Interview: Eddie Kaye Thomas Talks The "How To Make It In America" Season Finale, Kid Cudi & "American Reunion"

The star of the HBO hit takes us behind the scenes on the growth of the show, his character, and the acting development of his rockstar friend Kid Cudi.

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Eddie Kaye Thomas has been killing it in supporting roles and comedies for over a decade now, but you probably still remember him best as Finch, the mature teen from the American Pie franchise that will be forever immortalized for banging Stifler's hot mom.

Nowadays he's also popularly known as David "Kappo" Kaplan, Wall St. man and over-eager friend of Ben and Cam on HBO's rising hit How To Make It In America. With the much improved and critically acclaimed second season wrapping up, we talked to Eddie about what made this year so successful, how the show found its voice, and the welcome expansion of the show's nudity. And, of course, the upcoming sequel American Reunion.

Interview by Frazier Tharpe (@The_SummerMan)

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How To Make It In America is wrapping up its second season. How're you feeling about it?
We're pretty excited, man. It's always one of those things where you shoot a show and you have a great time and it's really hard to make an honest assessment of it yourself, but from my point of view it seems like people are really digging it. People are watching it, they're involved in it—my mom has actually gotten involved with the plotlines, which is really exciting. I mean, she'd be watching anyway but now she's actually getting emotionally involved with the show, and it's cool.

My whole thing with the show has always been—I still feel really excited to be on the show, I still feel like I'm getting to sit at the "cool table." I see the commercials for it, I see the posters for it and I'm like "Damn, I'd love to be a part of that." And I am a part of it. I feel like a cool guy, being part of this show.

I feel very much like Kappo on the set [of How To Make It]—eager to be involved and I wanna hang out with the guys. I feel like I'm living childhood dreams here.

Your character Kappo seemed a lot more prominent this season than the first one. What was your first thought when the writers told you what he would be dealing with this year?
I was excited. What's really tough about a half-hour, single-camera show with a lot of characters is that there's only so much time [that can be devoted] to each character. Like I said, I'm psyched to be on this show, so just to be a part of that family was amazing.

It was cool to deal with Kappo getting involved with the white-collar crime situation and things kind of falling apart in front of him. I think anybody playing any role would agree that having your life fall apart in front of your eyes is always more fun to play than just some casual "Oh, I didn't have a good day."

There was always kind of an issue with my character. When the show got developed, it was right as Wall St. was starting to fall apart, in 2008, 2009, so we knew we had to incorporate the fact that people on Wall St. aren't doing as well as they once were. And there's this great thing going on in the world—well, not a great thing but this thing that's happening of these guys my age—I'm 31, so a lot of guys my age went to college, have business degrees, went to Wall St. expecting to make $100,000 a year or more and they did for a couple of years and all of a sudden it stopped and they didn't know what to do with themselves. We grew up in a generation where it was like, "Yeah, go work on Wall St. to make a ton of money."

So we wanted to address that somehow but also not make the show a commentary on what's happening in the economic world. So I thought they did a really great job with that, and it's just fun to play around with it. I'm having a great time with it.There was always kind of an issue with my character.

When the show got developed, it was right as Wall St. was starting to fall apart, in 2008, 2009, so we knew we had to incorporate the fact that people on Wall St. aren't doing as well as they once were. And there's this great thing going on in the world—well, not a great thing but this thing that's happening of these guys my age—I'm 31, so a lot of guys my age went to college, have business degrees, went to Wall St. expecting to make $100,000 a year or more and they did for a couple of years and all of a sudden it stopped and they didn't know what to do with themselves. We grew up in a generation where it was like, "Yeah, go work on Wall St. to make a ton of money."

We really saw your character come to the forefront around the fourth episode, and we saw how tight Kappo and Ben have become since reconnecting at the start of the series. Was there ever a point where your character wasn't planned to be so central?
I had no idea. I mean, I signed onto the pilot as a guest star and once the show got picked up they asked me to come on board as a regular and I really wasn't sure in what capacity I was going to be serving the show, so I kinda signed on just like, "This is a really great idea, it's a show I would be a fan of, so I would love to be a part of it." So when you sign onto a show you're at [the writers'] mercy, they can kind of do what they want with you. And I don't read the scripts until the scripts are done, so I don't know what the development of the character was and I don't think they know themselves. I think they're learning from the show as it goes along. They see what we do as actors, they see what personal relationships we're developing, and then they write off of that.

