T.J. Miller Critiques the 'Silicon Valley' Finale... as Erlich Bachman (Exclusive)

The former star of the HBO series shares his thoughts on the comedy's final episode — first as himself and then as his character Erlich Bachman.
Courtesy of HBO
T.J. Miller on HBO's 'Silicon Valley,' which he left after the fourth season.

T.J. Miller has a few thoughts he'd like to share about the Silicon Valley finale. 

The actor, who rose to fame playing Erlich Bachman on the HBO comedy, may have left the show unceremoniously after its fourth season, but that doesn't mean he hasn't kept up with the series. Following Silicon Valley's Sunday night finale, The Hollywood Reporter reached out to Miller to see what he thought about how showrunner Mike Judge and Alec Berg wrapped up the sixth and finale season.

Miller, in his usual unpredictable fashion, decided to answer questions first as himself and then as his former character, Erlich. Despite previously blasting the "one note" show and the "fucking idiots" behind it in a THR interview days after his 2017 exit, a very earnest Miller claims to have come around to the series, calling the finale "perfect" — though "Erlich" has his own reflections about the show and his exit from it: "Did I want to be rich? Maybe at some point — but being iconic was more important."

T.J. MILLER, AS T.J. MILLER:

Have you been watching Silicon Valley since you left the show?

Not regularly — only because I’ve been touring. I saw the first few episodes where Jin Yang tried to use a pig to impersonate my body and claim ownership of the hacker hostel, which I thought was very funny. Actually in the week before you reached out for the interview, I had been bingeing a couple episodes here and there and just finished the final season.

As a viewer, what do you think of it?

It was so interesting and quite fun to be able to watch the show as an audience member and not part of the making of it. I was able to just enjoy everyone’s performance without being taken out of it by either remembering other takes from the day or what was going on in our lives the day we shot this or that, and also not having to turn into an analyst of my performance and study what was chosen and not, and then try to return to just watching it. So it was fun to laugh at these guys who are so funny and so great and had developed these characters for so many years. I also immensely enjoyed what I had hoped — that Amanda Crew and Jin Yang and all of the characters had more room to grow and more screen time they deserved with my departure. The show really flourished and developed into something very different from when I was on it, so as always, I am a fan.

Did you watch the finale on Sunday? If so, what did you think of it?

I watched it Monday afternoon with [his wife] Kate and it was perfect. Not at all what I expected, but perfect. Again, so interesting to not know what was going to happen the entire season. I better appreciated the way the series was always a roller coaster — when you are on the show you know how it’s all going to end before it even airs. That’s why I would come to table reads and do a cold read, not reading the script beforehand. I am better off the cuff, it would allow me to see jokes for the first time, and so my laughter would be genuine and a surprise — very helpful in a room full of executives and people who already knew the jokes. So, like that experience but times 10, I was able to be surprised at every turn and especially by the finale! So fun. To see them fail and succeed and fail and then fail at failing and then fail — it was perfect. Richard (Thomas Middleditch) ended up working for Gavin Belson (Matt Ross) on ‘Tethics,’ Dinesh (Kumail Nanjiani) and Gilfoyle (Martin Starr) co-founding a company, Jared (Zach Woods) working with the elderly, Big Head (Josh Brener) the president of Stanford, Monica (Amanda Crew) working for the NSA, Gabe (Aristotle Athiras) being so, so funny — again. Perfect.

How did you feel about how they wrapped up your character Erlich Bachman’s storyline with Jian-Yang assuming Erlich’s identity in Tibet and it being open-ended what actually happened to Erlich?

I thought it was great — especially because I’m such a Jimmy O. Yang fan.

Judge and Berg told the Hollywood Reporter that they initially made it more clear that Jian-Yang killed Erlich, but then decided to pull back a bit and keep it mysterious. What do you think of the original idea?

As far as killing me off literally in the narrative, I’m sure it would have been funny, and at that point they could do whatever they wanted — but I’m pleased they left a little mystery, that’s more fun for the audience. 

