“Shooting anything physical is so funny,” Thomas Middleditch tells ET about filming Silicon Valley season four, which premieres Sunday, April 23 on HBO.
As Richard Hendricks, the creator of a data compression start-up, the actor often had a thankless role to play in the first couple of seasons. While the center of the series, Richard is a constant worrier and very much a straight man to louder characters, such as Erlich Bachman (T.J. Miller), an arrogant entrepreneur and partner in Richard's company, and the increasingly zany and subversive Donald "Jared" Dunn (Zach Woods).
But as season three proved with a first-ever Emmy nomination for Middleditch (and season four will expand upon), Richard can be very funny -- especially when the actor gets to put his physical comedy chops on display. Last season, the character was very much at the center of the laughs, thanks to on-screen meltdowns, his extreme neurotic behavior and confrontations with terribly funny consequences.
One such moment was when Richard smashes his face into a desk during an argument with Jack Barker (Stephen Tobolowsky). “That is all very much in my wheelhouse,” Middleditch revealed to ET last summer, adding that anyone who has worked with him in the improv scene knows him as a “real physical comedian.”
So, when it came to filming that particular moment, the actor insisted that he did not need a stunt guy. “I was like, ‘No. I’ve been doing this my whole life. I can handle a face plant,’” he recalled telling the director, Charlie McDowell. “I was just like, ‘Make sure that shot, that you capture it as live.’ Because I find physical comedy sometimes gets not as funny the more you edit around it.”
And from the looks of season four, Richard’s slapstick evolution continues. In the trailer, the character is seen shoving his foot through a closet door. While the moment called for stunt guys and safety equipment, Middleditch was game to do the physical stunt. But he did admit to needing some assistance this time around: “They’re, like, thinning out the door so I can kick it because I’m not very strong,” he reveals with a laugh.
And that’s what is so funny to him. While all MIddleditch was doing was putting a foot through a door, “it’s the amount of production that goes into something like that is kind of hilarious,” he says.
But the physical comedy is not all fans can look forward to when Silicon Valley returns. The new season will shake things up as Richard decides to quit his company and focus on creating a new internet. “For him, it’s not big enough, it’s not grandiose enough,” Middleditch says of Richard’s aspirations that go beyond algorithms and video chat technology. “For Richard, at least, this is such a Hail Mary attempt at greatness.”
His goal will lead him down some darker paths and unexpected scenarios, which will finally include sex on the series. While not giving away much, Middleditch just teases that Silicon Valley has “embraced the full HBO nature of the show.”
--Additional reporting by Leanne Aguilera