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‘Silicon Valley’ Star Zach Woods Talks T.J. Miller’s ‘Sad’ Exit, Jared’s Secret Friends

”There’s definitely opportunity in the change,“ Woods tells TheWrap about the HBO comedy

T.J. Miller stunned most “Silicon Valley” fans with the recent announcement that Season 4 will be his last as the maniacal Erlich Bachman. But Zach Woods, one of Miller’s co-stars, says it wasn’t unexpected.

“We’d talked about it — it wasn’t a great surprise,” Woods told TheWrap. “I love T.J., and I love Erlich — I think that character is super funny. I’m excited to see what he’ll do coming up.”

While Woods says that Miller’s departure is “sad,” the “Office” alum calls the writers “very adaptive” and trusts them to make the adjustment feel seamless.

“I do think there’s definitely opportunity in the change,” says Woods, who plays the gentle and passive Jared. “I’ll miss Erlich, but I also think the comedy is so widely distributed among so many different characters, I’m not worried about the show.”

Woods also tells TheWrap why he never watches the show, why he affectionately refers to himself and his co-stars as “dumb kids” and how he decided on the voice for Jared’s smooth-talking alter ego “Ed Chambers.”

TheWrap: The “Ed Chambers” persona in Sunday’s episode was hilarious. How did that come about?

Zach Woods: In an earlier season, they tried to do a story like that, except the guy’s name was Steve Dasher, but I guess it didn’t make it for time. So they brought it back this season. I think because Jared is such an unflaggingly positive, gentle person, his aggression and more antisocial impulses have to leak out in weird ways, like how he screams in German in his sleep. It makes sense to me psychologically that once he gets this alter ego, it’s an outlet for all this unexpressed bro-iness. In terms of how to play it, I just tried to think of those guys who are really aggressive, and then also really aggressively affectionate — those guys who are like, “I love you! F— you, dude! I love you. I f—ing love you.” All you know is that they’re high-impact — you don’t know if they’re affectionate or hostile.

What’s next for Jared?

As the season progresses, in the last three episodes, Richard [Thomas Middleditch] kind of faces a moral crisis a little bit, and it’s the first time that you really get to see tension between Richard and Jared, which was really fun to play with.

What will happen with Erlich gone? 

They’ve done such a good job of expanding the universe of the show. I think if in the first couple seasons, we lost Erlich, it would have been more of a foundational disruption, and now it’s just like a beloved character who I love and who everyone loves who will be missed, but it doesn’t pull at the fundamental fabric of the show.

It does seem that after these guys have spent all this time in the incubator, this could be a chance for the show to evolve a bit.

I think that’s true! I just think the writers are very adaptive. Even in the first season — it was a very, very, very different situation, but when Chris [Evan Welch, who played Peter Gregory] died, at that point Peter Gregory was such a huge part of the show, and they were able to deal with that in a way that I thought was respectful, and then move forward in a different direction. I think the writers are pros — they know what they’re doing. I do think there’s definitely opportunity in the change. It’s just another opportunity to not fall into schtick or to not fall into established patterns of the show, to keep it surprising.

Was it emotional to film Erlich’s final scenes?

I wasn’t in those scenes, but certainly it’s sad that he won’t be around. We’ll miss him. I think he’s a phenomenally talented guy, and it was really fun shooting the show with him. I wasn’t there for the last few scenes, but it was sad reading them.

What has Jared not gotten to do that you’d still like him to do?

I’ve always thought it would be fun to see Jared’s extracurricular friendships — who Jared’s friends are outside the hacker hostel. In this season, there’s a throwaway line where the auto-lock is on in my car, and I say, “Oh, I’m sorry — I was babysitting for my friend Gloria’s great-grandchildren.” So that means that Jared is friends with a great-grandmother, like that’s his pal. [Laughs.] And so I would love to see those kind of relationships — what is this friendship with Gloria like? Also, any time it’s Jared in extremis, I like it — any time you see him at the limits of his comfort or his safety.

You’ve mentioned that you don’t watch “Silicon Valley.” Why is that?

It makes me feel self-conscious. I’m sure once it’s all done, I’ll go back, and I’ll watch it. But the problem if you watch yourself, is sometimes you’ll see problems that don’t exist, and you’ll start correcting things that aren’t actually a problem. It’s like a way of protecting the performance a little bit because I don’t want to have dysmorphic self-critiques that I then implement that mess up Jared. I trust my own instincts while we’re shooting it — I don’t trust my own eyes viewing it after the fact.

Is it hard to keep a straight face while shooting? Does the cast break a lot? 

Oh, my God — all the time. Inevitably, it’s when you’re in a real crunch — it’s when you’re moving into overtime, because you can just feel the stakes. But it’s funny — sometimes people think because it’s a bunch of comedians on the set that it’s really a witty set, but it’s not. Everyone’s just dumb as can be — we’re all so dumb with each other. It’s just the most primitive stupidity — we’re literally grabbing each other and making weird sounds. It’s just affectionate, dumb kids hanging out together, and it’s so fun — because then the writing is so smart [that] your brain gets massaged by the material, and your ape brain gets massaged by the on-set dynamic. Don’t get me wrong — everyone’s really smart on the show, but it’s not a lot of people standing around making Oscar Wilde-style quips. And that keeps you loose, too.

How does the vibe on the “Silicon Valley” set compare to that of “The Office”?

Just the number of people — “Silicon Valley’s” a relatively small, core cast, whereas “The Office” was enormous. Also, I feel more of a sense of ownership of “Silicon Valley” because I’ve been there from the get-go. But “The Office” was such a great first job. That is what was surprising to me about “The Office” — [with] someone coming into the show in the sixth season, it wouldn’t be unreasonable for people to be a bit standoffish or skeptical, but that wasn’t at all how they were. Everyone was so welcoming and kind and inclusive, and they explained things to me.

Can you see “The Office” having a Netflix-style reboot, and would you want that to happen? 

I don’t know! The show was on for so long that I feel like it covered so much stuff, but if there’s more gas in the tank, definitely.

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