being open, I think. Also, thank you for driving home yet another way in which this is a loss.

I’m just here to pull all the bandages off and poke at all the wounds.

Yeah, you’re a sadist, and I hate you.

That’s fine. [Laughs] I’m just repeating myself from the interview with Alec and Mike, but one of my favorite scenes from the show was your “Are you ready to die today motherfucker?” line last season. I’m curious how that came to be and it sort of leads into some of the stuff that goes on in episode two of this season.

I think that one might have been improvised. Kumail [Nanjiani] and I were sitting in a Tesla all day shooting that scene. The Tesla had Sirius XM, so we were listening to Christian comedians. It was such a weird, dreamy day. We’re just sitting in the car, listening to family-friendly comedy on Sirius XM. I mean, it’s so fun because Kumail could predict the punchline. He was a stand-up, and is a stand-up, but I forgot how much experience he has at that, where he’d be like, “Okay, the joke’s going to be this.” He could predict Christian comedy, which I don’t know how marketable that is as a skill, but he is aces at it.

So we’re just sitting in the car, dicking around… I remember I was reading a book by the now-controversial Al Franken, and he was like, “I’m not a big believer in quality time. I’m a big believer in quantity time.” Meaning just having long swaths of lazy, pointless, laying around, doing nothing time and that that is really valuable. And I feel like one of the parts of the show that’s nice is that when you’re making our show, it’s not all acting and shooting. There’s setting up lights. There’s moving locations, and you just have all the dumb endless time with each other in a way that I think very few adults have.

Anyway, one of my favorite things about all the characters on that show is they’ve given dimensionality to all of them, so that they’re archetypal in a sense. One of the writers on the show, Carson Mell (who I adore), said to me once that a character isn’t really a character until he contradicts himself or she contradicts herself. So until they sort of swim upstream of their established MO, until they do something that sort of contradicts their shtick, then they’re just a caricature. And I thought that was so smart. And I think all the characters have all these different settings. I think Jared would never be cruel to people without cause, but I think he’s so protective and ferocious in his maternal instincts. So when the guy who they cast says “Hey, keep it down,” or whatever, I wanted to kill him. I wanted to kill him because he’s being so rude to Dinesh. And so it’s fun to say, “Are you ready to die today motherfucker?” I also feel like Jared’s probably been in and out of penal environments. I don’t think he’s necessarily been incarcerated but I feel like probably many of his foster parents were. His siblings and grandparents were probably incarcerated. So I think there’s a certain hardness. I liked the idea that there’s a certain hardness that emerges from time to time.

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Obviously, everything’s shot and done, but do you want everything out on the table with Jared’s past, or do you like the idea of it ending with some mystery about him still?

[Laughs] I think no one probably knows, not even God or the devil. I just feel like his life is just this bizarre, sort of fantasia of horrors and blessings. I don’t want there to ever to be conclusive… And I know that there won’t be, just not like a conclusive, “oh this is exactly what happened with him.” I prefer just this frequent allusion to mysterious drama.

Part of me wants the finale to be kind of a Six Feet Under thing. I want to see Jared in 50 years. Kind of like, you know, a flash-forward kind of thing. I feel that would be very, very interesting.

Well, I hope you like the finale! Yeah, I hope you like it. [Laughs]

You know what? Wouldn’t it be fucking amazing if I just called it? Like if I just absolutely got it right? Don’t confirm. I know you can’t confirm.

[Laughs]

Anyway, you mentioned Carson Mell. I believe he also wrote episode two this season.

Oh yeah, he did, didn’t he?

The freakout on Richard is so beautifully done. Can you take me through that process? What was in the script, what was off the cuff and in the moment? It’s such an amazing Jack Torrance moment with you kicking through the door. I imagine that was fun as hell.

It was so fun. I really love this season. You know, there’s the risk of characters like Jared and Richard where it’s just endlessly beating the dead horse of his loyalty. You know, there’s a version of this final season where it’s just Jared being mothering and loyal. And that’s that. And I think that would feel sort of reiterative. What they did, I thought, was so great. Where it’s as the company expands, Jared has less access to Richard and his need for Richard, his personal emotional need for Richard eclipses his better business judgment. And he ends up making bad decisions on behalf of the company and on behalf of Richard, so he has to commit this kind of emotional hari-kari, where he quits in order to not sort of contaminate Pied Piper with his need to be near Richard. But then that doesn’t really work. I don’t think you can decide to amputate your love for someone in that way. It’s so vulnerable. When Richard insults Gwart, I think he’s [Jared] trying to be like, keep a distance, keep a distance, keep a distance. And then when he insults Gwart [laughs] it’s like all this pain and loneliness and rage comes out. And it’s so fucking fun holding that stupid pink BB gun. On set that day I was looking up different prison terms. Like, what are different terms that people use in jail because I just feel like he would have some sort of, again, like a recovered vocabulary?

