T.J. Miller Discusses Silicon Valley Exit and ‘Contrarian’ Relationship with Thomas Middleditch

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T.J. Miller on Silicon Valley. Photo: HBO

Bachmanity insanity no more: Silicon Valley said good-bye to Erlich Bachman, the show’s resident crude eccentric played by T.J. Miller, in last night’s episode. Vulture broke the news that Miller wouldn’t return to the show back in May, and in the time since, Miller has promised that his exit would be definitive. During Sunday’s season finale, Gavin Belson (Matt Ross) gives the boss of an opium den in Tibet a fistful of cash to keep Bachman there for five years. (Not exactly what we expected, but sure — that’s one way to write him out.)

Now, in an interview with The Hollywood Reporter, Miller has explained the circumstances of his surprising departure. When HBO offered him a reduced role — only three or five episodes a season — he said he preferred a clean break because of his busy schedule. “It felt like a breakup with HBO,” Miller said. “The final phone call was them going like, ‘Well, I don’t think this is the end of Erlich. I still want to see him on television,’ and I was like, ‘I know but I think this is for the best.’

Bachman, a fan favorite, was becoming less integral to the show, Miller said, which is what made him funny: “I actually think the writing with Erlich gets funnier and funnier the more inessential and irrelevant he becomes. He’s an annoyance.” Miller said his co-stars took the news well, but as for parting ways with Thomas Middleditch and executive producer Alec Berg, he had this to say:

I think that HBO and Alec Berg, specifically, kind of thought — and I guess apparently Thomas Middleditch — I guess they thought, “Alright, maybe this is the end of the character. But like everything in the show, we’ll sort of solve this and then it’s back to normal.” And they just didn’t imagine that I would be in a position of being like, “I think that’s it.” … I don’t know how smart [Alec] is. He went to Harvard, and we all know those kids are f—ing idiots. That Crimson trash. Those comedy writers in Hollywood are f—ing Harvard graduates and that’s why they’re smug as a bug … I think that in television you usually have one element that is very challenging, very frustrating. It’s an obstacle, right? So you’re doing the best work that you can do. Alec was that for me, and I think I was that for Alec. And a very good article was written that says that Erlich in the show is just this constant annoyance to Richard … And I think in some ways, that is analogous to real life. I think in some ways Thomas Middleditch is … we have a contrarian relationship, like a big brother–little brother relationship. And this is also an opportunity for me to be like, “Let me just step off, dude. Like, just do your f—ing thing. You’re amazing.” I did a two-man improv show with him for a decade. He’s amazing.

Miller said he never watched Silicon Valley, but might tune in for one character. “If I have a terrible day, I’ll probably tune in to see what Zach Woods said on an episode because you know he’s a winner.”

T.J. Miller: My Silicon Valley Exit ‘Felt Like a Breakup’