The show has a natural evolution of it being whatever it's going to be. I think Cudi really surprised everybody with how good he is. Once they saw that he really can act, they let him evolve more. One of the problems with my character was, because I had a lot of money, if I was too involved with CRISP it would lower the stakes for Ben and Cam. That they had me to always fall back on, it wouldn't be as dramatic. They had to figure out a way to get me involved but not have me totally backing the company because then the show wouldn't be as exciting. So, you know, we're still figuring it out and hopefully we'll get a third season to continue figuring it out.

I still get off on being friends with a rockstar. Cudi's not just a rapper—that guy is a rockstar.

What are the renewal chances looking like?
I have no idea. I'll probably find out right when you find out. You never know, man. What's great about HBO is they just care about quality. They care about the brand. They're not worried about ratings; obviously they want people to buy subscriptions, but they just want people to be into what's on HBO.

From my point of view, people are really into the show, people are involved, people like having it there, but there's so much great talent at HBO and so many great things being pitched there.... I have no idea what their future plans are. But we should find out in a few weeks.

Well, if we're going on popularity, I think it stands a good chance.
I hope so, knock wood. It's an amazing job to have. I mean, I get to work in New York City, I get to work with really fun people. I feel very much like [my character] David Kaplan on that set—eager to be involved and I wanna hang out with the guys. I could see myself being eight years old and being really excited about the idea of doing something like this when I was 31 years old. I feel like I'm living childhood dreams here.


You mentioned Cudi's acting skills improving over the season. What's it like working alongside him and seeing his growth?
It's really exciting. I still get off on being friends with a rockstar. He's not just a rapper—that guy is a rockstar. If you see him live, he kills it. There's a lot of hip-hop acts that I don't think can perform live, but he really has it and he works hard and he's amazing. After seeing him on stage and then getting to hang out with him and build a friendship with him, that just feels super cool and eye-opening because I get to know a lot of actors but it's really interesting getting to know that side of the world.

He cares. He's done an amazing job of realizing "This is something I wanna do, I wanna be an actor" and he learned one of the most important things: Don't try so hard. Good actors let their own natural beings shine through, their own personalities. Cudi shows up and he's learned how to do nothing really well, and I mean that in the best possible sense. He's not pushing, he's not trying really hard. Cudi is a really dynamic, likeable guy and that comes through on the show. He's going to get a lot more acting work if he wants to. He's good, he's dedicated, he works hard by not working too hard.

When I first met him, I didn't know who he was. His album [Man On The Moon: The End Of Day] had just come out a bit ago and I heard "Day N Nite" but I wasn't that much aware of him. His fame as a rapper has grown as the show has grown and he's gotten himself really involved with the show and dedicated. We're lucky to have him, he's a real talent.

How did the season two filming experieces differ from the first? There have been a lot of changes to the show, one of which being that its become a lot raunchier.
We definitely have more naked women, which is always good. I think that's kind of indicative of the fact that we're just a little more comfortable. We're aware of the show we're trying to make. We're aware of what we're doing. There's a bit more ease with it now that we know who we are.

Going back to any show, even The Sopranos or Sex And The City, in the first season they still hadn't figured out what they were. There's a back-and-forth of "We're kind of like this, but we're not about this." We started to get there in the second season, we realized what we're good at it, who we are, and then we were able to enjoy ourselves a lot more. The show's fun. New York is a sexy place with a lot of fun things happening and really interesting, diverse people, and this is a slice of New York.

It's not like "Oh, here's a fun party scene in New York" or, "Oh, let's show the fashion world," it's these people living their lives right now, and taking that journey with them. As we get to know those people better we're more comfortable with it and we're having more fun with it, which I really think is shining through in the second season.

I feel like when people talk to me about the show now, they're just enjoying it more. It's a pleasure to watch it, they're having fun with us, and I think that comes from us having a good time doing it. We're making the show we wanna make and the viewers are joining us for the ride.

