‘Silicon Valley’ star Zach Woods dishes on the final season of the show and his next comedy ‘Avenue 5’


SINGAPORE — The sixth and final season of HBO’s acclaimed comedy, Silicon Valley, is currently airing, after its premiere on 28 October. Yahoo Lifestyle Singapore had a chat with actor Zach Woods over the phone about the show, as well his next HBO series, Avenue 5. Woods, who plays Jared Dunn, the puppy-dog-eyed sidekick to the idealistic tech CEO Richard Hendricks, spilled the beans on what the atmosphere was like on the final day of shooting. He also shared what it was like reuniting with showrunner Armando Iannuci for his latest role in Avenue 5 (Iannuci’s new project post-Veep).

What is the final season of Silicon Valley about?

This season sort of focuses on the ethics of tech. I think when it first started out it was more sort of parodying and satirising the affectations of tech people. I feel like this season focuses more on the morality of tech, hopefully without sounding too sanctimonious.

(Standing, left to right) Martin Starr, Kumail Nanjiani, Zach Woods and Amanda Crew as Gilfoyle, Dinesh, Jared Dunn and Monica in season 6, episode 1 of “Silicon Valley”. (Photo: HBO)

Tech giants such as Facebook and Google are being scrutinised now over concerns such as user data harvesting at the expense of privacy. Do you think Richard represents what tech CEOs could be like, instead of what we are seeing from the leaders in the industry right now?

That’s a really interesting question. Richard is a character who has a good heart, I think he has good intentions. And sometimes he strays from the path but basically, he’s well-meaning. He’s not just trying to enrich himself, he believes in something. And I suppose I would love it if the people in charge of tech companies prioritise values over profits at any cost. And I suspect there are people at the head of tech companies who do that. You know, it’s hard to be too moralistic about the tech industry when I work in Hollywood, which is not known for its sterling ethical history. But yeah, one of the things I like about this show is, it sort of portrays an alternative to companies like Facebook, where it feels like maybe the principles guiding the corporate decisions aren’t necessarily the most upstanding all the time.

In this season, your character, Jared, experiences a certain betrayal by Richard, leaves Pied Piper and comes into conflict with Richard. Why do you think Jared leaves Pied Piper and does he go back in the end?

I think he left Pied Piper because, as the company got bigger, he had less time with Richard and his desire to be around Richard warps his judgement and he led the company into bad decision-making just because he wanted to be a couple of boys again with Richard. And so he has to sever the relationship. I always think of him like a duckling that’s imprinted on a mother duck with Richard. Everything in his body wants to be around Richard. But I think he’d rather suffer than give Richard bad advice, so he leaves the company. I thought it was really fun to play that in the last season. One thing I think they do a good job of on the show is, they’re not just reiterating the same character attributes again and again and again. I like that instead of just having Jared be endlessly attached to Richard, in this season he has to go off on his own for a while. There’s a painful rift for a while.

Zach Woods and Thomas Middleditch as Jared Dunn and Richard Hendricks in “Silicon Valley”. (Photo: HBO)

Jared rarely gets angry, but in this season there’s a scene where you get angry and shoot Richard with a gun. Was it fun shooting that scene?

We shot that over a couple of different days. On the last day, I lost my voice and I wasn’t able to speak. There’s a scene where there’s a moment where Jian Yang comes out and takes the gun from me. And I couldn’t speak, because I didn’t have a voice and it would sound weird on camera. So it was a bizarre experience, almost like shooting a little silent movie where we had to find beats that didn’t have any sound in them. But yeah, that was one of the most fun scenes I’ve ever gotten to shoot.

Without giving away spoilers, was the show’s ending the conclusion that you were expecting, or is it something totally different for you?

It was totally different from what I was expecting, and it was vastly better. Yeah, I was completely surprised. It’s very strange. At the risk of sounding obnoxious because I’m talking about people I know, I think it’s very good. I think people will be happy with it.

What was it like on the last day of filming? Was it emotional?

It was very emotional. But what’s funny is that the emotions don’t come when you expect. I kind of thought, okay when we shoot the last scene, it’s going to be really emotional; or when it’s a really intense scene between Jared and Richard, they’ll feel emotional. But it was the oddest time – I would say the most emotional moment was a scene where the characters were just signing a contract. And by the end of it, for a variety of reasons that are largely mysterious, everyone was really, really emotional. There was crying on set. And something that was so nice is I didn’t feel embarrassed. The crew of that show is so invested, and such a part of the process. We were all such a team that I felt comfortable being really emotionally naked in a way that’s hard to imagine in that shooting environment.

Zach Woods got his break in acting from “Avenue 5” creator, Armando Iannuci. (Photo: FilmMagic for HBO)

The next show you’re acting in is Avenue 5, which is also an HBO series. We don’t know a whole lot about this show at this point. It’s described as a space tourism comedy – can you tell us more about the show?

Yeah, it was created by Armando Iannucci, and he put me in my first job ever, which was in the movie In The Loop, a movie I did when I was in my early 20s. And I had never really acted in a movie before, when I worked with him, and he took a chance and put me in this movie. And I remember walking around London feeling so ludicrously grateful and happy. And so to be back in business with him a decade later, shooting in London again, that’s the best possible déjà vu. I don’t know how much I’m allowed to say, because it’s HBO!

What was it like acting with Hugh Laurie for Avenue 5?

Hugh Laurie is a delight. I think British people generally and Hugh Laurie in particular are so articulate; they’re so verbally facile, that it’s kind of intimidating. Any time you work with somebody like that, you learn so much from working with them. His face registers about eight emotions per second – he’s such an incredible actor. His face is like the aurora borealis or something. It’s fascinating. I’m not really sure how he does that.

The sixth and final season of Silicon Valley airs in Singapore at the same time as the U.S. on Mondays at 10am, exclusively on HBO GO and HBO. Each episode encores on the same day at 11pm on HBO.


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