We don’t see terribly much turnover in the world of prestige comedy, and T.J. Miller’s exit from HBO’s Silicon Valley certainly caught fans by surprise. The comedian now speaks out on why Season 5 will leave Erlich Bachman behind, adding “It’s a funny joke for him to then never be back on the show.”

It was hours after HBO renewed the Mike Judge tech comedy for Season 5 that we learned Miller would depart the series, owing to a “mutual decision” between he and the network. That language definitely sounds a bit coded, but as Miller tells Entertainment Weekly in an extensive interview, the split offered an amicable pivot to new projects:

I’m so grateful to HBO because they offered several ways that we could make this work. They were open to all sorts of compromise to allow Erlich to continue to be on the show, but ultimately this just felt like an organic ending … I love HBO, but I thought this would be that thing that would change the show in a positive way. […]

I work so much. I do every single platform. I do every single medium, down to podcasting with Cash Levy, all the way up to being in an underwater thriller with Kristin Stewart and wanting to be the funny part of that. So [I left] for my own sanity, and for the sake of slowing down, and being more present and able to devote more time to this myriad of projects that I have going on. The other thing of it is that I didn’t get into comedy to be a television actor, and the second that I felt that there was a possibility of going on autopilot — of even phoning it in with this particular project — that’s when I say, ‘Okay, I gotta walk away. I have to do something where this won’t happen. I can’t allow myself to show up and give a B-plus performance on a show that is an A-plus when it comes to television.’

Miller also acknowledged concerns that his character’s bloated ego would be conflated with his own, stating:

My only concern was that the fans would be upset or frustrated that this character wouldn’t be present. And then the other real concern was that people would think — and some people have said this online — ‘Oh, okay. Well, now he’s in Deadpool, so he thinks he’s too big for this television show.’ I’m not too big for anything. I’m the f—ing Mucinex man. [Laughs.] I will do it all to bring laughter to people.

Finally, the comedian downplayed the likelihood of Erlich Bachman ever returning, even for a final season. The character’s finale exit moved him so much that a minor role or cameo would diminish its impact:

No… [Deep breath.] I think a lot of people in my situation would be like, ‘Never say never!’ but that’s who I am. Just because: What if felt like a whimper instead of any sort of bang? What if it had no pop to it? What if it was in any way a disappointment? Why? Why would one do that? Especially because the final episode is so — I wouldn’t have left the show if this finale hadn’t absolutely, perfectly, organically allowed an exit for Erlich in a way that I found very funny. It’s a funny joke for him to then never be back on the show. It was perfect.

We’ll see if Bachman’s exit tempers the sting of Miller leaving Silicon Valley behind, but does the comedian have a point about the HBO comedy growing and changing in his absence?

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