During SXSW, we sat down to chat with Martin Starr about his film Operator that premiered at the festival. He plays Joe, a programmer, who uses technology to help him deal with his severe anxiety which begins to erode his relationship with his wife, Emily (Mae Whitman), after he uses her as inspiration for the customer service hotline he works for.
Starr’s clearly drawn to narratives about how technology shapes our lives, so we had to speak to him about Silicon Valley, returning tonight on HBO. In its third season, the comedy follows a group of tech bros who found a startup, Pied Piper, that specialized in a data compression algorithm. The show chronicles their business ups and downs and pokes fun at the whole silicon valley culture. Season 3 promises a shakeup for the guys after Richard (Thomas Middleditch) is fired from his position as CEO. So, we asked Starr about the upcoming season, tech bros, and leaking screeners.
What can you tell me about the new season of Silicon Valley?
I don’t know what I’m allowed to talk about. I don’t think we are particularly secretive, but I don’t know. HBO. They don’t like spoilers.
They are not giving anyone screeners of Game of Thrones after they were leaked last season.
Don’t they mark those? How did they not find the person who did it?
I’m certain that person got fired.
I probably shouldn’t have leaked those movies.
So, back to the new season.
The new season is so fun. It was really fun to work with Stephen Tobolowsky. He’s so good. He plays this guy who is our new boss for a period of time. Who knows? I can’t tell you anything! One of the things I appreciate most about the way Mike [Judge] and Alec [Berg] run the show is that it’s really based on their need for the plot to grow. They have a pretty clear idea of what they want the show to be. So everything else has to serve that. They are like, “It’s all about the show.” We have these wonderful actors we get to work with for a few episodes, and then they leave again because it didn’t serve the plot that they needed to move forward with. There’s just so much new stuff to find out and explore.
I really appreciate about the show is the willingness to destroy plot points
In a realistic way, with purpose. It isn’t just wild and exploratory and mischievous destruction. It’s with a really well-thought out purpose that is usually induced by real life. Almost all of the things you think are the wildest and craziest in the show, all of them I guarantee you came from real life.
I’m sure! I don’t know much about the tech world, but everything seems like, what I would assume that world is?
Mayhem. It’s the current Wild West. People are just creating their own rules and making so much money and becoming millionaires overnight. In the original draft of the pilot, Richard turns down $100 million. Then they were like, that’s not believable. No audience is going to believe that he turns down that much money. Then they changed it to $10 million. Less than a year later, Snapchat or something turned down $1 billion.
I remember that.
These things do happen. The technology we are talking about, in this reality, has so much more value than Snapchat or anything else when you are talking about how much information you can actually hold in a digital memory bank.
We do a Pied Piper video and it was a presentation based on a real video that a big company did—but it made fun of it a little bit. At the same time, Facebook did a video about a chair.
That was from a while ago. That was created with the intent to spread the name of Facebook, deepen its value in society.
It seems like there’s no self-awareness to it.
That’s totally what it is. It’s a fun world to play in because those things do happen. That’s funny into itself, the absurdity of what it is.
It’s rife for parody a little bit.
It’s already funny. There’s a lack of awareness. It’s like the capital of the world for a lack of humor. Every time I’m at screenings up there, and when I’ve met people, I have a different experience. There’s a lack of awareness in Silicon Valley when they have these conversations about what their company does and how they are changing the world and the value in what they are doing. They’ve talked themselves up into a frenzy where they’ve convinced themselves so thoroughly that they are changing the world with the thing that they are doing that they forget that they are not. Like what are you doing? Are you defeating the oil industry? Are you creating so this world might last longer?