clock menu more-arrow no yes mobile

Filed under:

Behind the Scenes at 'Silicon Valley’: Walt and Kara Play Walt and Kara

This week's Re/cap of HBO's show, featuring two very special guest stars.

Walter Mossberg

Welcome to the third installment of our “Silicon Valley” Re/cap, where we connect HBO’s satire to the real world. Or, at least, Silicon Valley.

I did promise you, last week, that episode three would be something special. Wasn’t I right? It was the night of the double cameo by our fearless leaders, Re/code’s co-CEOs, Kara Swisher and Walt Mossberg.

You might think that appearing on a TV show would be the kind of thing you would talk about for a year or more. Nope! As an insider in the peanut gallery, let me state for the record that last year Walt and Kara didn’t even mention they were doing this until the staff meeting right before the shoot, when they said they’d both be out of pocket for “this ‘Silicon Valley’ filming thing.”

And afterward, they were reluctant to blab about what happened. Luckily we have extracted some deets.

But first, I’m sure you’ve gotten used to the insider’s Silicon-Valley view of the show. The biggest real-life antecedent was noted by Kumail Nanjiani, the actor who plays Dinesh, as he live-tweeted the East Coast airing:

Some of the Internet found this hard to believe. So let me assure everyone that, in fact, a real VC named Tom Perkins — a co-founder of Kleiner Perkins (you know, the defendants from the Ellen Pao trial) — said something creepily similar in a letter to the editor published in the Wall Street Journal. In fact, as Kara pointed out, “the Perkins quote on which this scene was based was way worse than what Gavin Belson said.”

Writing from the epicenter of progressive thought, San Francisco, I would call attention to the parallels of fascist Nazi Germany to its war on its “one percent,” namely its Jews, to the progressive war on the American one percent, namely the “rich.”

And of course, the character Russ Hanneman, played to beardy perfection by Chris Diamantopoulos, is a barely-veiled Sean Parker, at least as he was played in the movie “The Social Network” by Justin Timberlake. (Pretty sure there are some healthy helpings of Mark Cuban in there, too. Swap out “put the radio on the Internet” for “sold to Yahoo” and you’re halfway there.)

 Last week, the Winklevoss twins. This week, douche triplets?
Last week, the Winklevoss twins. This week, douche triplets?
HBO, Shutterstock, Shutterstock

Anyway, we asked Walt and Kara for their view of the episode from the inside out, and here’s what Kara said:

This is how I knew I was in Hollywood: Although the studio was a very short walk away, the show sent two different cars to pick up me and Walt at the hotel. When I insisted we could ride together, there was much walkie-talkie back and forth to make sure it was okay since this was somewhat of an affront.

This is how I knew I was not in Silicon Valley: There were not enough white guys in the audience of extras to represent the crowd at Code, and the craft service food was not nearly as good as your average startup in San Francisco — no Kombucha, no kale, no gluten-free anything.

And this is how my life has changed: Hardly anyone not a nerd ever recognizes me anywhere; after my first cameo on this show last season, I got recognized by someone at Lenscrafters.

She goes to Lenscrafters, people. Just like us. And from Walt:

Although our segment was brief, they gave us the full Hollywood treatment — trailers, golf carts, production assistants offering us refreshments, etc. Very, very different from the zillion live news shows we’ve done over the years. The director, Alec Berg, was really cool, encouraging us to depart from the script if we wanted to try something (we didn’t, much).

The actor Matt Ross, who plays Gavin Belson, was super nice, chatting about a million topics with us in the copious time between takes and explaining the process to us. No surprise: He’s nothing like his character. He had to act, while we just did what we’d do at our conference.

Speaking of takes, I think we were there a total of six hours to shoot four minutes or so. I was quite blown away by the effort they made to recreate the Code conference stage. And they had hired what looked like 200 extras to be the audience and even issued them realistic conference badges.

But really, it was all about Kara’s epic side-eye. We all inwardly cringed. We live in fear of this side-eye:

This article originally appeared on

Sign up for the newsletter Today, Explained

Understand the world with a daily explainer plus the most compelling stories of the day.