It was a beautiful morning up in Silicon Valley: The HBO start-up comedy nabbed 11 nominations, including its third straight nod for Outstanding Comedy Series. And in a nice surprise, the show scored its first acting Emmy nom, as Thomas Middleditch was honored in the Outstanding Lead Actor category for his sharp, endearing portrayal of Pied Piper’s mousey, jittery, fired-then-rehired CEO Richard Hendricks. EW rang up Middleditch on Thursday to see how he downloaded the good news.
ENTERTAINMENT WEEKLY: Congratulations. Were you feeling optimistic, pessimistic, nervous, anxious, or a little of everything going into this morning?
THOMAS MIDDLEDITCH: Well, in all honesty, I wasn’t thinking about it at all. I think a few weeks ago I googled, “When were the Emmy nominations?” And that was the last I’d ever thought of it. My mental trick is: You can’t obsess about it because you’re only just going to go crazy over it. And also, there are so many examples where you’re like, “Ahhh, okay, well, my tastes differ from what happened, so what does this all mean?” [Laughs.]
So, how did you hear about it and what was your first reaction?
I had woken up because one of my dogs had peed the bed, so I was cleaning the sheets and I saw that my phone had a shocking amount of missed calls and text messages and I thought, “Oh, God, someone’s died.” But luckily that wasn’t the case. Luckily it was just an Emmy nom.
At that point did you give into it? Small fist pump?
Yeah. It’s cool. I smiled. I called my wife, and that’s the extent of it. [Laughs.]
What will do you do with an Emmy nomination? Is it a nice certificate you can hang over your bed like a banner?
I don’t think there is a certificate, is there? That’d be great if there was like a blue-ribbon certificate that you can frame and it’s like a plaque. That’s a bit like the Best Sportsmanship Award for your soccer league. It’s like, “It’s technically an award but it’s not the one that you want.” I don’t know what I’ll do other than just demand at all costs that whenever I’m introduced, it’ll be “Emmy Award nominee Thomas Middleditch.” Even just to friends, not even on any work-related stuff. That’s how I’ll shake hands with people.
I’m getting the sense that you’re keeping this in check and you’re probably not even going to prepare a speech for Emmy night. Is that accurate?
Hmm, I wish I could say that. But the truth of it is, I’ve probably been preparing speeches for all the fake awards that I’ve won in my head since I was eight years old.
Which was the best of those fake awards?
Um, it was… Mega Champion All-Star Supreme Overlord, 2006.
Yes, thanks. I know, I won! People give you a standing ovation just for the speech. It’s crazy.
Silicon Valley was nominated for the third year in a row, and it’s only been on three years. Is this the year? Are you feeling lucky that the third time might be the charm?
Oh, who knows? It’s such a fickle thing. So many factors come into play. But for what it’s worth, I think it’s our strongest season. There’s a lot of great stuff if you’re looking for things to celebrate.
What scene were you proudest of from season 3?
This speaks volumes for my sense of humor, but I like the face-plant scene.
That may have been the best physical gag on TV this year.
I like it because I love physical comedy; that’s kind of what I do. But also what I like about it is it’s so Richard. It’s so the show. In a meta way, it’s Richard hoisting up his pants strings and giving Jack Barker — hoisting up his pants strings? That’s not a term! — he’s giving Jack Barker the middle finger and “This is how it’s going to be, buddy,” and then right at the moment where he could have had a victory, he literally falls flat on his face. And that is the tone of the show. That’s what Pied Piper and the guys go through. It’s like, victory, and if you even get a victory, you fail. But it’s primarily failure. [Laughs.]
People have been debating about that stunt. You can watch it on slo-mo and it looks realistic. Was that a stunt desk? How did you pull that off?
I dunno, it’s just a pretty standard pratfall. Nothing special. The desk was real, I assure you. I think I maybe had a chest pad so I could really hit my chest but other than that, it’s a pratfall. I think, especially for the vast public, they know me just through the show and that’s like a fidgety little introverted nerdy guy. But as nerdy as I am in real life, in terms of live comedy, I’m usually the guy that walks onstage and falls around and does stupid, big, broad characters. So I’ve had some practice.
Any other scene that you want to point to from season 3?
I really like the scene when he goes on a date with Winnie, played by Bridey Elliott. It’s the tabs versus spaces episode [“Bachmanity Insanity”], and he knows that she’s a spaces girl and he’s trying not to think about it ,and he just ends up talking about Hitler and the Holocaust and Jews dying, and it’s just verbal diarrhea… You do that scene, and there’s so much there, and you never know how they’re going to put it together, and I really like the decisions made to have that scene play out. It’s one of my favorites.
What was your initial reaction when you read the season 3 finale script, including Pied Piper’s shift from file-compression to video chat and ending the episode on a non-cliffhanger and with a happy game of Always Blue?
Just through the show I’ve been educated a lot more on the business elements of Silicon Valley, and it sounds like that happens a lot where it’s either an intentional pivot or an unintentional pivot, where essentially you’re like, “Oh, this isn’t working but, hey, this element of it is.” I can’t remember which app the writers were citing, but that very thing happened, where x app was trying to do one thing, but they made something else in order to make that one thing more efficient, but then that one thing ended up being it…. But to that aspect, especially to cater toward people who work in the industry, that would totally be identifiable. And then there’s something a little bit sad that they’re out of that struggle, but also it’s entirely daunting that they’re in the game all by themselves. There’s no Peter Gregory, there’s no Laurie Bream. Gavin Belson and Jack Barker have teamed up, so it’s a bit like, “Oh, cool, that’s kind of a victory.” But as happy as that episode seems, the mountain almost just got bigger for them to climb.
I know it’s early, and the writers just got back to work, but what’s one thing you can tease about season 4?
I haven’t heard a thing. Every time I’ve asked Alec [Berg, the show’s executive producer/co-showrunner with Mike Judge], he just looks at me and he just has the face of a thousand migraines and says, “I don’t know either.” [Laughs.]