Hollywoodreporter posted an interview with TJ and it is… something. Read it. Read it all right now (after my blog). It was quite the roller coaster. It’s very clear that he doesn’t have a publicist to talk for him, because this is some raw and from the heart stuff. If someone took two different lines out of context it would probably come off as two radically different situations. There were some highs, some lows, he was hurt, he was relieved, he loves the people, the people sucked, he’s happy, he’s sad. Emoji Movie was brought up, things got crazy. It was like listening to a high school girl talking about her breakup but it’s cool because she’s much better off but they’re still friends but she won’t speak to him.
At certain points it felt as though he was going in and out of character, which I suppose makes sense because his overall explanation for leaving was he just wants to entertain people and make them laugh… well he certainly entertained me, even through the text of an interview. Here are a few highlights, I’m going to paraphrase because each answer is wicked lengthy
How did you manage to leave the show mid-run? Didn’t you have a contract that would keep you on the series?
This is where he comes out with middle fingers flying. They came to him and proposed he only does 3 or 5 episodes of the 10 next season. He says “Oh perfect, I had been wanting to ask if you guys would be open to me leaving the show“… CLASSIC case of one person trying to distance themselves in a relationship, but are too obvious which causes the other person to say “fuck you! I’m breaking up with you before you break up with me!”
They said they wanted him to stay and also wanted to give him more time to do other stuff, to which he says “Well, the best way for me to be involved in the show is by no longer being on it.” ¯\_(ツ)_/¯
Why were the producers going to reduce your role in the first place?
It sounds like the show was having a hard time with the production schedule and TJ might have been a big reason for that. He’s very busy with doing stand up and being involved in movies. It seems as though this started as a logistical solution but ended up blowing up in everyone’s face.
Why was leaving Erlich in a Tibetan drug house the right ending for your character?
He doesn’t really answer this. He says they wrote an organic exit for him but he thought this would be so much funnier (I disagree, it wasn’t really funny BUT it did feel right for the character) He uses this question to just shit on the show as it is currently being run, calling it “cyclical, like an old type of sitcom“. He thinks that by taking Ehrlich away from the show then it forces the other characters to shift roles, which would give everything a fresh take. He’s completely right here.
If you wanted Erlich to be essential to the group, did you have any conversations with the showrunners, Mike Judge or Alec Berg, about possibly moving in that direction?
“No, because that was the joke. 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.“- excellent answer.
After giving that answer, he promptly (and casually) drops that he hates Alec Berg. “I didn’t talk to Alec because I don’t like Alex“… vicious line. I like how he basically calls the writers out for making it easy for him to walk away “I think they thought I was a television actor and not a comedian.”
What do you mean you’re not an actor?
His words are perfect.. “I’m not an actor; I’m a comedian. And I don’t know how the fuck I hoodwinked Hollywood into giving me a career in this…. 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.”
Speaking of the fan response, what do you say to viewers who think they might not enjoy the show as much without you in it?
“Christopher Evan Welch, who was 10 times funnier than I am, died. They lost someone to eternity who was much funnier than my character, and the show found a way to pivot and find its way. Erlich failed to prove to be meaningful or of any value to Pied Piper, and so he pivoted. That’s what every company in Silicon Valley does. That’s what America is. There is failure, but we pivot. My departure will do the same. Instead of dying, like everybody in my family would love, I go and make The Emoji Movie. It’s worse for American culture“…
There’s a lot to unpack in that response. I’ll just let you absorb it.
Would you come back to the show even just for one episode?
No. And do you know why? Because his Dad gave him some pretty solid advice. “Yeah, it’s starting to kind of suck. It’s a little stale. You’re becoming a bit hack.” I’d love to meet Mr. Miller.
Don’t you feel like Erlich deserved a little more closure than he got?
TJ basically says HBO, Alec, and even Tom Middleditch thought TJ’s character might be getting stale, and were thinking of ways to fix it before Miller said “I’m out”. He didn’t need any more closure, BUT it sounded like he needed more time to shit all over Alec Burg. “I don’t know how smart Alec is. He went to Harvard, and we all know those kids are fucking idiots. That Crimson trash. Those comedy writers in Hollywood are fucking Harvard graduates and that’s why they’re smug as a bug.”
The rest of the interview goes on to discuss the final conversations with HBO, the cast reaction, if there’s a possibility for a return, that sort of thing. Basically TJ is still happy to work with HBO, but he’s #done with playing Ehrlich on Silicon Valley. It’s pretty apparent that he HATES the showrunner Alec Burg. So that might be the main reason behind the departure, but as I read between the lines it seems like there is some resentment towards Thomas Middleditch. That’s a pretty sad thing, because they’ve worked together forever. They did a two-man improv show together for a decade, and their movie Search Party is a low-key comedy classic.
I’ll still watch Silicon Valley, and I hope it gets a boost of life from TJ’s heroic departure. Nobody has ever looked better coming off a breakup than this guy. I hope to see him crank out more and more solid comedy, although I hope it’s not more stuff like the Emoji movie. (That looks like garbage)