clock menu more-arrow no yes mobile

Filed under:

HBO’s ‘Silicon Valley’ is more than just dick jokes, actor Matt Ross says

Ross tries to bring a sympathetic antagonism to Hooli CEO Gavin Belson.

HBO's Official Golden Globe Awards After Party - Arrivals Frederick M. Brown / Getty

On a comedy like “Silicon Valley,” actors can get away with playing broad, goofy characters, so long as they’re funny. But Matt Ross, who plays the series’ main antagonist, Hooli CEO Gavin Belson, approached the character as a real and serious — but also ambitiously deluded — person.

“I was trying to make him not a caricature,” Ross said on the latest episode of Recode Decode, hosted by Kara Swisher. “If nothing else, I was trying to play his humanity and his sincerity. I thought there was humor in that.”

“The people who are like him in the real world, I’m sure a great deal of their satisfaction probably comes from winning, conquering and being thought of as important in some way,” he added. “Gavin enjoys being the center of attention. I think he genuinely believes he’s 'making the world a better place.’”

On the new podcast, Ross explained why the show, which just started its fourth season on HBO, works as both a comedy and “an incredibly great workplace drama.”

“We read in our popular culture about tech all the time,” he said. “You can open USA Today when you’re at the airport, and there's stuff about tech. And yet they show, pretty accurately, how incredibly difficult it is to navigate that sea — which I love, aside from the comedy and the dick jokes, which are fantastic.”

You can listen to Recode Decode on Apple Podcasts, Google Play Music, TuneIn, Stitcher and SoundCloud.

Ross, who directed the Oscar-nominated film “Captain Fantastic” last year, said the explosion of online TV platforms has opened doors for everyone — writers, directors, actors and so on. Citing the example of Jill Soloway, who made “Transparent” for Amazon, he said it’s getting more common to find the freshest new creative visions on TV — but there’s a “what if” attached.

“Amazon, it’s a huge corporation, they have lots of money,” Ross said. “It seems to me they’re creating content so you might buy other things on the site. That’s unique, I think. There’s no other company, Netflix included, that has that same business model. What does it mean? I don’t know, but thank God it exists.”

“What worries me is that it’s the Wild West,” he added. “You could make the argument that some of these companies are overpaying to attract certain talent. If that disappears, then where do those people go and what do they make? That’s the scary part.”

If you like this show, you should also sample our other podcasts:

If you like what we’re doing, please write a review on Apple Podcasts — and if you don’t, just tweet-strafe Kara.

This article originally appeared on

Sign up for the newsletter Sign up for Vox Recommends

Get curated picks of the best Vox journalism to read, watch, and listen to every week, from our editors.