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What Silicon Valley's Cast Thinks About Silicon Valley Culture

Cast and crew on the set of HBO's <em>Silicon Valley</em> (from left): Zach Woods, Thomas Middleditch, Alec Berg, Mike Judge, T.J. Miller and Kumail Nanjiani.
Jaimie Trueblood
Courtesy of HBO
Cast and crew on the set of HBO's Silicon Valley (from left): Zach Woods, Thomas Middleditch, Alec Berg, Mike Judge, T.J. Miller and Kumail Nanjiani.

Sunday night, HBO's new comedy, Silicon Valley premieres, and as a Slate review notes of the titular place, "Rarely has a show had to do so little to find so much to mock."

It's from Mike Judge, the man who so hilariously captured suburban ennui, white collar workadays and created a couple of unforgettable aimless teens.

Now, as the perk-laden, youth-dominated world of Silicon Valley technology startups seems to dominate our economy and culture, Judge is zooming in on a subculture that can be stunningly specific in its character types and mores. And while no one doubts the power and influence of this "cradle of innovation," putting a magnifying glass to its species reveals plenty of material.

In advance of its premiere, I chatted with some of the brains behind the show and a few cast members to get their take on this world they're about to send up. Here's what they had to say:

Actor Kumail Nanjiani, "Dinesh"

Thomas Middleditch and Josh Brener in HBO's <em>Silicon Valley</em> pilot.
Jamie Trueblood / HBO
Thomas Middleditch and Josh Brener in HBO's Silicon Valley pilot.

"It's really interesting and super weird and powerful as a subculture that people aren't familiar with. There's celebrities in that world who aren't celebs outside of Silicon Valley. Some of those venture capitalists are huge stars over there. They sort of assume the whole world is like this. I have friends who work there who say, 'Have you heard about this?' Nobody heard about it. Only you people heard about it! There's so much money there that it's just become this bubble."

Actor T.J. Miller, "Erlich"

"The fact that there's these billionaires, it's really, really silly and of course, they're nerds. Everybody's socially awkward, everybody's bizarre, everybody spends most of their time with computers. So it's funny to see these guys who are so great in the dark with Red Bull and circus peanuts try and interact with the world and try and get girls. And of course, it's a disaster."

Alec Berg, Executive Producer

"Socially awkward people with money is a very funny area. These aren't the guys who became rich 100, 500 or 1,000 years ago. These aren't Alexander the Great. I don't think the rail barons were as nerdy and awkward as these guys are.

"When you see somebody who's made $8 billion talk about how they're only doing it for the good of humanity, you know, look, are they changing the world, for sure, 100 percent they are. I have an iPhone in my pocket, it's changed my life. ... But the idea that they're just doing it to make the world a better place out of the goodness of their hearts is a little preposterous."

Actor Amanda Crew, "Monica"

"Obviously it is a world that is dominated by men. But there are some very important women in that world — pioneers, I feel — who are carving the way for more women to come. So I hope that my character on the show kind of represents that, too."

Mike Judge, Creator And Executive Producer

"I feel like the personalities in this world are the same as they've always been. But now it's just a different landscape. ... Just these guys, who would normally get picked on in school suddenly have so much money and still don't know how to enjoy themselves. They're not sure what it all means. I find it all really absurd and funny. Engineers, programmers are just odd people, and I include myself in that."

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Elise Hu is a host-at-large based at NPR West in Culver City, Calif. Previously, she explored the future with her video series, Future You with Elise Hu, and served as the founding bureau chief and International Correspondent for NPR's Seoul office. She was based in Seoul for nearly four years, responsible for the network's coverage of both Koreas and Japan, and filed from a dozen countries across Asia.

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