If anyone can give Hollywood stars a run for their money when it comes to inflated egos, it’s the entrepreneurs and billionaires of the tech industry.
No one knows this better than Amanda Crew, star of HBO’s startup satire “Silicon Valley”. Crew puts her money where her mouth is in the show and in real life.
Following her movie debut in “Final Destination 3”, the Canadian actor appeared in films including “Knife Fight“, “Race“, and the recent comedy “Table 19” with Anna Kendrick. Since 2014, she’s starred in “Silicon Valley” as Monica, a venture capitalist with a soft spot for the nerds in charge of the show’s fictional startup, Pied Piper. Season 3 of “Silicon Valley” is on DVD now, and season 4 begins on 23 April.
Speaking on the phone from her home in Los Angeles, Crew said the new season will continue to reflect the tech world — and not just as a target of satire. In season 4, she said, “you think you’re going one direction and all of a sudden it takes a windy, twisty turn. That’s very true to the tech world: it’s a lot of pivoting.”
And what’s next for Monica? “All I can hint at is there’s some changes for Monica,” Crew said. “Some for Pied Piper, some separate.”
Up until now, we haven’t learned much about the characters separate from their work. For many in Silicon Valley — both in the show and in the real world — their work is their life. Meanwhile, extra details or backstory can come as a surprise to an actor as a TV show progresses. Crew described how movie scripts give you the whole story, whereas TV shows require actors to hone their performance without knowing where their story is going.
“Sometimes I’ll get an episode where something is revealed about a character that is completely opposite of the backstory that I created,” she said. “(TV) keeps you on your toes.”
We know little about Monica except that she has a brother named David, she owns a beige sweater for delivering bad news — and she has at least one bad habit.
“I love where the smoking thing came in for Monica,” Crew laughed. “She comes across as this kind of type-A perfect, goal-oriented, together woman… and then she’s got this dirty secret.”
We do know Monica isn’t afraid to do the right thing, especially when it comes to Pied Piper and head nerd Richard, played by Thomas Middleditch.
“[Monica] leads with her heart, which is admirable, but in the world of venture capital that’s the last thing you want to be doing,” Crew said. “You want to be leading with your bank account and your brain and not your heart, not doing the right thing.”
Fortunately, Crew believes there are some people in the real Silicon Valley who have a moral compass like Monica.
“There can always be more, but they do absolutely exist. I’ve met some of them and they are so super-driven and goal-oriented and achieving really big things,” she said.
That includes many driven, successful women. After starring in the show, Crew heard first hand from women in the industry that faced in real life the situations shown for comic effect in the show. When she read about an initiative supporting female entrepreneurs and tech workers called SheEO, she offered to get involved.
“I really admire the women in either tech or in venture capital,” Crew explained. “They’re holding their own in a room full of men. It’s a feat to rise to the top in that world to begin with, but especially if you’re a woman.”
Crew was impressed enough with the women she’s met through SheEO to invest in a couple of companies. Perhaps one day Crew could take the step from actor to entrepreneur, like Gwyneth Paltrow or Jessica Alba, who built non-toxic household product supplier The Honest Company to a valuation of $1.7billion.
“I’ve always had such a girl crush on Jessica Alba!” said Crew. “I’m at a much lower level than her, but I’m already starting to see opportunities. I have no idea what that looks like for me, but when I look at her and what she’s doing with the Honest company I’m like, I want to do that.”
Which leads us to the big question. Where are the biggest egos: Hollywood or Silicon Valley?
“Actors are really egotistical… we’re insane,” said Crew as she weighed the question. “But there’s a whole other level of ego in Silicon Valley because everyone’s trying to be the next Steve Jobs. It’s not just about what they’ve created but it’s about their whole kind of being. Everyone is trying to be this kind of idol or mogul, this icon.”
Crew was quick to clarify she’s not talking about those doing valuable work likein developing countries.
“I hope I didn’t shit-talk people in Silicon Valley,” she laughed. “I did shit-talk actors too!”
Tech Culture: From film and television to social media and games, here’s your place for the lighter side of tech.
Solving for XX: The technology industry seeks to overcome outdated ideas about “women in tech.”