HB: Speaking of sad images, there are these weird, dark snippets that come out about Jared’s backstory. Do you have a coherent idea of his history? Because it sounds horrifying!
ZW: Yeah, in my head Jared is an endlessly resilient frequent sufferer of trauma. He’s had just a true horror show of an early life, and been assaulted and neglected and savaged in more ways than any human being could reasonably expect to come back from. You know those kids’ toys that are an inflatable clown with sand in the bottom, and you punch them, and they come immediately back up with a benign smile? Jared’s like that. What would totally shipwreck another person, for Jared is like ‘Oh, I had kind of a mixed afternoon…’ But I think it’s also psychologically accurate that in his sleep, he’s screaming in German. If you don’t allow your aggression or negative feelings to be expressed in your waking life, then it migrates into your subconscious.
HB: And Jared worked for Gavin Belson (Matt Ross) when the show began, which is so fitting for someone who’s good at withstanding abuse.
ZW: I always think of it like a Pinocchio story, where Jared was a puppet for Gavin Belson and then the blue fairy of Richard Hendricks came and touched him with his wand and made him a real boy. He’s so delighted he now has limbs that actually work, and he’s not just being pulled on strings by Gavin Belson.
If that blue fairy thing isn’t already a fan fiction, it should be.
ZW: Oh, the fanfiction for this show is unbelievable! Have you seen the erotic art? I almost never look at anything online because I’m such a delicate flower, it inevitably hurts my feelings, but someone showed me all these sexy, quote unquote, fan drawings, and there’s one with Richard and Jared—it is my favorite depiction of myself I’ve ever seen. They gave me two extra feet in height, and probably 30 pounds in muscles that I don’t have, and I’m big-spooning Richard Hendricks, and it is such wish fulfillment. I mean, God, I wish I looked like that! And they made Richard smaller, so I look like Michael Phelps and he looks like Christina Ricci, in terms of scale.
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HB: I had no idea Silicon Valley had fan art…
ZW: And I think it’s a lot of sex stuff! Which is amazing to me because, could you think of a less worthy receptacle for sexual energy? I get it if it’s like Game of Thrones or Westworld. I always think it’s hilarious when the stand-ins come in for Silicon Valley, because it’s a complete inversion of the attractiveness quotient that is supposed to exist. When they yell “second team,” and the stand-ins come in, if you look through the lens, it looks like a real show. The stand-ins are so robust and healthy and have great hair and jaws, they’re just classic American corn-fed people, and then we [the cast] come in and it’s just anemia.
HB: But Jared is the only one of the group who actually does have some game, right? “This guy fucks.”
ZW: I love that! Not just because of vanity, although that plays no small part in it—the idea that I would be sexually eligible is very exciting to me. But it hopefully redeems the character from just being a castrated cliché eunuch guy. I think it makes him more interesting, that he has a healthy and enjoyable sex life. It’s also nice because in TV and movies, a lot of times the guys who are romantically successful are just brash assholes, and I suppose maybe that’s true in real life too. But I actually think a guy like Jared, someone who’s a good listener, empathetic, interested in other people, respectful, discreet—I think women would be into that! He’d be a safe, thoughtful, generous partner.
HB: I feel like Jared would attend the women’s march.
ZW: Yes! And not in a performative way. He’s not one of these guys who’s got Gloria Steinem as the background on his phone so he can get laid. I just love when the other guys ask Jared “How often do you have sex?”, he’s like “Well, if you’re asking how many times I’ve been in love, the answer is two. Everything else I won’t talk about. It’s untoward.” It’s just so funny to be like, “I will talk about my heart, but nothing else.”
HB: It’s such an inversion of that modern dating dynamic, where sex is totally casual and uninhibited, but having actual feelings is the taboo.
ZW: This is something I find completely perplexing. The parts of people that are the most lovable is usually the thing they’re least willing to share—the tender, vulnerable side of people that’s endearing and magnetic and lovable, that’s the part they hide. And a lot of people lead with the thing that’s most repellant. It’s strange, and maybe it’s because there’s been so many TV shows and movies where you’re rewarded for being kind of a dickhead. I just like the messaging of Jared’s story, in a weird way.
Season 4 of Silicon Valley begins on HBO this Sunday, April 23.
This interview has been edited and condensed for clarity.