HBO’s ‘How To Make It In America’ Seeks The American Dream

by | February 13, 2010 at 9:50 AM | Interviews

Victor Rasuk and Bryan Greenberg in How to Make it in America (Eric Liebowitz/HBO)

Victor Rasuk and Bryan Greenberg in How to Make it in America (Eric Liebowitz/HBO)

If the adventures of Vincent Chase and his ‘Entourage’ posse are feeling a little stale of late, executive producer Mark Wahlberg has some brand new dreamers to introduce to you in his latest HBO series, ‘How to Make It in America.’ (HBO Sunday 10pm).

Set in the real streets of New York City, ‘How to…’ charts the ascension of young entrepreneurs Ben Epstein (Bryan Greenberg) and Cam Calderon (Victor Rasuk) as they use their street smarts and connections to break into the world of urban fashion. Trying to launch a high-end jeans company, the duo must overcome their lack of funds, industry bias and even their own insecurities in their pursuit of fame and fortune.

Series creator and writer Ian Edelman and Greenberg (‘October Road,’ ‘Bride Wars’) talked with Fancast about the real dreams behind their series and what to expect from season one.

Ian, how much of this is based on your true life experiences in New York City?

Ian Edelman: A huge portion of it. I think it’s my experiences; it’s my partner’s experiences. You know we all bring to the table. We pour our heart and souls into it.  And you know certainly the cast of characters has been influenced by a lot of people I’ve met.

Your show title seems very inclusive for all young people seeking out their American Dream. Does the show reflect that?

Edelman: Yeah, I think the show’s bigger than fashion.  Certainly Ben and Cam are fashion for now, but Luis Guzman, his character Rene, has aspirations in the world of the energy drink. Rachel (Lake Bell) is a designer who represents small business and the creative working class.  And so I think you take a step back to look at the bigger American pastiche.

Watch the pilot episode before it premieres below:

Ian, obviously Bryan and Victor are very important to the core of this story. How long did it take for you to find them?

Edelman: I’ll say that once we found out that the pilot was going to be shot, I started making lists with actors for the various roles. I mean this sincerely that Bryan and Victor were at the top of the list for us.  I had known Bryan from ‘Prime.’ When Bryan and Victor first met each other, because I was there, we could not have been happier. It was like instant chemistry. Victor’s from the lower east side. Bryan has spent so much time living there, maybe half his life, so we were so lucky and so fortunate that it was like they were instant friends. You felt their back story – it was like a chemical thing.

Bryan, how quickly did you bond to your character?

Bryan Greenberg: I read it, and I really responded to it.  I just wanted to sit down and talk to [Ian] and see where he was planning on going with it.  I just thought he had this really fresh approach to portray New York in a way that I’ve never seen portrayed on a television show or in a film before, like a real New York, not like some ‘Sex in the City,’ girls drinking martinis and wearing fancy dresses. This is the New York that I lived in, downtown, people on the hustle. Me and my friends, we don’t go past Broadway or above 14th Street. We stay downtown.

Bryan, Ben is a complicated guy who wears his emotions on his sleeves sometimes. Was he hard to keep balanced?

Greenberg: He’s a very complicated guy, and he’s got a lot of demons, a lot of insecurities.  Ian and I work really closely to not make Ben a bummer. The biggest challenge was to find a fine line where yes, he’s kind of down on himself, yes things are tough, but at the same time, he’s got that fire inside of him that he’s going to fight and achieve his dream no matter what. Hopefully the audience will take away that it’s a positive upward swing, instead of an introverted, downer lead character.  That was the challenge, and I think we’ve gotten a good middle ground. I think. I hope. (Laughs)

You guys cast musician Kid Cudi in the series before he had his breakthrough in the music industry. What does he bring to the show?

Edelman: We’re excited for Kid Cudi just to emerge as a great actor on the show, and you know have his acting speak for itself. I had sort of heard Kid Cudi on like some mix tape. He had just started to be putting music out there when they introduced him to me at a bar. I was like, ‘Hey, man, you should come in and read for this thing!’ I think was like a little bit suspect, and was like who is this dude talking to me at the bar? (Laughs) But he showed up, and was just this like raw talent.

Will the show have an ‘Entourage’ style arc, where Ben and Cam will hit that fairytale status of success?

Greenberg: No, the show is called ‘How to Make it in America.’ It’s not ‘Making It.’  And it’s not ‘Made It.’ It’s all about these guys and their struggle, and while they’re going for their dreams, life happens. They prove their friendship to each other, they run from the cops. They fall in love with girls, and fall out of love. They party and have good times.  It’s about the journey, and it’s really not about the destination.

If the show succeeds, will Ben and Cam achieve their dreams in season two?

Edelman: It’s a street level show. It’s the beginning of a journey, so I think we want to take our time and enjoy the process.  It’s about baby steps. It’s a non-stop hustle and it’s a non-stop grind [where] you take a step forward, and then it’s three steps backwards. They’re kind of figuring out. I think the fun of it is…every man or woman starting a business; it’s just about mining the stories from that and keeping it real.