By Vanessa Rae
Bryan Greenberg plays the ultimate hustler trying to make it big on How to Make It in America, debuting its second season this Sunday, October 2nd. We caught up with Bryan and asked him what it’s like to portray a struggling fashion designer in the streets of NYC, about his personal style and amongst other things, how he makes it in America.
Vanessa Rae: The second season of How to Make It in America is premiering on HBO Sunday. How excited are you about the second season?
Bryan Greenberg: I’m so excited because we got off the air for a little bit and you know a lot of people didn’t know if we were coming back. We didn’t even know if we were coming back. HBO kind of had to try to figure out their programming and where we fit, and we had to figure out if we were staying with the show. We did and I’m really proud of the work we all did this year, including the creators, the producers, the cast and the crew. I think we had a good show last year, but I really think we have a great show this year.
Vanessa: The show is kind of like an American dream but with a twist. You have a great career, obviously, but how do you relate to the hustle and the struggle that the characters are going through and how do you relate that to your life and your career?
Bryan: I’m working which is nice, but I’m never completely satisfied. I still have a lot of things that I haven’t done yet, that I want to achieve. I’m still hungry, very hungry. I can definitely relate to having a dream and having all odds against you. You just have to believe in yourself and fight for it no matter what happens. A lot of the show is, two steps backwards and one step forward. That’s the trajectory that we’re on; and I think that it’s very true. Life for me
hasn’t been an overnight success, I’ve been working as an actor for over ten years now, but every step is challenging.
Vanessa: In the show your character, Ben, is hustling to make his fashion dreams come true, but he’s working at Barneys. Do you actually shop at Barneys?
Bryan: Yes, I like Barneys. Although, I’m not a big shopper, to tell you the truth. Barneys has great stuff. Now that I’m starting to understand fashion, I understand how, Barneys is in the world of fashion and for designers to get their stuff in Barneys is like the ultimate. I just went there for a cocktail event for a new designer. I’m certainly in this world now, never expected to be in it, but I’m in it. I find it sort of interesting.
Vanessa: Speaking of that world, you’ve been in New York for a while: for college and work. How has being in New York affected you, and how have you grown from the experience professionally and personally? How has your style changed since you did that cookie crisps commercial back in high school?
Bryan: Ohhhhh! You did a little research! New York is probably was like the biggest change of my life. It’s like this huge force, magnetic force that came through the Midwest and gravitated to me and I had this huge love affair with it. It completely changed me in every way; fashion, acting. I truly believe that it is the best city in the world. And I’m always coming and going and always coming back to it. Fashion, you know when you’re out in the street in New York it’s not like L.A. when you’re in your car or anywhere else, it’s really unique; you’re living on top of each other in the city. People express their fashion sense a little more boldly. Also because of the weather you can wear layers. I think fashion is a little more progressive in New York, because everybody is living with each other. I remember when I came back to St. Louis when I was living in New York and everyone was asking me “What is that? What are you wearing?” Oh, don’t worry you’ll be wearing this next year.
Vanessa: I’m reading a biography about Alfred Hitchcock and he was thinking if he could look like anyone and engage in his fashion fantasy he’ll look like Carry Grant, and wear a rain coat from a movie he did called The 39 Steps with a beige cashmere cardigan casually around his shoulders. Do you have a style icon?
Bryan: I don’t know, I never thought of that. My style is pretty settled, I like good stuff but it’s not my whole thing in life, it’s effortless. I don’t want it to look like I’m trying too hard, but you can tell I own it and if it’s good. I like a lot timeless things and vintage stuff. There’s a part of me that wishes I can dress like Liam Gallagher from Oasis, but I can’t get away with that, but I love these guys that are out there doing it. I do admire people’s style, like Kid Cudi, but I can’t walk around with Nike Air Mag from back to the future, “aw man, those are awesome” I wish I could wear them.
Vanessa: How would you say your style differs from Ben’s, your character in How to Make It in America.
Bryan: Well, it sort of became very similar to tell you the truth. Ben taught me how to dress. I didn’t know anything about it until Ben came into my life. Now, I know all these designers, I know who Rag and Bone is. Now I get it, I get that A.P.C. jeans look better than baggy Levi’s. I’m starting to definitely take a lot of notes. I work with the creator of How to Make it in America and also with the costume designer, Kurt and Bart.
Vanessa: You Mentioned Kid Cudi. You guys had performed together a couple of years ago at the Highland Ball room. Do you guys have plans for more collaborations, musically?
Bryan: No plans, I think he did a song on my record that I put out this year and it was a lot of fun, but you know no plans on making a group or anything: that song was just for fun. Music for me is just fun, so I don’t have any plans.
Vanessa: I heard that this season he worked with a coach and really prepared for his character and that role has sort of been expanded in the second season. How funny is he going to be in this season? What can we expect from him?
