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Thomas Middleditch of ‘Silicon Valley’ on Doing Verizon Ads and Flying His Own Plane

Mr. Middleditch discussed identifying with Richard, his evolution as an actor and his new plane. These are edited excerpts from the conversation.

Richard Hendricks’s defining attribute may be his gracelessness. Do you share any of that with him?

Hey, man, I’m smooth. I’m cool as a cucumber, baby.

He wouldn’t even know to make that joke.

It’s not as if I’ve never been awkward myself. I’m a big gamer, so I’ve had access to that type of personality. I used to go to these LAN parties, that was before high-speed internet. The only way you could get lag-free gaming was to haul these huge computers to people’s houses. There was always some guy who was potentially on the spectrum, who knew everything about troubleshooting all the network issues and was crucial to the whole thing.

Do you think Richard has grown over the four seasons of the show?

He’s got a pretty strong moral compass. That’s the thing that gets challenged in the fourth season. And if I have it my way — which I don’t, really — that’ll be the thing that we deal with a lot in Season 5. How “Breaking Bad” is Richard going to get? Near the end of the season that’s coming up, a few things come into play, where he might have to do the unthinkable.

Did you ever expect that playing him would also land you a Verizon endorsement deal?

Ten, 15 years ago, if you were on a successful TV show or in a movie, and you did a commercial, everyone would go, “Oh, his career’s over.” But now, it’s the opposite. Studios look at it and go, this major corporation put a ton of money behind this person — he must be marketable. You get your sellout money and a nod from studios.

You’re also a longtime member of the Improvised Shakespeare Company. Does that mean you’re well versed in the works of the Bard?

Short answer, no. I was always the bad student. When we started doing this group, the director got this Shakespeare professor to give us reading homework, and then we’d come back to this class and have a private analysis. I was reading the CliffsNotes. And then just sitting in class, falling asleep, being like, “Uh-huh, uh-huh.” You watch the show, and you’re like, “These guys know what they’re doing — this guy’s an idiot.”

When did you get turned onto acting?

In eighth grade, when I was just the school weirdo, my drama teacher put me in a play, and we came up with a few comedy bits. And that very first reaction, for an audience of supportive middle schoolers, I put my head out and pretended I got scared by the audience, and ducked back in. They all went: “Yeah! That’s great!” I remember that very specific moment of hiding behind that curtain, being like, whoa, what is this?

What do you do in your free time?

For a while, I was getting involved in current events, and it bummed me out too much. I still play video games. I got my pilot’s license last year, because I finally had the means to do it.

What kind of craft do you fly? Am I using the right lingo?

What’s my bird? [laughs] I got one of the more fuel-efficient, general-aviation airplanes out there. It’s called the Diamond DA40. It only widens the gap between the Hollywood elite and the common man, really, talking about what plane I’ve got.

Can you text and fly?

You can. Honestly, when everything is on autopilot, there’s nothing else to do. My writing partner and I took our script and got work done while we were flying.

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