It’s awkward when a break up becomes public by necessity. The situation runs the gamut; it includes sharing a social circle with a recent ex and couching your break up in terms that don’t shed a negative light on either of you. Or, on the other end, there’s explaining to hundreds of thousands why you left a job working with presumable friends while Jimmy Kimmel tries to usher you into reversing the decision. The typical approach is to stay vague and polite, accompanying a dramatic announcement with enough sugary reasoning to make the decision almost seems arbitrary and casual. Press releases filled with quotes containing the words “mutual” and “friendly” are pretty standard.
But that’s not how T.J. Miller conducts himself or who he’s ever been. No, he isn’t a loud-mouth or careless; he’s just notoriously veered away from any common celebrity behavior- he is his own person, perhaps more than anyone else in the business. Whether he’s wearing Emoji-smattered suits to red carpet affairs or burbling water on himself repeatedly on early morning appearances, T.J. goes his own way. So when it’s up to T.J. Miller to share bad news with a pressing and eager audience, the reasons don’t always stay in the safe territory of broad strokes. This week, Miller is back in the news after he confessed to political reasons for departing the show (see #1 below). Regardless of whether T.J. is playing with the press, or whether they’re all the real reasons, the result is that T.J. has stayed in the entertainment headlines for weeks, and fans can’t get enough of hearing him talk about this big move.
Without further ado, here’s a list of all the reasons T.J. Miller’s given for why he left “Silicon Valley” in order of most to least smacking of bullshit.
In an interview on Larry King Now, Miller said “It was the right time. HBO and I kind of decided that this was a time that the character could leave. We’d written it in a place where there was an organic departure”.
Well, that restates the facts without providing any insights into why it’s even happening. Yeah, an organic departure for a major beloved character? Sounds causeless.
In an interview with the Hollywood Reporter, Miller shared, “Yeah, nobody likes him. He doesn’t have any friends. His only friend is Jian Yang, and Jian Yang f—ing hates him. I mean, he calls him a ‘fat loser.’ You don’t say that to a friend. Erlich is just the person nobody wants. There’s no reason for him to be there.”
That’s a blunt thing to say about someone, except that the person in question is fictional and plenty of shows have characters whose sole purpose is to be ragged on by every other cast member. Characters don’t get excluded from major, successful shows because the character itself is unlikeable; it usually has a lot more to do with the real people filming and acting in the show.
Miller told Variety that producers wanted to reduce his role in the upcoming season, “Because they had to move the production schedule around. That’s how heavy-duty my schedule is. Even the most successful comedy next to Veep on HBO was like this thing that I had to — I’m doing stand-up and I come back and I didn’t sleep at all. I was incredibly busy. People joke about it, but I’m the hardest-working man in show business, maybe.”
The uncomfortable way to say it would be that T.J. got too “big” for “Silicon Valley” and that film took precedence over television as it has a way of doing. However, that’s not an entirely fair way to gauge a situation that perhaps has less to do with money and more with creative fulfillment. Plus, there are only twenty-four hours in a day (so you have to prioritize what’s most fulfilling if you have the great problem of too much work) and as Miller explained, “I guess some people are like, ‘Ah, I guess he’s got too much going on, he’s too big for the show.’ What are you talking about? It’s like the best show on television, in my opinion, and I’m going and doing The Emoji Movie”.
Let’s go back to the premise that T.J. Miller may say things not all celebrities would open up to sharing. For instance, of “Silicon Valley” executive producer Alec Berg, he said, “The only thing that you can talk down about the show and about Alec Berg, the showrunner for the first couple years, is that it’s cyclical. If they fail, then they succeed, and then if they succeed, they fail. It’s over and over. That’s an old type of sitcom. That’s Seinfeld, where Alec Berg used to work. It’s recycling, it’s network… And so I thought, what if suddenly the whole thing changed? Where’s the guy at the house? He’s gone.”
In retaliation, “We could finally have something really definitive in the show. We can finally have someone make a left turn or have something happen to them where it really is the end”
While we’re talking Berg, Miller also said about leaving, “I didn’t talk to Alec because I don’t like Alec, but I think Mike Judge and [co-executive producer] Clay Tarver are brilliant” and, a personal favorite, “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.”
While talking to Larry King, Miller said ”My wife, Kate, has always quoted David Bowie as saying that somebody is at their best creatively when they’re in the water and their toes are barely touching the bottom. I think that’s a really cute quote,” he said. “It is good to be in an unstable and unsafe place.”
From a lot of other artists, this would be far higher up on the list of most-bullshity, but with Miller who’s also said, “It’s not about money, it’s not about any of that stuff. It’s certainly not about fame, which is destructing my relationships with my family” and a lot of other let’s-see-what-happens, life-doesn’t-matter stuff, this rings true.
