Actor Thomas Middleditch was bullied for being a “little weird and shy” growing up in Nelson, B.C., in Canada where he admits to playing copious video games like Dungeons & Dragons. Ironically, he now plays video games as shy but gifted programmer Richard Hendricks in the HBO comedy hit Silicon Valley. Middleditch stars as one of a crew of social misfits who create a startup company, which stands to potentially make millions, in the series co-created by Mike Judge (creator of Beavis and Butt-head, King of the Hill). It’s a sort of tech-world Entourage. In person, Middleditch displays a great sense of self-deprecating humor and talks to us about geeks, e-gadgets and getting outside his wheelhouse in his personal life.

Actor Thomas Middleditch

Actor Thomas Middleditch

Q—As with many young people who are shy or different, how did you deal with being bullied?

A—I have a fairly pragmatic view on all those bullies that came before, because everybody makes you who you are now. I probably wouldn’t be this way if I hadn’t been bullied. Not that I loved it, but it taught me a few things. I don’t hate anyone or want to rub their faces in it. OK, maybe it would be a little fun: ‘How do you like me now?’ My hometown, Nelson, is a bit of an artsy town yet, as small as it is, it has a theatre community. I got into performing fairly young and went from, like, a shy kid to a total weirdo.


Q—So have you now reached a peak in nerdiness?

A—I guess as an adult, I’m now cool. But it’s only by proxy (LOL) and only because all the nerdy stuff got really cool. You could say I’m at the peak of nerdiness now that I’m an adult and don’t have to answer to anyone. I’ve got a fair amount of gadgets, yes. By the way, my mother still phones with ‘tech’ questions like, ‘How the heck do I find this email attachment?’


Q—Silicon Valley has been renewed for a third season, so why do you think your series, which is essentially about possibly brilliant but sometimes socially inept young people, resonates with viewers?

A—If the series had come out 15 years ago, it might have seemed a little too ‘inside baseball’ and people might not have related. Now, not only are more people into technology and paying attention . . . others are making billions off it. That stuff gets headlines. By those virtues alone, people can relate to it. Then again I know people who don’t even work in the tech industry who say, ‘I work in a regular office and this is just like our place.’ And also the characters have relationships and issues so that even if you’re not into tech, you can laugh along.


Q—In the first season of Silicon Valley, your startup company, Pied Piper, got its first taste of potential success with offers of financing but something happened on the way to easy street in the second season, could you explain?

A—We saw our compression algorithm as a game-changer, in Silicon Valley terminology. But that turned the company into a real thing, with all the challenges attendant on that. Now what are you going to do with it, how are you going to get to the next level? And we have to solve these real world problems in an ever-mounting pressure cooker.


Q—How close are you to your character Richard in the show, and what do you do as a hobby?

A—I think everybody brings something of yourself into a role. But a lot of people who are fans of the show and spend some time with me, say I’m nothing like my character. I’m probably weirder! I was panic stricken and stuff and it took me a lot to come out my shell in my younger years. As an actor, you get so busy you can’t breathe, then you get time, and rather than just play more videogames, I wanted to try to do something a little more productive, not in the nerd wheelhouse range. So now I make furniture, very amateur and I’m still learning. But I’ve built a few cool things, like this great table from an old door from a merchant ship from World War II.


Ashley Jude Collie

Ashley Jude Collie

Ashley Jude Collie is a journalist/scriptwriter and Huffington Post blogger, whose upcoming young adult novel Fire Horse deals with issues of intolerance, science gone mad, and what it is to be human.