The lead star of BBC Two and HBO banking drama Industry has admitted that she “absolutely” didn’t understand the script’s dense financial jargon – but promises that the show will prove gripping anyway.
Myha’la Herrold (The Tattooed Heart) plays Harper Stern, a young black woman from America who lands a graduate role at high-pressure fictional London investment bank, Pierpoint & Co.
At Pierpoint, Harper is surrounded by other ambitious graduates, all of whom must compete with each other in order to win a handful of limited permanent places, at a company where spreadsheets and dividends go hand-in-hand with a work culture defined by drugs, sex, and sexual harassment.
Asked whether she understood all the financial terms said in the script, Herrold said: “No. The short answer is absolutely not, no. Yeah, when I first read the first script entirely, in the audition process, I think I had an early version of the first draft – I remember I was reading it in my apartment in Brooklyn. it was like mad late, I was in my bed in the dark reading this script, and I remember sweating bullets.
“I got to the end of episode four and I was like, ‘Oh my God, I don’t really, really know what this means, but I know that it’s crazy’.”
Speaking at a virtual press Q&A, she explained that the only way of making the script “playable” for herself was by working out whether each financial term was “a bad thing or a good thing”. She added that her final performance drew praise from the show’s creators, Konrad Kay and Mickey Down, who have both spent time in the real world of international finance.
“I knew going into [Industry], I don’t really know what I’m talking [about]… I did like a basic Google search of like, ‘What does this word mean?’, and I sort of figured out if I knew if it was a bad thing or a good thing, like in the context of whatever I was talking about, then it was like playable for me, and I gotta say the biggest compliment probably that I will ever get was from Micky and Konrad being like, ‘Dang you really look like you know what you’re talking about,’ and I was like ‘Yeah! Right on!’.
“And [that’s] not to say that I didn’t absolutely try me darnedest to try and know exactly the inner workings of finance, but my brain is just not wired that way. I’m an actor, I don’t know math or anything like that. So that was tough, but hopefully it looks like I know what I’m talking about.”
Industry will air on BBC Two in the UK from 10th November at 9:15pm. Check out what else is on with our TV Guide.