"Silicon Valley" Actress Amanda Crew Is More Than Just One of the Boys
If you think Silicon Valley—HBO’s comedy series about a group of brainy friends trying to make it big in the tech world—is just a show for men, Amanda Crew is here to tell you otherwise.
As Monica, a character known more for her savvy investment skills than her romantic life, Crew is bringing a fresh female perspective to the male-dominated industry (and show!). And the powerful takeaway for women watching is not lost on her. “She could easily just be a sex symbol or love interest as her role,” Crew says. “[Monica] shows girls that your work isn’t just your looks and that’s not all you can offer to a man.”
Ahead, we talk with Crew about standing out in the ultimate boys’ club, the successful women who inspire her, and, of course, redecorating her home.
John P. Johnson/HBO
MYDOMAINE: We’re so excited for the return of Silicon Valley. What can we expect from this new season?
AMANDA CREW: As always, we can’t say much, but from what you can see on the poster and trailer, someone new is coming in to navigate the company, to be the head. And that brings its own set of challenges. And it’s that continuation of navigating through this crazy industry, and the ups and downs. One minute you’re hot, and the next minute you’re not.
MD: Where do we find Monica?
AC: She is continuing to guide the boys. She is always with that battle of believing in these guys and wanting to get them to success, but then also trying to please her boss and do what’s best for her company, which don’t always go hand-in-hand. So it’s that moral dilemma of who she should be pushing for: her company or their company. And that’s what I love about her. Most people would be like, “This is my company, it’s number one,” but she so genuinely believes in these guys and wants them to succeed, so she kind of puts herself into a corner.
MD: What are some of the challenges you face working on such a male-dominated show?
AC: I never felt any challenges of being on set and it being male dominant. I never felt like I was being shoved to the side or anything like that. I would say the biggest challenge of it is this weird thing when the critics say, “There’s not enough women,” and it always gets directed at me as if I’m the spokeswoman for women in the tech world. I really think that the show itself is a satire, and what I like about it is that it doesn’t ignore the question, Where are the women? It makes fun of the fact that in Silicon Valley, there are not that many women. Like when Gavin Belson enters the boardroom, he says, “Good afternoon, gentleman and lady.” That is the show doing its job of pointing out that, yes, it is very imbalanced. It’s a comedy, not a show that’s trying to change the industry; it’s not a PSA for getting more women in tech.
For me, it’s been such a learning experience and continues to be a learning experience of how to work in comedy. I’m working with some of the most talented comedians and improv guys, like Mike [Judge] and Alex. Their writing is incredible, and their tone is so specific; so unique. I’m always watching the guys trying different things, and being inspired by that. And they’re always so supportive of me. Working on the show, I feel like I’ve grown a lot, as far as my comedy chops go.
John P. Fleenor/HBO
MD: After three seasons of working on Silicon Valley, what aspects of the tech industry surprised you most?
AC: What I like so much about the tech industry is how ever-changing it is. I was a fan of Shark Tank before Silicon Valley, and I became really obsessed with that whole side of the industry, investing and startups. It’s always amazing to me how some products are amazing, and I think to myself, “Oh my god, I would buy that,” and then the sharks don’t invest in it because there’s only so much shelf space and [the product] would get eaten alive. It’s always so interesting to me to see what things [the sharks] invest in and their reasoning behind it. I’m very addicted to that.
MD: You were once quoted saying that as an actress, your goal is to have an effect on people. What are you hoping audiences (or women specifically) pick up from Monica?
AC: Even myself, playing Monica, I feel inspired by her because she is the woman I wish I was. She is so put-together and career-driven; she’s articulate, and she’s intelligent. But she also still has her heart, and she’s not this kind of cutthroat businesswoman. I think that’s what gets her into trouble with Pied Piper sometimes, but I admire that she believes in them so much and wants them to succeed. But sometimes what they need to do to succeed is not in her best interest, and it leaves her kind of conflicted and makes her an even better businesswoman. That’s what I take from her. I hope that’s what people take from watching her, especially young girls who are thinking about getting into any form of business, seeing this powerful businesswoman.
And the other thing I really have to credit Mike and Al with, too, is the way they’ve written Monica. She could easily just be a sex symbol or love interest as her role. There’s never been anything about her going on a date or struggling with her love life; it’s all about her fighting for these guys and navigating through this industry, and that also shows girls that your work isn’t just your looks and that’s not all you can offer to a man.
MD: In the episode where they were forcing your character to become "best friends" with the new female co-worker, do you think that there's truth in the comedy?
AC: Oh, you mean, “You two are girls, you should be friends?” That’s so funny because it was so dead-on. If that situation were real—a group of guys and two girls, and there’s one new girl coming in—100% they’ll say, “Oh, you guys will be best friends because you’re both girls.” But that’s not the qualifying descriptor to be friends.
MD: Do you look to any real-life women working in the industry when building your character? Who are they and what did you take away?
AC: There are so many women that I look up to just in general. Obviously Sheryl Sandberg in the tech world and Marissa Mayer of Yahoo—those are women I’ve always thought are badass—but also Sophia Amoruso and Amanda de Cadenet of The Conversation. I follow [Amanda] on every social media platform and think she is a powerhouse and making moves. Lena Dunham, too. There are so many women who are doing their part in whatever industry they’re in, in whatever way they can. It’s really cool; it’s showing a younger generation, “You can be this.” And that’s why I love the whole blogger movement, because I feel like that’s such a female-dominated industry that they basically created themselves. And these girls are getting campaign deals, and if they’re really into makeup, they’re creating a makeup line. It’s awesome. They’ve created their own industry.
Roneil Chavez for Zooey; Granny Girls Amber Boycki (left) and Amanda Crew.
MD: Speaking of blogs, you founded Granny Girls with your childhood friend Amber Boycki. Do you have any advice for someone who wants to start a blog or business with a friend?
AC: Get ready to work. You have to remember that. I think people romanticize it because they see bloggers’ Instagram feeds and think, “Oh, I want to quit my job and make food that’s pretty and take photos of it and then take a cute picture of my outfit.” And while, yes, that is part of it, it’s so minimal compared to all the planning, scheduling, and strategizing. I think you just have to really want it and love it.
MD: Are you a Pinterest fanatic? What are some of the accounts you love to follow?
AC: I don’t follow any accounts. I’m always looking for something specific, so I’m just searching. That’s a whole other world of people who are Pinterest famous.
MD: You mentioned you are currently redecorating your house. How is that going?
AC: My boyfriend and I moved in together three years ago, but we didn’t buy any new furniture. We brought in both of our own furniture and it’s such a mixture of bachelor and shabby chic—which does not go together at all. So, it’s time to redecorate, but we realized we have very different tastes and strong opinions. Homepolish has been really awesome. It basically sets you up with an interior designer, and if you live in the same city they come to your house; or you can do it online, and [send] pictures of your place and what you’re looking for. Basically, I got hooked up with a designer who came over. She made moodboards for us, which was helpful, because my boyfriend was so against getting a rug. I’ve never met anyone more against getting a rug in my entire life, but when she made the moodboard he was able to see it all together. He looked at the photo and said, “Oh, that looks cool, I like it.” It’s helpful for guys too, and even myself, because you see it all come together. That’s where I get stuck, I think I have a pretty good sense of my design taste, but I was having a hard time putting it all together. We’re not done yet, but it’s been a really fun process so far. The thing I’m most excited about now is the wall art!
Opening Image: Ian Maddox for Sharp
Silicon Valley premieres Sunday, April 24, at 10 p.m. Eastern on HBO.
Which female TV characters inspire you? Sound off in the comments below.