Miller told Hollywood Reporter, “I was sick of telling my wife in earnest, “I’m going to slow down the schedule. We’ll have more time to spend in New York.”
T.J. Miller married famous underground artist Kate in 2015 (in a gorgeous ceremony at the Denver Botanical Garden-which used to be a cemetery, but that’s not what this list is about) and it’s pretty fair to not want to be away from your wife, who also has a thriving and packed worked schedule, for 4.5 months out of the year.
He echoed similar sentiments to Jimmy Kimmel on JKL!
It’s finally getting to the nitty gossipy gritty. Some prime quotes include– “I think that HBO and Alec Berg, specifically, kind of thought — and I guess apparently Thomas Middleditch — I guess they thought, ‘All right, 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.’” (refer to reason 7), “Thomas Middleditch has always wanted to be a star. He’s always wanted to be the star of the show.” (not necessarily a negative statement) and, “But I’m not sitting here saying, ‘I need more lines. I’m not funny enough.’ I’m not Thomas Middleditch.”
That’s the good stuff.
From an outside source/a very much inside source that just isn’t T.J. Miller– Mike Judge said, “It was kind of becoming clear that he didn’t want to do the show anymore, but we wanted to leave it so that there would be an opportunity to come back at some point…When the season was done, we talked to T.J. and said, ‘Do you want to come back for part of it?’ And he just wanted to move on.”
Miller’s version of that is more akin to a game of chicken that the producers didn’t expect him to push so far- “They came to me and said, ‘Look, we’re not going to pick up your contingency because we want to offer you doing five episodes out of the 10, or three episodes.’ And then I said, ‘Oh perfect, I had been wanting to ask if you guys would be open to me leaving the show.’ And then they suddenly said, ‘Wait, no, what? You can do whatever. What? What do you mean?’ And that was so good of them. They said, ‘We just wanted you to have more time to do all of the things you’re doing.’ And I said, ‘Well, the best way for me to be involved in the show is by no longer being on it.'”
In an interview with our own Jeffrey Gurian, T.J. Miller told The Interrobang that “unlike women and wine, television does not get better with age, and if you’re just a TV actor that is a concern.” But the the clinching factor to his decision to leave was actually his dad. He said his father told him it was time because his character was becoming a one note performance. It’s not that we don’t believe these were factors, we just don’t believe this was the “real” reason.
Yeah, when even a parent tells you in all their unconditional support that they’d rather see you do something else… it’s time to move on.
The most legitimate reason for T.J. Miller to make a dramatic break from a 5-year role on a respected HBO comedy is the anxiety and desperation of a certainty that the world itself is ending. As far as messy, awkward reasons go, Miller leaped into the worst of them-and it included not just politics, but also money. As he told Huffington Post, “I asked, ‘How much money did you donate, you Hollywood elites, how much did you donate to Hillary Clinton’s campaign?’ And everybody in the cast said nothing. They hadn’t given a dollar,” he said. “What did they think was going to happen? How had they not joined a fight that they had such strong opinions about?” He noted that despite “not even really being a fan of hers,” he donated the maximum amount permitted to her campaign.
What’s more, T.J. Miller views returning to his roots in stand up as a way to undermine the current administration more aggressively. He explained how the 2016 election shifted his artistic mission in a huge way, saying “I’m not a political comedian. I had a social mission that now has a political obstacle. The social mission was to help people start to release their death anxiety and understand that in a post-religious, post-meaning society, it’s OK. Death is not something to be feared… I had all these mission statements within a sociological imperative. Now, I have this political obstacle that we need to discuss, in part because the progressives, who far outnumber the regressives in this country, voted against him.”
Miller linked that ideological shift back to all of his projects, even “The Emoji Movie”- “So the movie has a lot to say to women, and how they have limitless potential, and one of the characters literally breaks through a glass ceiling… we’re trying to say that the best you is not the you that you’re doing for everyone else, but the authentic you. And don’t hide that, be OK with expressing it.”
A civic duty to save the world does come before any personal animosity, and it’s a compelling reason to strike out again as an individual.
When it comes down to it, the most convincing thing Miller’s said, not because it’s gossipy or juicy, but because it’s an issue many people with power and an eager audience are grappling with is, “My position became more powerful when I left Silicon Valley. I had more control over the content, the time, the schedule, the everything… People forget we are running up against something that could destroy the human species, and that doesn’t have anything to do with MY opinion. That is Noam Chomsky’s opinion. If you guys don’t put everything into it, if Vanity Fair doesn’t put everything into it, if everybody doesn’t pitch in … We lost. So now we have to win. And you’re (Huffington Post) one of the few outlets that really has power, because people look towards you…Take that seriously.”