And Thomas [Middleditch] is so great. Thomas is like warm and loving and trying to calm me down, but it wouldn’t work. And then with Jian-Yang [Jimmy O. Yang] coming in… We did some takes where when Jian-Yang took the rifle from me, a little pellet gun, and I would collapse into him and he’s holding me.

In terms of intensity, how do you find the right level?

I feel like I’ve seen this scene in movies and stuff before and in life where someone’s like, “Why are you making me do this? I don’t want to do this horrible thing. Why are you making me do this horrible thing?”

That definitely comes across.

This is the worst. Truly Jared’s nightmare. To have to hurt Richard, to have no choice but to hurt Richard is the most horrible thing that I can imagine. So it’s just sort of intrinsically intense. I was thinking if he was cold and dispassionate, then it’s creepy. Then it’s like, “what’s wrong? This guy’s just a psychopath.” But if it’s a complete loss of control, then he’s just totally fucked. [Laughs]

It also speaks to what you were saying before about the character diverging from his norm.

Yeah. And when you do that, it can’t just feel like a non-sequitur. It still has to feel like the same guy, just the same guy behaving in a totally anomalous way. Moments like that are really fun, but you don’t want to get so carried away that you abandon the character completely. So it’s sort of trying to find a way of marrying bizarro behavior with the character’s core characteristics or something.

HBO

Yeah, it doesn’t come as a complete surprise that Jared knows how to handle a rifle and can jump over a table at somebody. It feels like a thing that’s like, yeah, I can see that coming. Or maybe that’s just something I’m reading off of you.

[Laughs] You know what’s funny is when I first moved to LA, I would go to the gun range a lot. I’m not a gun guy. I don’t own a gun. I think probably people shouldn’t own guns, I guess? I don’t know. But I’m not, like, a second amendment devotee. But when I first moved to LA, there was this place called the LA Gun Club where I would go. A friend of mine just came from England, a writer who’s this sort of a soft-spoken, sweet, self-effacing guy, and I took him to the gun range. So there is obviously, buried in my own makeup, some sort of aggressive tendencies. But I think with Jared… a friend of mine said once, I don’t even know if this is true. It’s probably not true, but when they build a skyscraper, in order to go higher, you have to go lower. You have to go deeper into the earth in order to build higher and higher. And I think that Jared’s altruism or mother hen-ness… in order to go to such extremes in that direction, there must be the underground portion of the skyscraper, which is gun violence, sex work, you know, all that stuff.

I think that definitely makes sense.

Let me thank you in advance for sifting through my semi-coherent ramblings to find a way to use something coherent here.

Well, it’s easy, I’m just going to misquote the living shit out of this.

The title is “Zach Woods Loves The Second Amendment.”

“Shooting Shit With Zach Woods.”

“… Protector of the AR-15.”

My one time going to a gun range involved me watching the training video, seeing that sometimes a bullet can get stuck in the chamber and pop off at you, and then I decided to go sit in a corner and read the Daily Show Oral History on my phone while my friends went and shot.

[Laughs] Wait, I didn’t know that. If I’d known that, I wouldn’t have gone.

It showed a thing, like a bullet gets caught in the chamber and then it can just pop up or something. It’s like, “oh no.”

Fuck that!

Yep. Even if there’s a one in a million chance, I’d be the one.

Yeah. Also, gun designers, that seems like it deserves a little attention. If the gun occasionally shoots you, you might need to do a little tinkering with your design.

[Laughs] Yeah, there’s definitely some QA work needed there.

Exactly. I took my mom, who turned 70 this year to the gun range, and she did the same thing. She didn’t like it. My dad weirdly really had fun, but my mom went and just watched Wheel of Fortune in the lobby of the gun range.

‘Silicon Valley’ airs Sundays at 10pm EST on HBO.

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