Bryan: He’s really funny, last season he was this character that sort of popped up at every party and had the hottest chicks around, but we really didn’t know what he did. This season, his character has developed and we actually have a very interesting story line, but I don’t want to give it away.
Vanessa: Any cameos, I heard Pharell makes an appearance?
Bryan: We got Gina Gershon, Pusha T and Andre Royo. The show is about people struggling in the fashion world. It’s really not about self-casting. We have a lot of new faces but they’re the best actors for the job and for the world. We aren’t trying to throw a celebrity cameo in and just do that, it has to make sense, it has to be on the story and make sense to the world that we’re creating. It’s organic and not a random famous person who’ll just get a lot of ratings. We believe in our own story. Hopefully the fans will respond to that, and I think they will. The thing I can say about the show this year is that, it has its own confidence, its own swagger to it. It’s something that it’s invigorating to watch.
Vanessa: Do you feel like your music and acting feed off each other? Does your music allow you to express something that you can’t express through acting? Or is it just something enjoyable?
A lot of times, I like to think about things. I let the story and the character roam around in my head sometimes. It comes out in music. That song “You Can Run” that I did with Kid Cudi is completely inspired by How to make it in America. In the first season his girlfriend Rachel left him because he wasn’t successful. So, he’s like I’m going to get you back and become successful. That idea was blowing in my head and it came out in that song. It’s not word for word about Ben but he inspired it. That helped me get into that world by music. I was on a show before called October Road, I played a character whose mother passed away at 16. It caused a lot of trauma in his life and he was dealing with it ten years later, with the memories of his mother. I wrote this song and they put it on the show. I actually wrote it for the show. It was about when people pass away in your life, when you forget the memory of them or you forget what they looked like. I had this idea that all he could remember was this melody that she sang. He couldn’t remember the words, it was just like humming it. That’s all
he could remember from his mom. It was something beautiful and sad at the same time.
Vanessa: In the show, you are often pining after your ex-girlfriend, Rachel, played by Lake Bell, but in real life I’ve heard you have away with the ladies. I know earlier you said you don’t put that much effort into your personal appearance. Is that the same when you know that women are going to be around, honestly?
Bryan: Not really, I think that girls that are going to like me, are going to like me for who I am, not for how I dress. But if I’m going on a date I’ll dress up more than I usually would instead of dressing to watch a basketball game with the guys.
Vanessa: Who’s your favorite basketball team?
Bryan: The Knicks.
Vanessa: What do you think of Lake Bell’s Maxim cover?
Bryan: I think she’s hot! I think we’re lucky to have her on the show. I’m glad that we have more sex on the show this season.
Vanessa: I saw on your Twitter that you went to see Barack Obama speak and I know you were in that music video with Will.I.Am. How do you think he as a president has the opportunity to offer hope to struggling Americans?
Bryan: Well, he has he’s work cut out for him. It’s not going to be easy, the one thing I learned from watching him speak is, I think everybody got drunk off change happening overnight. Washington doesn’t work like that. I think the big misconception is that just because he wants it to be done doesn’t mean it’s going to get done right away. It has to go through congress, I think people need to remember that and it’s not just the lack of want or his vision. Unfortunately we’re in this bipolarizing time, republicans and democrats. I wish there was a third party system to even the playing field. I believe in what Obama is trying to do, more than anybody else running. He needs more time. I think his plan is harder for Republicans to go against. It’s a solid plan, and if we roll back these Bush tax cuts (which are ridiculous) it can make a difference. By the way, I’m one of the people who it’s going to affect, and I’m okay paying more if it can help. That’s my little take on it. It’s smart that he puts it on their plate, like “it’s my plan, deal with it”.
Vanessa: A lot of Americans are working hard or hustling, and your character is constantly picking himself up disappointment after disappointment. How do you feel like the show gives lessons to people about perseverance?
Bryan: The creator had this idea. When I read the pilot I had no idea what this was. He had a real vision. He embodies the show and what it’s really about. He had this idea and he got it into the hands of the right people who can make a difference. When you get certain people to vouch for you, the doors keep opening. Kudos to him, the first season had all these other people surrounding him and they kind of doubted him because this was his first project. He really wasn’t ready to take ownership of it. Now with season 2, he figured out what works. We still had the dream and the vision we all believed in and HBO gave us the opportunity to come back and really step it up. I have so much respect for what he came out with this season. It’s really solid, well thought out, intelligent and entertaining. It’s funnier, sexier, it’s cohesive. There’s a similar trajectory. Ben has more confidence; he knows who he is and what he wants to do.
Vanessa: He is a hard working American, trying to make it?
Bryan: Trying and enjoying the journey.
Vanessa: A great message to take from anyone who’s watching.
Bryan: I hope people like it.