Now that the show has firmly found its idenity, do you think that puts the inevitable Entourage  comparisons to rest?
It's ridiculous to not make the comparison. Entourage is finishing up its run, we share Steve Levinson and Mark Wahlberg, it's HBO, it's the same age range, but the show simply doesn't work and it's not good if we're operating from a place of comparing ourselves to Entourage.

The reality of the situation is [series creator] Ian Edelman created this show because this was a combination of his life and his fantasy life. He's very involved with fashion, a lot of people on the show are the people that he's known. The love stories are situations that he's gone through. That had nothing to do with what created Entourage. 

We're on HBO, we're going to get a lot of the Entourage audience. People are going to make that comparison but we're not operating from that place and it's simply a different show. I remember when The Sopranos came out everyone was like, "Oh, it's just Analyze This as a TV show." And, you know, in the first episodes, yeah, how could you not make that comparison? There's mafia and there's therapy but eventually it found its own voice.

Because we're not operating from a place of reacting to Entourage, as we go on people will relate to us just based on How To Make It In America. I remember when American Pie came out, everyone was like, "It's just Porky's for this time," but now people refer to American Pie when a new teen movie comes out, then another movie's going to come out and they're gonna use that as the comparison.

People need some baseline to operate from like, "Oh, it's like this," but from a creative standpoint we're just making our show and we're just being honest and making the best show we can. As the show continues, more and more we'll stand on our own—and I think we already are. A lot of people are just watching the show for what it is now.

So if you do come back for a season three, what can we expect for Kappo then? You mentioned that up until now he was in danger of becoming a crutch....
I don't know man. Just for superstition I try to not count my chickens before they've hatched, but I know that Kappo's world is falling apart. Any crutch that Ben and Cam had in Kappo is no longer there. The money's going away and it's becoming more about their friendship.

We had a ridiculously fun time making [American Reunion]. From my point of view, the movie is win-win because it was retarded how much fun we had.

The thing about Kappo is, he's sort of a business savant. He's too young to be as successful as he already is, and it's because he's got a great business head on his shoulders. He's becoming a consultant for Ben and Cam, he's a different voice than the people that are around them. The season ends not so great for Kappo but not too tragically. It leaves Kappo in an interesting place.

We create fun cliffhangers on this show. We put characters in tough situations, but we leave open the possibility of success. So we shall see.

At the very least it's safe to say he's going to be on similar financial ground as Ben and Cam.
If not worse. As much money as these Wall St. guys make, the bigger they are the harder they fall. He's got a lot, but he's also got a lot to lose, so there'll definitely be a change, wherever he winds up after the finale.

Keeping with this hypothetical third season, are there any members of the cast that you would like to share more scenes with?
I got to work with Luis Guzmán a little bit and that was fun, he's an incredible energy on set. One of the most unique people in the world to work with. Me and Lake [Bell] had a couple of scenes this year and that was fun, but I always wish I could do more with her.

Like I said, I'm a fan, so just like everyone else I'm eager and excited to see what they have for me. Whatever they've written for me I always have fun with. We have a great core group of actors and I'm excited to work with everybody, but the people I have worked with the least are Lake and Luis. I'd be excited to work with them some more.


Switching gears, what can you tell us about American Reunion?
I can tell you that they got everybody back together. It's crazy, man. I was at the movies last night and I saw our first poster for it and it's wild. It just says "2012" with a pie as the zero. It's crazy to be involved with something that doesn't even have to put its title in the poster.

Everybody from American Pie is back. John Hurwitz and Hayden Schlossberg, who wrote all the Harold & Kumar movies, wrote and directed this one. They got involved just because they're the biggest American Pie fans walking the Earth right now. They got that job because they know the original movie so damn well, and they're just rabid fans.

This new movie is more of a sequel to the first one than a fourth one in the series, if you know what I mean. It really has the feel of the first one. They were really aware that what made that movie special was an honest, vulnerable look at these characters and what they go through. So this is another honest, vulnerable look at those same characters 13 years later.

