When news broke in May that Silicon Valley star T.J. Miller would not be returning to the hit HBO comedy for a fifth season, many fans were left wondering why the 36-year-old comedian would walk away from the show that helped make him a star at the height of its popularity.
But, it turns out, the decision for Miller was easy, and primarily motivated by one reason: he thought it would be funny.
“It was a joke. Leaving was a joke that I thought would be a good joke,” Miller told The Hollywood Reporter in a candid interview published Monday. “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? … What if that was the end of this character? I just thought that would be really fascinating.”
“That was the impetus behind walking. That’s sort of the impetus behind everything I do: It just makes me laugh,” he added. “It’s not about money, it’s not about any of that stuff. It’s certainly not about fame, which is destructing my relationships with my family. It’s about things that are interesting and funny.”
WARNING: Season Finale Spoiler Alert Ahead
On Sunday’s season finale, Miller’s character — wisecracking software developer Erlich Bachman — found himself trapped in an opium den in Tibet, never (as it appears) to be seen from again.
The storyline will certainly have ripple effects through the world of Silicon Valley and its characters, who often clashed with Bachman. And that only made Miller laugh more. “Now what?” he asked. “Who is f—— up their situation?”
There was another reason Silicon Valley producers had a hard time continuing to work with him full-time: his busy schedule. In addition to his roles in big-screen comedies like Deadpool and Miller ‘s voiceover work for The Emoji Movie and the How to Train Your Dragon franchise, the star also has a packed standup tour.
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HBO tried to work around that, initially offering him three or five episodes out of the scheduled 10. Miller saw that as his out.
“I was sick of telling my wife in earnest, ‘I’m going to slow down the schedule. We’ll have more time to spend in New York,’ ” he said. “I was incredibly busy. People joke about it, but I’m the hardest-working man in show business, maybe. So they were like, ‘Let’s make this easier for both of us.’ And I was like, ‘I think this is an amazing opportunity’ … I want to make movies for children. I want to have a schedule where I can have a fun, healthy relationship where we have lazy days.”
Despite amicably leaving, Miller wasn’t afraid to criticize the show that helped make him a star — complaining about its formula and making digs at writer and executive producer Alec Berg.
Asked if he ever had any conversations with Berg about making Erlich more essential to the group, Miller said, “I didn’t talk to Alec because I don’t like Alec.”
“I don’t know how smart [Alec] is. He went to Harvard, and we all know those kids are f—— idiots. That Crimson trash. Those comedy writers in Hollywood are f—— Harvard graduates and that’s why they’re smug as a bug,” Miller said. “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.”
Miller continued: “For me, television, unlike women and wine, does not get better with age. … I just thought that what the show has suffered from, what’s bad about it … it’s just the same thing over and over. … If they fail, then they succeed, and then if they succeed, they fail. It’s over and over. That’s an old type of sitcom. That’s Seinfeld, where Alec Berg used to work. It’s recycling, it’s network. This is HBO.”
Berg wasn’t the only one Miller admitted to clashing with. He also had some tough times with costar Thomas Middleditch, who plays Richard.
“I think in some ways Thomas Middleditch is — we have a contrarian relationship, like a big brother-little brother relationship,” Miller said. “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.”
While Miller remained firm that he would never return to Silicon Valley and that he has no plans to watch the show moving forward, he had nothing but nice things to say about HBO — with whom he plans to produce a one-hour comedy special moving forward.
“It felt like a breakup with HBO,” Miller explained. “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 … So they were very, very cool about it, and that final conversation was super friendly and sad. It was heartbreaking on my end.”
And as sad as it may be for Silicon Valley fans to lose Erlich, their messages of despair made an impact on Miller. “The response to my departure was really f—— — there’s really no other way to say it: It was just really heartwarming,” Miller said. “It’s like, ‘Wow, I guess I really did make something that people really dug.’ “