Zach Woods Gives Jared a Mother’s Love
How did you land the role of Jared? What was the audition process?
They sent me the script, and immediately the tone of it was so different than other pilots. Sometimes you read pilots and, understandably, they’re doing such a frantic tap dance for approval. I get why — it's such an incredibly competitive market. But Silicon Valley was so confidently written. [Creator] Mike Judge…I remember watching Office Space [which Judge also wrote] and thinking, Oh, comedy can be like this! I didn’t realize. He changed the way I thought about what comedy was. I actually auditioned for Thomas Middleditch’s part [the role of Richard], and I auditioned for TJ Miller’s part [the role of Erlich], and then I auditioned for my part of Jared. I did each one of those parts one time, and then they cast me. I didn’t test or anything, which is nice.
If you were telling a friend about Jared, how would you describe him?
Jared is a guy in his 20s who has the interior life of a mother in her 60s. [Laughs.] He’s very maternal toward the Pied Piper guys, and he’s someone who is happy to give every last fiber of effort and love. He requires so little, almost upsettingly little, in return. He’ll spend forever preparing a feast for everyone and then just eat the dirty crumbs that are leftover and just be so happy with that.
When is Jared going to have a fit of selfishness?
It’s not happening this season. I’ve played a lot of characters who are creeps or weirdos, with a deep darkness underneath the surface. With Jared, at least in this season, it really checks out that he’s self-sacrificing for the company. He loves the guys. He’s like, “Well, don’t mind me, I just want everyone else to have a good time.”
To get yourself into the role, did you give any thought to Jared’s backstory? What is it?
I have thought about it. In my mind, Jared had an enormously traumatic childhood. That hasn’t made it into the show, so who knows if that’ll actually turn out to be the case. He’s un-self pityingly overcome ludicrous suffering as a kid. But who knows if that will actually be a part of the show. For me, it’s helpful to have a whole background in my head.
All the other Pied Piper guys live in the Hacker Hostel, but where does Jared live? Any idea?
I picture him living in a condo. He spends most night at the Hacker Hostel working, but I don’t think anyone has ever given him a bed there. So I think he goes back to his condo building, a place where only mostly older people live. I feel like he’s got a bunch of elderly neighbors, and he lives in a spotless, modest place. Because he worked at Hooli, he must have made a fair amount of money, but I can’t imagine him spending any of it on anything, except for things like toothbrushes and starch and stuff like that. He’d think it was terribly embarrassing to ever buy anything that was for his own enjoyment. Maybe at Christmastime he’d get himself an herbal tea that costs like $4, and even that, on his way home he’d turn his car around because he’d return it. [Laughs.] “I haven’t really earned the Celestial Seasonings.”
How would you describe Jared’s relationship with Erlich?
[Laughs.] Erlich does not like him. Erlich thinks Jared is bulls*hit and a threat and is really gunning for him. But Jared is just Teflon about it. Erlich is constantly insulting him, and Jared just absorbs it, and it in no way diminishes his admiration for Erlich. Jared admires Erlich from afar, and Erlich assaults Jared up close, and neither thing gets in the way of the other. If you’re like Jared — the kind of guy who’s not going to correct someone when they mess up your first name — then you’re not going to stop someone when they go after you. The way people treat Jared doesn’t affect Jared’s opinion of them.
Jared also has an interesting relationship with Richard, especially in this last episode, “Fiduciary Duties,” where the two switched pants near the end. Did you guys really switch pants?
I don’t remember. I don’t think so because my weird, cell-phone-tower body could not accommodate Thomas’ pants. The pants were drenched. They were very cold. They only went down to my calves. They felt like these weird, cold, wet lederhosen or something. I love this episode because you get to see Richard really come undone, which you haven’t seen in the past, and then I love that Jared gets to be so tender to him and nurse him back to health.
Jared has a big storyline coming up that viewers will likely love. Without spoiling it, can you tease that for fans out there?
Let’s just say: Jared encounters a piece of technology that amazes and enthralls him — and then horrifies him. It takes him to a dark place. I love man versus machine stuff. As someone who frequently feels flummoxed by technology, it’s fun to play.
You have a background in improv. How much do you improv on Silicon Valley?
The writers certainly write the scripts, but there’s a nice collaborative feeling on it. They wrote all of it before we started acting, but it feels like, in later drafts, you’d see things coming through that you added to the characters. It’d be this thing where it’d be your take on the character based on the writers take on the character, and it incorporates. It feels like a game of catch in some ways.
You’re well-known for your role as Gabe on The Office. Have you thought much about how Gabe and Jared are alike or different?
They’re alike in the sense that people often mistreat them. The difference is there — and it will become increasingly clear over time. Gabe was a dark character who was motivated by a desire to ascend by any means necessary, and he was always failing at that because he lacked the basic emotional intelligence. He's a weird, creepy dude. In Gabe’s dream, he’d be the boss of a company and every night he’d go home to a sexual banquet of perverse pleasures. With Jared, his dream is to be a small footnote in the back of the story of the greatest company ever made. Gabe would be motivated by some sort of Machiavellian ambition. Jared has a love of the game and a love of the guy, which propels him.