We had a ridiculously fun time making it. From my point of view, the movie is win-win because it was retarded how much fun we had. We laughed so much, it felt easy, it was a good time and a lot of laughing and camaraderie. I've yet to see the movie put together. Editing and post-production is so important with comedy. I know they have a lot of great stuff to work with but I have no idea what it looks like. I'm excited to see it like everyone else.

The trailer actually dropped a couple of weeks ago, it looks hilarious.
It's weird to understand. We all just made a movie and had a great time doing it, and people responded in a big, big way. What we were trying to do with this one is just tap into that same thing. We weren't trying to chase anything that people wanted to see, like, "Oh, this is what we should or shouldn't do," we were just trying to do what we did with the first one, which was throw everything at the wall and see if it sticks. It'd be nice if it worked out again.

What was it like meeting up with the cast again after the seven or eight years since American Wedding?
We shot Wedding in 2003. At first I think it was a little awkward because it was like this is the moment that everyone's asked us about and it's going to be talked about and here we are. It really didn't take long before we were all hitting each other in the balls and making fart jokes and just reverting to the way we were acting when we were 17 years old.

It was actually really weird how immature we got so quickly. I think the reason we did that is because if there's any place you have a license to act like an immature, adolescent boy, it's on the set of American Pie. So we all just took that and ran with it.

I remember my first night of shooting it was myself, Jason Biggs, Sean William Scott, and Chris Klein. There's a whole sequence where Biggs gets himself into a hairy situation and we gotta get him out of it. It was all the same crap as the other movies. We're all making each other laugh, off-camera we don't stop. It feels silly that you get to act so stupid and get paid for it. But that's what we do, we just act like idiots, embarrass ourselves, and find that inner 14-year-old side of ourselves and let it loose. It's kind of the coolest job in the world.

We mentioned the Dos Equis guy, the 'World's Most Interesting Man,' quite a bit when we were figuring out what Finch had been doing [since American Pie]. He's been on quite the journey and he's lived up to everyone's expectations.

Was there any trepidation about signing on for this film? It has been awhile and there were other franchises that had been dormant and came back this year with sequels that didn't do so well.
There was absolutely a ton of trepidation. The scary thing about it is, you wanna make a good movie. You don't wanna make a movie just because you can. I think the reason we all signed on is because they wrote a solid script. They wouldn't have gotten everyone involved if there wasn't something good there.

The fact of the matter is, it's hard to find good movies, period. This was something solid. Will it work? Will audiences flock to it and react to it in a positive way? There's just no way to know. We all got involved because we believed in it, because it sounded like fun and it was a quality script. I think there's gonna be a lot of talk like, "Oh, they're just doing it to do it, Fast And Furious is doing it, Scream's doing it." We just had a great time. It would've felt weird to not have done it with everyone there. There's something great about the whole experience where no matter what happens with it, we had an amazing time, some really special moments and joyful times.

It's really up to the gods now, you know, with the release date, if anything else comes out that weekend—there are so many factors beyond our control. Just like the success of the first one, like yeah, it was a good movie but there were so many other factors that made it huge. There's so many factors involved with what makes a hit and what doesn't, that's beyond our control. We found a good script, we wanted to be back with everybody, and we did it.

There's definitely a demographic that grew up on the first movie and are really looking forward to this new one.
That excitement is what we had. This is something we didn't need to do five years ago. And we don't really need to do it now, but we were like, "Why not do it?" The fans of the movie are having the same reaction to the idea of it as we were.

What can you tell us about Finch's time between American Wedding and Reunion?
I'm not sure what I can tell you, they told us to be secretive about it. I can say that we mentioned the Dos Equis guy, the "World's Most Interesting Man," quite a bit when we were figuring out what Finch had been doing. He's been on quite the journey and he's lived up to everyone's expectations. People will not be disappointed.

Do you have any other TV or film projects lined up as of now?
Nothing going on right now. I have a small part in Harold & Kumar 3D that just came out a few weeks ago. I just wrapped up a play and this independent film called Petunia. I'm not sure where that stands; you never know what's going to happen with independents. But after working this whole year I'm just taking some chill time for the rest of the year.

Interview by Frazier Tharpe (@The_SummerMan)

Follow @ComplexPopCult

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