Myha’la Herrold of Industry on HBO talks to Awards Daily about being able to spout banking concepts with confidence and her relationships within the bank.
HBO’s Industry keeps its actors on its toes in almost every way possible. The actors are not only reacting to intense situations, like deaths at the office, but they’re also having to pretend they know the sophisticated concepts they’re spouting with the swagger of a financial expert.
“I will not claim that I know finance or any of that,” says Myha’la Herrold, who plays Harper, with a laugh. “There was definitely a period when I tried desperately to whole-heartedly and intimately understand the finance industry and I just understood that that was not going to happen. I just made sure in each moment that I knew, conceptually, what I was talking about—Is it a good thing or a bad thing?—and go from there.”
And it works. In fact, Herrold and her character both practice the idea of faking it until you make it.
“Harper’s confidence comes from survival. Harper comes in, like most of the grads, deeply insecure, but her coping mechanism and strategy to gain hierarchy in the bank and to secure her position is to show up like she knows what she’s talking about. She understands the best and only way to do that is to show people what they want to make herself as desirable as possible. She puts on this massive veil of overconfidence which definitely backfires sometimes.”
What Separates Harper from the Other Grads
Unlike the other grads who come from prestigious schools and more affluent backgrounds and connections, most of what Harper offers Pierpoint is her talent. The bank sees that she’s smart and exhibiting a confidence the other grads lack—which makes for a great financier.
“What Harper has to offer, which I think a lot of the other grads don’t, is an intuition and tenacity and a creativity and imagination in finance that a lot of the other students don’t have.”
After all, she’s one of the few grads to get a chance to pitch ideas. But she comes with a mysterious background, since she didn’t graduate from college. Herrold says it’s not what she’s running from but what she’s running to that’s especially interesting.
“She’s running to a type of self-actualization. What draws all of these young grads, particularly Harper, to this environment is this fantasy of meritocracy. If you come to this place, you can find success by getting the most amount of money. The crossing from A to B is not as linear as they imagine it might be. She’s running toward success or some kind of security because she didn’t have those things life before she got there.”
Locked in with Eric
During Season 1, Harper’s boss Eric (Ken Leung) locks her in a room during an intense conversation, something her colleague Daria (Freya Mavor) points out as inappropriate. Does Harper realize it’s unprofessional in the moment?
“In that moment, there was way too much going on and obviously she was so deeply triggered and dealing with her own anxiety. In the front of her mind, she’s thinking, how do I stake my claim and move forward in this environment? She understands that all of the games being played are a means to an end. She thinks she has to play this game. Whatever choices she makes are just going to be so she can move up and safe and continue to work because that means success.”
And in the end, Harper ends up throwing Daria under the bus in order to stay in her position, which Herrold doesn’t believe her character regrets.
“Harper doesn’t have the emotional capacity or time to think about regretting decisions because things move so quickly. All of the things she does, successful or otherwise, are for her own personal gain. In that moment, she chose what she believed was going to believe the greatest step for her in the bank moving forward. Does she probably have some unresolved issues for doing that? Probably. But she’s most certainly not consciously thinking about it because she’s focused on herself.”
Roomies with Yasmin
Harper ends up rooming with rich-princess-type Yasmin (Marisa Abela), and the two both coalesce and clash.
“If it weren’t for Pierpoint, their paths would never cross,” says Herrold, “and if they had, they’d never get along. The largest reason I think they’re drawn to each other is that although they are completely different personalities and deal with the stress of the environment differently, they both have the same set of stressors. They’re both young women in a male-dominated environment dealing with money and having to overcome a lot of the stereotypes and presumptions made on them when they get there. They both admire and resent each other with the way they respectively handle the situations.”
One such situation that they handle toward the end of the season is the inappropriate behavior from their male bosses: Harper obviously ends up sabotaging another colleague’s career to keep her job, while Yasmin stays quiet in order to keep hers.
“From person to person we all deal with stress and trauma in different ways, and there’s no wrong way to deal with that. It just is. And that’s what I love about Mickey and Konrad and the whole script and show. We’re not trying to say anything about what it all means or the way you should feel about it; sometimes this is how it is.”
Megan McLachlan is a freelance writer that lives in Pittsburgh, PA. Her work has appeared in Buzzfeed, Cosmopolitan, The Cut, Paste, the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, Thrillist, and The Washington Post. Follow her on Twitter at @heydudemeg.