Time is money, and money is time. And when you’re making lots of it, not a minute can be wasted. That is basically the mantra at London’s prestigious banking firm Pierpoint & Co, and it’s one that the newest young hires must learn hard and quick in HBO’s new finance drama, Industry.
Premiering on Sunday, the series from first-time creators Mickey Down and Konrad Kay gives an intense glimpse into the fast-paced world of finance through the lens of a diverse troupe of new recruits as they navigate the cut-throat trading floor and 90-hour workweeks powered by energy drinks and adderrall. It’s like watching a high-strung Battle Royale as they try to maintain their sanity and sobriety in their quest to become the leader in an industry stockpiled with wolves.
The young characters—Harper (Myha’la Herrold), Yasmin (Marisa Abela), Robert (Henry Lawtey), Gus (David Jonsson) and Hari (Nabhaan Rizwan)—are immensely ambitious and driven, albeit conniving and risky. And their succeed-by-any-means-necessary antics will cost them plenty. But at the heart of the group, there is a sense of love and respect for each other.
“Overall the show is about relationships. It’s about these young people relating to each other, relating to their superiors,” series lead Herrold told Newsweek during a recent Zoom call. “It’s about how these people bond through incredibly intense situations.”
Those situations Herrold refers to—whether it be multi-million dollar trading deals, backstabbing seasoned colleagues or office romances—only seem to get darker as the season progresses but they lend to Industry’s underlining theme of community and the human need to rely on our peers. After all, wolves do run in packs.
Industry premieres on HBO on Sunday at 10 p.m. ET.
How does it feel to be breaking out with a show like this, at a time like this?
I’m inexplicably grateful. I feel really privileged and honored that I get to be a part of this show. I know I’m spoiled now, and I know it’s not always true that you get to be a part of a project that you’re deeply passionate about and one where you’ve fostered such a love and respect for your colleagues. I’m just grateful that people finally going to see it. It is strange, though, that this big thing is happening and I’m still going to be in these sweats on this couch eating pizza.
How did you end up with the lead role?
It was a regular audition I got in an email. I looked at it like, “This looks sick. I’ll slap it on tape.” I sent it through. A few days after that I was asked to do an additional couple of scenes, and very soon after, the writers wanted to meet me via Zoom. I spoke with Mickey Down and Konrad Kay [show creators], they gave me notes, and I did a few more tapes. Then I got to meet with the director, Lena Dunham. She was super nice—really easy to get-on with. They flew me to London to meet and test with the other actors. I was there for like 68 hours and flew back home, and maybe two days after that, I got the call. And my birthday came two days after that.
What an awesome birthday gift.
I know right! I turned 23. So I’m kind of the same age as Harper.
What did playing Harper teach you?
I think Harper’s resolve in that success-by-any-means-possible way did empower me to fight for what I needed to do my job. I definitely admire her bravery in that and her willingness to toss herself out there with so many damning secrets. Would I go about [my career] in the way that she’s done? Probably not. Her tactics are not things that I necessary would do, but I have a huge amount of respect for her going out and getting it.
It seems like she’s entered a very conniving world with all these dark secrets. She’s the outcast but she’s still just as manipulative as her colleagues. I don’t know whether to be afraid for her or afraid of her.
What’s really special about this show—and this is a testament to the writing—is that it isn’t asking you to feel any type of way. What it does really elegantly is paint a very detailed, well-rounded picture of what’s behind the curtain of this world and the people in it. Harper especially is someone who on paper you’d think would be all of these things that she’s not. I hope when people are watching, they ask themselves, “Am I supposed to like this girl? I guess I like her but she’s also done some s**t I don’t like.” That’s the complex nature of human beings.
How did you prepare for the role?
I did a basic Google search of some of the finance jargon in the script that I didn’t understand. I, by no stretch of the imagination, know anything about finance. Period. Nothing. I knew it was set in a bank and there was going to be all this finance stuff that we were going to be talking about, but the show is really about relationships. That’s the part of the script that I really connected to. But then I would be like, “Well what is a bearish market?” and I would Google it and not really know what it meant but get it enough to put it into context with the script. I’m certainly not going to try to do my own investments, though. I’m just an actor and I’m ok with that.
So playing in a show about the finance industry didn’t make you want to be more proactive about your own investing future?
OK, so it absolutely did inspire me to be more proactive about my future and money—but not me doing it. What I do know from the show is that investing is mad important. That’s how people keep their money—it’s all in investments. Marisa said she just thought people with a lot of money just had money in one bank account. And I totally was like, “Yea, probably.” But that’s not the case at all.
How was the experience working with Lena?
Getting to work with and know Lena has truly been one of the greatest gifts from the whole process and from working in general. I was so taken aback by her effortless kindness in the way she led and directed a room. The amount of calm strength that she brings is really admirable. I so want to be a woman leader in a room like she is. She spares no expense on artistic integrity. She was really good at communicating with us in a language that we could understand. If she wanted to get something from us she knew how to say it in a way that we could process in our technique and how we like to work. Outside of that she’s so nice and so fun and makes everything feel really personal and relaxed, which was great considering this was the first time I’d ever been on a massive set like that.
What about your cast members?
I think because we were all starting at this entry-level place in the [TV] industry, we all had this collective feeling of, “OK, here we go.” We had this big responsibility. It’s a big show. It’s a big script. We sort of gravitated to each other and the relationships just followed. For six months I was basically isolated with all these people doing this intense show. All of us have a love and respect for the show. We bonded over that.
Being the only young cast member from a different country, I was desperate for friends. So when I got there, I was like, “We’re going to be friends. I hope you know. I’m telling you now. We will get there, but I need you to be friends with me.” But they took me in, and they taught me all the slang and helped me through my culture shock. My castmates are some of my favorite people in the world. I’m obsessed with them. I love them, and I can’t wait to be with them again. I miss them so bad. I hate that they’re all in the U.K. and I have to be over here without them.
Is there something you learned from Lena and everyone you worked with throughout filming that you’re going to take with you to future sets?
There’s this expectation for a lead before you even get there—especially being young, being a woman, and being black. It was my goal to make sure people understood and agreed that I was a likable and fun, exciting person to be around. I just wanted to set that precedent for myself, especially being new and around a culture that I didn’t understand. There were definitely some moments when I was afraid to ask for what I needed in fear of being seen like I was asking for too much. What I learned, what Lena taught me, what the process taught me and what all those kind people told me was that you have to ask for what you need, if you’re going to do your job to the best of your ability. Ask for what you need so that you can do the job you were hired to do. You have to be firm when you’re protecting your art, your craft, your integrity as an artist. I know that’s harder for women—add being black on top of that, then add being in a different country—but I think that’s the most important thing for maintaining my artistic integrity. That’s the thing I’m always going to take with me because it definitely makes a difference in a person’s work.
What do you hope audiences take from the show overall?
First and foremost, I hope when people watch it they enjoy it. I hope they are excited and perplexed and intrigued by this world and these people. I hope it inspires conversations and that it’s particularly accurate to what people in finance experience. I hope that we’ve done them justice in that way and that some of the young people in finance—the people of color, the women—feel a kinship to the young characters, as well as anyone else who has been in that transitional period of going to school and now having to work. What do those young 20-somethings who are now thrust into this adult working environment feel? I hope that they can watch this and say, “Yea I was there, I remember feeling like that 10 years ago.”