Industry is HBO’s latest drama set in the world of investment banking. The series has an ensemble cast and follows a group of young graduates who intern at the fictional Pierpoint & Co. Recently, we spoke to actor, David Jonsson who plays the mercurial graduate, Gus. He talked about how he prepared for the role, his character, and learning from high profile directors such as Lena Dunham.
AIPT: You’re in this show that’s coming up, Industry. It follows a group of young graduates working in finance. What about this show drew you to the project?
David Jonsson: A number of things really. First of all, Gus, the character. He’s so different to anything I’ve ever played before and as a young actor, you definitely want to take a jump at that. More than that, it was how these people communicate to each other. They’re young graduates. Young kids basically just trying to find their way in the world. I definitely relate to that and wanted to understand it more.
AIPT: As you’ve mentioned, your character’s name is Gus. Can you tell us a little bit about him?
Jonsson: Sure. Gus is a young graduate of Oxford and Eton. These really fantastically privileged schools which I think you call Ivy League schools. He’s mercurial but also like sensitive. He says what he means and means what he says, sometimes out of turn. He doesn’t really care what people think about him in many ways. But inevitably I guess he gets caught in this whirlwind at the bank. He’s just trying to find his way in the world really and try to set a level playing field and try to be himself.
AIPT: Finance is a very distinct industry. What kind of research and preparation did you do to get yourself ready for this role?
Jonsson: A lot. A lot. I think first of all, you definitely delve into the modicum of banks around the world and investment banks and regular banks. There’s so much more than you realize how much money rules the world. Once you understand that, then you start to understand the people that are behind it. We’ve been saying quite a lot.
I’m an East London boy. It’s a very humble part. I’m from a working class family. We kind of look at people with money, any banker or anyone like that, we kind of look at them with mistrust or something weird. I know it’s ridiculous but you can’t help but feel it. I guess one thing the show gave me was they’re just normal people and everyone’s just trying to find their way in the world.
Sometimes you make choices that might not be for the greater good of humanity, but it’s all subjective. Right? You might think it’s good. They might think it’s not. Et cetera, et cetera. It’s a very human thing but I definitely did a lot of research to try and understand this role and the world.
AIPT: Do you relate to Gus in any way? What parts of yourself did you instill into your character?
Jonsson: Gus is really different from me. Like I said I am from a working class background and he’s just not at all. I guess what you do, I guess what I say is I don’t look for characters to play myself. I look for characters because I want to play something different. I want to tell a part of a human story that might not have been told before, especially coming from a person of color or anyone really.
I guess one thing that is similar to me and Gus is that we’re just trying to figure it out. I guess we’re trying to find our way. Try to make our mark. I definitely do understand Gus’ ambitions. He’s very ambitious. From my family, my family definitely gave me a sense of ambition and to not be too ashamed of that. Don’t be crazy with it but we both come from very ambitious families.
AIPT: You had mentioned that Gus doesn’t really care about what other people think of him so this kind of gives him the tendency to rub people the wrong way. But he’s formed this friendship with the show’s party boy, Robert. Your characters are roommates. Can you describe their relationship and how it is these two grown so close?
Jonsson: Gus and Robert met at university. They both went to Oxford together. I guess if you have an old school friend and you still keep into contact with them today, it’s very common for you to be so different from one another because inevitably the world has shaped you in different ways.
But you have connected on such a historic level that you can’t help but love one another. I think that’s definitely what you find in Robert and Gus. They’re definitely different. They’re definitely chalk and cheese in many ways but their friendship is ridiculously real and very genuine. Yeah, they peck at each other some times but it’s all love.
AIPT: Industry has a large cast, but other than Robert, Gus seems to be isolated and doesn’t interact with the other graduates that are featured in the series. Do you think that’s because of the characters nature and personality? Will he be more involved with the other graduates as the show progresses.
Jonsson: Yeah, that’s a really fair good point. I remember I spoke to the writers about this actually. It was funny because the four of us, the four graduates especially. We all got on when we met each other. We’d go back to our apartments. We’d catch up and sit down and chill. We all just got on so well.
But the second we got into work, I was always separate from everyone, which was so different. Everyone was like, “Sometimes you like us and sometimes you don’t.” I’m like, “No, no, no. I’m just being Gus.” I guess what it was is that Gus starts off in IBD, the investment banking division, which is literally what he calls the “Ivory Tower”, which is the upper echelon of the bank. Throughout the series, you see how Gus gets brought down to work, more down to where everyone is. It is a more level playing field.
But yeah, I think it is also Gus’ personality. He’s just super unapologetically himself and sometimes it just rubs people the wrong way. But I don’t think he really thinks about it too much. That is a good point.
AIPT: Lena Dunham serves as an executive producer and director of the first episode of the series. How was it working under her and what did she bring to the table? She seems she’d be a good fit considering Girls also focused on the young adult experience.
Jonsson: Absolutely. Lena Dunham was a dream. I have so much love for that woman. I think I saw Girls for the first time when I was twelve or thirteen.
AIPT: Your parents let you watch that when you were twelve?
Jonsson: Yeah dude, I did. It was dope and I loved it. It was one of the first adult things I had seen. It totally blew my mind. So, to come to this show and to be working with her it was mental. She told us really early on that she was the same age roughly as us when she made Girls, which gave us so much more confidence. She was like, “Be there” and “Go for this”. She really just held our hands all the way through. She’s just amazing.
She’s also totally an actor’s director. We’d do it one way and then she’d be like, “Let’s just do one for you. Let’s do another one, let’s do another one. What if this happened?” So, there were some things that we definitely did which will never make the edits but totally felt so real. My way of working, I really like to mess around and do things for the sake of doing them even if they don’t happen just to find the character a bit more. Lena was that. She was a full-on dream. I loved her.
AIPT: For such a high-profile show like Industry, I know that you like to dabble in directing a little bit too. Did you pick up any tricks either from Lena or any of the other directors from this season?
Jonsson: Yeah, absolutely! I’m young so I’m still figuring it all out. This show is such a big show like you were saying. It was such a big scale to see. I’m used to messing around with tiny cameras and even my phone some times and making stuff for the sake of it with my friends. But then you walk onto a fully built set and you get these big old cameras. Red Ones. This is another level dude.
And also, the directors, Tinge [Krishnan], Ed [Lilly], Mary [Nighy], and Lena of course. They know what they’re doing, man. They have their own style and their way of working. That goes beyond the actor right through to the edit. You definitely learn loads and I’m always learning.
AIPT: This’ll be the final question. What can you tease about Gus’ development and character arc during this season of Industry?
Jonsson: Gus’ story arc goes a long way. The biggest thing for Gus is what he thinks the world should do and what the world should give him, it’s not. The energy doesn’t come back the way you expect it to. I think it’s a very human thing that happens. We come out into the world thinking something is coming this way but then it comes back maybe the same and but slightly different. That definitely happens with Gus. And also, I think he finds what the meaning of love is and what it can do to you. Maybe a first heartbreak or something like that.
AIPT: Thank you very much. I really appreciate you speaking with me. I can’t wait for other people to see Industry.
The season premiere of Industry is Monday, November 9, on HBO.
Learn more about Gus’ roommate and another graduate, Robert, from our interview with actor Harry Lawtey.
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