I’ve learned that persistence pays off. How do I know? For more than a year, I’ve been trying to land this coveted interview with Sen. Elizabeth Warren. And now, finally, I’ve spoken to the potential next president of the United States about…Ballers, and only Ballers.
You may be asking, why was I pestering this very busy politician about The Rock‘s football show, hours before her appearance at CNN’s LGBTQ town hall on Thursday? Well, because, like me, she’s a huge fan of the series, often showing her support for it on social media. (Related: How do I get a signed pilot script?) And this love affair has perplexed many around the country, wondering how a self-described policy nerd, tenured Harvard law professor, ranking member of the Subcommittee on Financial Institutions and Consumer Protection, and social media’s chipper aunt could be obsessed with the Entourage of the sports world, in which executive producer Pete Berg cast himself as the Miami Dolphins head coach.
So, with the Ballers series finale airing Sunday on HBO and neither I nor Warren fully prepared to say goodbye to Spencer (Dwayne Johnson), Ricky (John David Washington), and the rest of the team, we chatted about the past, present, and future of Ballers, including whether a particular star could be the senator’s political rival one day.
ENTERTAINMENT WEEKLY: Thanks for taking the time for such an important interview.
SEN. ELIZABETH WARREN: Yes, absolutely! We have to stop and take a deep breath as we come to the final episode of Ballers [laughs].
We really do need to appreciate the last five years.
We do. It’s been a great five-year story. A big part of that is Spencer’s story. He starts out as this guy who has no job, no license, not clear what his future is, but he has enormous determination, and he just keeps banging into whatever obstacle is in his way. It’s like watching a football game, only not on the football field anymore. And now he owns a team!
Pretty wild five-year jump from being broke to owning a team!
It has been. Yeah, the jump between season 4 and season 5…Well, you don’t need me to be a TV critic, but I was a little, “Wait, what?” about that. I thought we were going after the NCAA.
Right?! I’m waiting on some resolution to that too. It’s happening in real-life but not on Ballers.
I was cheering him on, looking forward to what he was going to do next on that, and then I flipped on the television for season 5 and “Whoa!” Also, I can’t imagine why Spencer and Joe (Rob Corddry) would stay mad at each other for any length of time. Now, in episode 7 that we just saw last Sunday, they made up, and I’m glad that’s the case. But, c’mon, guys!
An even bigger surprise in the opening moments of season 5 had to be Spencer reading your book during his semi-retirement! What was your reaction when you saw that?
[Laughs] I loved it! I laughed out loud; I thought it was fabulous and I hope he got to finish the book.
We don’t know if Spencer finished it, but he looks almost halfway through, which is interesting because you talk about watching Ballers in the prologue of the book. So does that mean he now knows that he’s on a TV show? Did you just break the Ballers universe?
I know! It’s very meta. I think I might have broke the fifth-dimension or something.
I feel like people are surprised when I tell them I’m a Ballers fan, but you get it even more than me. Are you amused by how much people are amused by your interest in Ballers?
Why would people be surprised that I like Ballers? It’s got The Rock! What’s not to love?
That’s what I try telling them.
It’s an interesting story that’s different from much of what’s on television. The issues they’ve tackled on Ballers are real. Remember the opening season, the guy who gets killed in the car crash? He’s rich and living on top of the world and suddenly he leaves behind a wife and children with nothing. Then, remember when Vern (Donovan W. Carter) blew out his knee playing paintball? It tells you something about what it means to live a life dependent on a small set of physical skills. The way they confront it over and over, like in the paintball episode: Tell the truth or back away from it? In this latest season, Spencer and the kid with the gun, Kisan (Kris D. Lofton). And then this notion of how are these young men going to build sustainable futures? And it’s not just financially sustainable, it’s a world where the competitiveness that has been so acutely honed in them since they were little children, what happens to it when you can’t play ball anymore?
So what are your hopes for the finale? Is there anything you’re hoping to get resolution on? That is, unless The Rock already slipped you the episode early.
Is Charles (Omar Benson Miller) going to stay with the team or go home to his wife and babies? I’m very interested in what happens to Charles. Vern is going to be a gamer. Of course, Ricky is going to use his mouth! I love it. Ricky is now set on his path, he looks like he’s carved out a winning place. He’s always going to be a little crosswise with everyone, because that’s who Ricky is. It’s Spencer I worry about the most. He still chews those pain pills, and he has to have a fight. He always does. It’s part of his character. He fights best when he fights on behalf of others — that’s Spencer all the way through this. They’re different fights; sometimes he picks good fights and sometimes he doesn’t, but that’s in Spencer’s character. What does that mean now that he’s rich and powerful and owns his own team? It would be an interesting question about how it unfolds going forward in his life, how he builds a life after this. On the other hand, I have to say, five seasons feels just right for this show. I’m glad they’re not hanging on until they jump the shark and then you roll your eyes and stop watching because it’s not any good. I think they’ve done a really nice job of five seasons that have a lot of development for each of the main characters — even Joe.
I’ll end with one less Ballers-specific question: The Rock has thrown out the possibility that he could eventually run for president. How would you like your chances against him? Obviously, you’re such a huge fan, so might it be tough to go head-to-head with your Spencer Strasmore?
[Laughs] I would welcome him to the race. I know he would fight for the principles that he believes in — he’s my kind of guy!
His likability scores would be off the charts.
Who doesn’t like The Rock? And I have to say, who doesn’t love The Rock’s wardrobe choices — don’t they just knock you out? Those vests and the pink shirts…Oh man, it is eye candy.
Well, senator, enjoy those suits one last time on Sunday.
I will. And when you’re ready to start talking about Unbelievable, give me a call!