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Jay Duplass Was Ready to Play a “F—ing Killer”

Jay Duplass finds the fast-paced Wall Street speak on HBO’s Industry as confusing as you do. “It’s so hard. It’s like speaking another language,” he tells me over Zoom. Yet Duplass handles jargon with aplomb as billionaire hedge fund manager Jesse Bloom, who made it big during COVID. This season, Jesse takes Industry antiheroine Harper Stern (Myha’la Herrold) under his wing, potentially to both of their detriments.

While Duplass understands the ins and outs of his story line, don’t ask him about the financial happenings in other corners of Industry. “I gave up on understanding other story lines as I was reading the scripts,” he admits. “I was just like, ‘I can’t even read this run of pages because I don’t need to be overwhelmed. I’m literally just trying to understand what the hell Myha’la and I are saying to each other tomorrow.’”

As the season comes to a close, those conversations are becoming more fraught. At the end of episode six, Jesse blindsides Harper by ignoring her advice and prioritizing his son’s needs over hers. “The worst indiscretion that she causes, he just blows it off,” says Duplass of Jesse and Harper’s relationship. “And then she doesn’t call him back, and he fucking loses his mind.”

Duplass sat down with VF to chat about dining with billionaires, shooting in Wales, and shrimp boats.

Vanity Fair: You’ve said that you consider yourself a director first, actor second, and writer third. What draws you back to acting? What do you get from acting that you don’t get from your other creative endeavors?

Jay Duplass: Fun. I get free vacations out of it. I get to go to Wales—I don’t know if Wales is a vacation, but you know what I mean? I get to go to different places. I get to hang out with actors. My brother [Mark Duplass] and I grew up playing music—performance is a very vital, immediate creativity where I can’t overthink things, which I do all the time. I’m a classic over-thinker.

My wife always jokes that she likes me a lot better when I’m acting than when I’m writing and directing [laughs]. My brother has this incredible thing that he said one time: “If writing and directing a movie or a TV show is like being a mother and raising a child through fruition and then helping them throughout their lives, being an actor is being the drunk uncle who shows up at Christmas and wins the day with a frickin’ $4 pack of Oreos.”

As Jessie Bloom, you make a pretty obnoxious billionaire seem charismatic and even sympathetic. How important was it for you to make Bloom likable?

That was probably the most intentional part of the creative process with Mick and Conrad. I was on that show Transparent, which was Amazon’s first show. Prior to that, it was a place where I bought my toilet paper. For the first few award shows, the Golden Globes and a couple of Emmys, Jeff Bezos was there with us, and I sat next to Jeff Bezos twice for hours on end. I will tell you that he is a very charming, lovely person in person. He took a lot of interest in me personally; took a lot of interest in my wife, who is a social worker and has nothing to do with the industry.

Of the self-made millionaires and billionaires that I’ve met—and I’ve met a few now—the American ones who come from nothing tend to be very personable and charming. They’re also fucking killers. But when you see them it’s all smiles and charm. My grandfather created a dry cleaner in 1939 in New Orleans, and he did it with his two brothers as immigrants. They were killers and people were scared of them, but also, nobody was more charming at a party. Nobody could make you feel more special when they want to make you feel special.

But it wasn’t fake; it was in them. It had been built in them that you have to go all out if you’re going to survive in this world. And so that’s the energy that I tried to bring to [Jesse], and then subsequently to the relationship with Myha’la’s character.

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