Uber drama: Kyle Chandler on Super Pumped, Bill Gurley and Big Tech

Kyle Chandler has played a lot of notable characters. His latest is a little bit different.

When Kyle Chandler needs people to help him, he puts on the Southern accent he picked up when he moved to Georgia as a child.

It’s something he now weapons when he talks on the phone to, for example, his water company or his energy provider.

“These people that are behind the desks, they’re pretty monotone, and they don’t have a great sense of humor at 11.30 in the morning when they want to go to lunch. But if you use a little bit of an accent and you say, ‘Ma’am, how are you today, I’ve got a horrible problem here’,” he told news.com.au as his intonation switches to that slight Southern drawl.

“Then they’re very open and receptive. I still use [the trick] today.”

Chandler sees those same mild-mannered and unassuming characteristics in Texan Bill Gurley, the real-life venture capitalist he portrays in Super Pumped: The Battle for Ubera drama series which charts the tumultuous behind-the-scenes antics of Uber and its controversial founder Travis Kalanick.

“It’s the fun Bill Gurley has with Travis too,” Chandler explained. “There are more than a few scenes where I can pretend not to know what’s going on because Travis is so smart. He’s the smartest guy in the room all the time.

“That can be used to your advantage, so there’s always this game going on between the two characters and that made it a lot of fun.”

The dynamic between Chandler and Joseph Gordon-Levitt, who plays Kalanick, drives Super pumped‘s high-stakes drama, a series that could’ve easily been endless scenes of men in boardrooms.

Kalanick, as the Super pumped writers present him, may very well be a sociopath while Chandler’s Gurley is the closest thing to a human heart in the frenzied world of the onscreen Uber. The series is at its best when it plays into that conflict between one flawed man and another very flawed man.

Chandler, best known for his roles in Friday Night Lights, Bloodline other Zero Dark Thirtyhad only seen two scripts when he signed up to Super pumpedwhich was created by trillions writers Brian Koppelman and David Levien.

He was four days into quarantine in Canada, prepping for a movie he was about to shoot in Toronto when he was pitched the series, which was based on a book by Mike Isaac. After he read the book, Chandler knew he wanted to be involved, confessing he knew little about Uber’s shenanigans beforehand.

He originally set in motion a meeting with the real life Gurley, who is still a prominent investor in Silicon Valley and had put money in the likes of GrubHub, OpenTable and Zillow.

“After a few days, I changed my mind because I didn’t want to be responsible for any influences that, intentionally or unintentionally, he would present me. I wanted that freedom of my interpretation because it’s not a documentary.”

Chandler met people who knew the real Gurley, he listened to his speeches, delved into his business model and his reputation.

“I knew where I was safe to be in that world, so I wouldn’t disrespect the real person that he is, but still take fair chances on dealing with the moral dilemmas that he must have gone through because no one is an angel and the fellow’s out there to make a buck, to take care of his investors.

“My fun in the role was imagining where those lines were crossed, where those lines were not crossed.

“I have to say I wasn’t presented with too many opportunities that made fearful of breaking this imaginary relationship that I have with the real person but it was always there.

“There’s a burden of you knowing there’s a live person out there who’s going to watch himself be portrayed and he has no say in what’s really going on, and I have to put my faith in it that these words and this situation is within the realm of reality enough that I’m not being duped into besmirching someone.”

Chandler clearly has esteem for Gurley.

“When I see him speak, he has that relaxed quality, the kind of quality that a very intelligent man with success underneath him has. He knows what he’s talking about and therefore he’s wearing jeans with boots and maybe there’s a hole in the sole but he’s saying things that have wisdom and reason.

“I liked him, I liked that character a lot and I protected him the best I could.”

What he has less esteem for is Big Tech. He confessed he didn’t know about Uber’s antics over the years – it’s not a service he uses – but now Chandler is paying a lot more attention.

Companies including Facebook are being hauled before the US Congress while the American government is becoming aggressive about legislation to curb tech’s dominance. And for good reason after multiple revelations of what any reasonable, non-Kool-Aid-drinking person would consider malfeasance.

Series such as Super pumpedas well as recent shows The Dropoutwhich looked at the Theranos scandal and we crashedwhich charted the collapse of WeWork, are part of the diminishing allure of tech billions, exposing Silicon Valley for its greed, hubris and contempt of people.

“Look at what’s going on and I don’t think there’s a person out there that’s not more aware of what’s going on,” he said. “Everyone sees everything through a different prism now, there’s no doubt about it.

“A story like this comes out because a journalist goes in and digs. It does make you question, what are the stories going on that we don’t know right now and how’s that going to affect us later?

“If we don’t pay attention to it, if our curiosity isn’t enough to demand that we know more about these people who are changing our lives and what they’re doing, then do we have the right to complain and accuse later ?

“Are we not responsible just as much for ourselves, to demand questions be asked instead of just running around using their services.”

Super Pumped: The Battle for Uber is on Paramount+ from Friday, May 13

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