In your mind, what happened to Erlich?

Opium den, and then self-actualization, reincarnation (metaphorically) and appreciation of life.

Did you miss being a part of the show in the end? Have you kept in touch with anyone involved?

I was texting with Mike Judge and Clay Tarver over Thanksgiving just congratulating them and also thanking them for making me a part of the show, and for all I had learned from them and all the laughs we made and shared. I feel so lucky because I was friends with those core guys from the get-go (and a couple from long before the show), and I also got to work with people I didn’t know, like Amanda Crew and Jimmy O. Yang — who has become both a friend and a cultural ambassador for me to all things Chinese. Yes. I have eaten chicken feet and dim sum with him.

Any regrets about exiting the series? 

Nope. Just gratitude for the time I had on it. And for being a part of one of the greatest comedy series of my lifetime. It doesn’t get much better than that.

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T.J. MILLER, AS ERLICH BACHMAN:

As a viewer, what do you think of the Silicon Valley finale?

Dogs on scooters and skateboards? Spoiler alert — my favorite part! No, but I loved it. I liked it better when I was on it, but I’m a bit of a self-absorbed blowhard, and occasionally I was on enough opium that I realized I wasn’t watching it, I was watching two turtles fight to the death for the purpose of gambling. Ah, Tibet.

Did you watch the finale on Sunday? If so, what did you think of it?

I did. I traded 11 hens and 20,000 Renminbi to buy a pirated version of it. Like most bootlegs, the man filming it kept getting up to go to the bathroom. Which was frustrating because he was filming it in his living room off his television with HBO Now (an excellent streaming app by the way). I loved it. I shed a tear, and then another, and then I teared a shed apart.

How did you feel about how they wrapped up your character Erlich Bachman’s storyline with Jian-Yang assuming Erlich’s identity in Tibet and it being open-ended what actually happened to Erlich?

I thought it strange to have me be one of the final story points. It had been so long since they made me out to be a pig; but I guess like any icon, a pig must still be reckoned with. I have learned that many times in my competitive Chinese pig fighting contests.

Mike Judge and Alec Berg told The Hollywood Reporter that they initially made it more clear that Jian-Yang killed Erlich, but then decided to pull back a bit and keep it mysterious. What do you think of the original idea?

“Well, Jin Yang cannot kill what he is, and I cannot escape what I am — Jin Yang would have no more killed me than I would have denied that he was my only friend. And the world is cruel enough to leave you when you have no friends.” — Dzogchen (minus the Jin Yang stuff)

Plus I have seen and endured things they can never imagine. I ate a tarantula on a dare. And survived.

In your mind, what happened to Erlich? 

I will tell you exactly. As, I am him.

I exited Silicon Valley — It was time to move to the next stage of my life; competitive Chinese pig fighting. Now, as the series correctly asserted after I left, I have the strength and mental acumen of a pig, I took this on the road and became one of the most successful competitive pig fighters in the nation (and Scandinavia) and did it with aplomb (pronounced "Ay-Plomb"). Now, would I be the pig fighter I am today without my experience with Pied Piper in Silicon Valley? No. Of course not. And for that I am forever grateful. As they say in Tibet — “yah thank you thanks and here have some fighting turtles.” After selling my identity to Jinithan, I moved with my lovely bride K-ting to Hong Kong — there we spend our days, her creating art out of feathers, me pig fighting internationally — but both of us steeped in the philosophy that no matter the obstacle, Love & Truth will overcome it.

So now? Jin Yang is Erlich. And Erlich is Jin Yang — a successful competitive Chinese pig fighter based out of Hong Kong.

Did you miss being a part of the show in the end? Have you kept in touch with anyone involved?

Did I want to be rich? Maybe at some point — but being iconic was more important.

And as the Tibetan philosopher says: “He who sees the true nature of man as a ‘friend’ sees how valuable the matter of the soul is, and the mate of that soul. Anger towards you is not valuable, it devalues.” — Dzogchen (paraphrased)