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HBO's 'Silicon Valley' is finally adding women -- and sex

Stars from the hit comedy tell CNET what's in store for their characters in the upcoming season -- and what they really think about tech.


Stars of HBO's "Silicon Valley" (from left) Thomas Middleditch, Zach Woods and Amanda Crew share thoughts on the upcoming fourth season.

Shara Tibken/CNET

Trying to get a straight answer from the cast of HBO's "Silicon Valley" is as tough as figuring out what the heck middle-out compression actually is.

(For the record, it's the tech created by Pied Piper, the startup at the center of the popular comedy show.)

Whether they're joking about the apps they'd like to make -- like an "Uber for dads" -- or the relationships between their characters in the new season, the stars can't stop cracking each other up.

Season 4 debuts Sunday. HBO threw the season's premiere party last week at Lucasfilm headquarters in San Francisco's Presidio neighborhood, where (real) Silicon Valley elite like Yelp CEO Jeremy Stoppelman and Slack CEO Stewart Butterfield mingled amid the backdrop of Darth Vader suits and Yoda fountains.

CNET sat down with Amanda Crew (who plays Monica), Thomas Middleditch (Richard Hendricks), Kumail Nanjiani (Dinesh), Martin Starr (Gilfoyle) and Zach Woods (Jared Dunn) to talk about season 4, President Donald Trump and the real tech world. (Check out our videos from those interviews.)

Here's what else we learned:

On season 4

Season 4 starts with the newly independent company figuring out how to recover from its past scandal of buying fake users -- and how its employees can refrain from killing each other.

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"Up until now, it feels like the conflict is coming from the outside in," Middleditch said. "The premise of this season is the conflict is sort of coming from within."

More women -- finally

One of the biggest criticisms of "Silicon Valley" is similar to a complaint about the real Silicon Valley: There aren't many women. Creator and director Mike Judge said that's changing this season. He didn't say which women will join the cast but said there will be three female coders, including one big role that lasts throughout the season.

"She has like three lines," Nanjiani joked.

"And then at the end of the scene, she takes her top off," Middleditch added. (Hardy har har.)

Crew, the only regular female cast member, said she's felt pressure to represent all women in the real Silicon Valley.

"I remember when we did the first screening [when the series began] at SXSW," Crew said. "That was the very first question, something about representing women in tech. It was like the worst day of my life. ... It was all this pressure and all this focus."

But Crew said she's now been able to meet female entrepreneurs and has even invested in two female-run companies.

(Read CNET's full interview with Crew here.)

And there's sex

"There's sex, and it's not with horses this time," Judge said. That's a reference to the second episode of season 3, when Jack Barker (played by Stephen Tobolowsky) supervises the breeding of his thoroughbred horse.

"We really had to talk Mike into having sex with not horses," Nanjiani said. "We were like, 'We should have sex in the show.' And Mike was like, 'But the horses are so expensive.' We said, We could have people sex,' and Mike was like, 'Nobody wants to see that.'"

Judge said there's also "a little bit of violence" in the season.

Robots won't be replacing the 'Silicon' cast

"I just got one of those robot vacuum cleaners," Middleditch said. "You can download an app and then you can sort of set a schedule and you can name your robot vacuum cleaner. I named it Chris Harrison, the host of 'The Bachelor.' It moves around there, and it gets about halfway through and gets clogged up on something. And I have to go empty him. He's a trooper. ... It will be awhile before robots replace us."

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"Don't do that," Woods pleaded. "Please. Don't replace actors. At least not for 65 years."

At one point, an AI-generated script was put together for "Silicon Valley," Judge said. "It was just nothing. It was incomprehensible."

"They've been saying that about animation for 30 years, that you won't need [people]," he added. "When I was doing 'Beavis and Butthead,' they said you would draw Butthead once and never have to draw him again. It was a trainwreck. They had a Cray supercomputer back then. I think it's at least 60 years away."

They're torn on social media

Some cast members like Nanjiani and Middleditch are very active on social media, but they're also skeptical of it.

Middleditch: "I think the last, well 365 days, has made us all wonder, just made us question, are you sure you want all that? Collection of our personal information? Aggregating data? Like, 'Hey I saw you clicked on that video of weird public shaming of someone online. Do you want 40 more videos of that? Great! This will be for you.' Just the random stuff suggested to me on YouTube because I watched something for 10 seconds. And went, 'ah, yeah, life is terrible.' And then, 'Have more, my friend!'"

Nanjiani: "When the internet first came out and there was social media, I thought the great promise of the internet and social media was going to be you'd be able to talk to people you never have access to and people who think differently from you. But what we're finding is what's happening is people are just finding other people who agree with them and reinforce their niche beliefs. How do we fix that?"

Starr: "I still do the same things I did before. I feel like I've opened up a little bit more to Twitter, but it really is just a mechanism for echoing. I don't feel like I'm learning anything from Twitter. ... The value is still in human interaction. I don't see Twitter evolving to the point where communication is really valuable, where the dialog is really open."

On their fake app ideas

Their ideas ranged from a "Tinder for Wheat" -- yes, as in the grain -- to an "Uber for dads." You'll sort of say, 'hey, I need a dad now' and you'll get a popup of the closest dads," Middleditch said.

"Or express skepticism about your life path," Woods chimed in.

They have no clue what Snapchat Spectacles are

Middleditch uses Snapchat filters and then posts the resulting images on his Instagram. He didn't want to start over building a new following on Snapchat. And he doesn't see himself using Snapchat Spectacles (now that he's seen what they are).

"Some people have made substantial careers broadcasting their lives," he said. "Maybe I'm just being like, 'Oh god, now I'm the old guy. I don't get it.' Plenty of young kids get it. They love it. ... Maybe it's just me not getting it."

"Until this moment, I didn't know an object could be a creep," Woods quipped.

First published April 17, 5 a.m. PT.
Update, April 21 at 5 a.m. PT: To include additional comments from the "Silicon Valley" cast.

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