T.J. Miller on Leaving ‘Silicon Valley’: “It Seemed Like a Funny Trick to Play on Everyone”
Last month it was revealed that T.J. Miller will not be returning to Silicon Valley for its fifth season, and now that Erlich Bachman’s final episode has aired, Miller gave a very candid interview to The Hollywood Reporter about why he decided to leave the show, which he says began when he was offered a reduced role so he could have more time to focus on other projects:
And I said, “Well, the best way for me to be involved in the show is by no longer being on it.” I swear to god, that’s why the internet broke. Everybody was like, “What the f— are you talking about? You’re on this successful show. Don’t you want three more years of solid acting work and don’t you want to be a famous television actor?” And I was like, “No, not really.” I’d like to parasail into the Cannes Film Festival for The Emoji Movie because that’s the next new funny thing that will make people laugh.
On whether or not he ever approached showrunners Mike Judge or Alec Berg about making Erlich more of an “essential” character:
He never was supposed to be present. I actually think the writing with Erlich gets funnier and funnier the more inessential and irrelevant he becomes. He’s an annoyance. He was an obstacle to this beautiful, perfect thing that all of these people around him were going to create. … I didn’t talk to Alec because I don’t like Alec, but I think Mike Judge and Clay Tarver are brilliant. Both of them were so accommodating, saying, “Well, what if you just do three episodes?” or “What if you just did the season finale?”
In addition to opening up possibilities for the other characters, Miller said he ultimately approached his decision to leave as a joke:
I’m not an actor; I’m a comedian. And I don’t know how the f— I hoodwinked Hollywood into giving me a career in this. But I’m not sitting here saying, “I need more lines. I’m not funny enough.” I’m not Thomas Middleditch. I’m me, the guy that thinks all of this is sort of ridiculous. It was a joke. Leaving was a joke that I thought would be a good joke because the show would grow and change. It seemed like a funny trick to play on everyone. It’s just like, what if Kramer [Michael Richards] left in the middle of Seinfeld’s height? And also what if that guy never said the n-word on a stage? What if that was the end of this character? I just thought that would be really fascinating.
On his conversations with HBO:
It felt like a breakup with HBO. The final phone call was them going like, “Well, I don’t think this is the end of Erlich. I still want to see him on television,” and I was like, “I know but I think this is for the best.” HBO has never treated me as an employee, always as a collaborator. They were understanding and said, “Look, if you really think that this is the move and that you’ll be able to produce an hour special for us sooner than you would have if you were on the show and if you feel right now under the current administration that you need to do standup because you need to be talking to the American public, then we support that.” … So they were very, very cool about it, and that final conversation was super friendly and sad. It was heartbreaking on my end.
Miller doesn’t get into specifics, but it’s safe to say there was some tension between him and Berg as well as Middleditch:
I think that HBO and Alec Berg, specifically, kind of thought — and I guess apparently Thomas Middleditch — I guess they thought, “Alright, maybe this is the end of the character. But like everything in the show, we’ll sort of solve this and then it’s back to normal.” And they just didn’t imagine that I would be in a position of being like, “I think that’s it.” … I don’t know how smart [Alec] is. He went to Harvard, and we all know those kids are f—ing idiots. That Crimson trash. Those comedy writers in Hollywood are f—ing Harvard graduates and that’s why they’re smug as a bug. … I think that in television you usually have one element that is very challenging, very frustrating. It’s an obstacle, right? So you’re doing the best work that you can do. Alec was that for me, and I think I was that for Alec. And a very good article was written that says that Erlich in the show is just this constant annoyance to Richard. … And I think in some ways, that is analogous to real life. I think in some ways Thomas Middleditch is … we have a contrarian relationship, like a big brother-little brother relationship. And this is also an opportunity for me to be like, “Let me just step off, dude. Like, just do your f—ing thing. You’re amazing.” I did a two-man improv show with him for a decade. He’s amazing.
Read the full interview over at THR.