Thomas Middleditch, who plays the lead role in HBO's Silicon Valley, tells us why he's not as geeky as his character.
Thomas Middleditch is not a geek. Sure, he exudes an unusual passion for video games and can probably discuss Dungeons & Dragons for hours on end, but he’s definitely not similar to the undoubtedly nerdy Richard Hendricks, the character he plays on HBO’s SiliconValley, a show partially inspired by creator Mike Judge’s own experience as an engineer in the ‘80s.
“People are shocked when they meet me,” he tells me while sipping on black coffee. “They’re like, ‘Oh, so you’re acting,’ and I [say], ‘Well, yeah, I’m an actor’.” The major difference between the two? Hendricks’ near complete lack of social skills and Middleditch’s extreme calm when faced with stressful situations. “He’s a guy who’s very high strung and deals with pressure by kind of winding himself up a little more,” he explains. “Not that I don’t get tense or frazzled, but I’m completely different in that aspect. I feel I’m fairly easy-going. I love high-pressure situations. I love to be the clutch guy.”
Although one of many recent efforts at portraying the tech world, SiliconValley debuted to much fanfare and praise from critics. Most surprising is Silicon Valley’s own positive response to the show. “For every one [person] that [doesn’t think the show is accurate], there are ten others that are like, ‘Holy crap, [this] is exactly what it’s like!” says the actor excitedly, suggesting that the comedic factor of the show might be what compelled techies to accept it as a solid version of the truth.
Drenched in “geeky” jokes, the show delves into the lingo and environment that the media constantly reports on–an environment that Middleditch isn’t too familiar with. “I mean, the doctors on medical dramas aren’t real doctors,” he explains while discussing his preparation for the role. “They just say, ‘100 ccs of whatever.’ Sometimes I felt like that. What do I say? Just tell me how to say it right.” And has he been saying it right indeed: HBO recently renewed the show for a second season.
As for his future projects, Middleditch hopes to break out of the small-parts-in-big-movies and big-parts-in-small-movies loop he’s been in. How would he deal with larger-than-life fame? “I always think of it like this, if I’m lucky enough to have a job where someone comes up to me and is like, ‘I like you and what you do,’” he says, “I’m never going to be ‘Screw off!’”