SPOILER ALERT: Do not read if you haven’t watched “The One With All the Money,” the series finale of “WeCrashed.”
Despite starring in a limited series about the very public demise of a somewhat cult-like multi-billion dollar company, Kyle Marvin is rather uninterested in drama.
“It’s easy to poke fun at people, and it’s hard to empathize with people,” says Marvin, who plays WeWork co-founder Miguel McKelvey in “WeCrashed.” “I think we’re hardwired for the salacious version of these stories. We’re hardwired to call this true crime, and hunt for, ‘When was he an asshole? When did he punch someone in the face?’ We’re always hunting for something nasty.”
This perspective makes sense, given Miguel’s role in the story. Adam Neumann (Jared Leto) is the wild-eyed face of the company, comparing himself to a god and earnestly envisioning himself as the world’s first trillionaire. Adam’s wife Rebekah (Anne Hathaway) enables him Miguel, however, lays low. He does his work. He makes rational suggestions about how WeWork should be run, and for the most part, sucks it up when Adam runs in the opposite direction.
In “The One With All the Money,” series finale, Adam finally agrees to step down as CEO of WeWork and sell all of his shares (though not without a hefty severance package). Miguel, however stays behind — the real McKelvey didn’t leave the company for another year after Neumann’s departure. In their final scene together, Miguel says, “Listen, you frustrate me. Like no one I’ve ever met. You always have. But I love you. You don’t deserve this.” “I love you too, Miguel,” Adam says softly. The scene is quiet, sweet and slow, unlike almost anything else in the series. This is the kind of moment that attracted Marvin to “WeCrashed.”
“It balances the humanity. It’s not always it’s not always the most shocking, but I feel like it’s one that leaves its barb in your skin a little longer,” he says. “It forces you to deal with the possibly mundane, but maybe more poignant elements of the stories that we hear.”
With “The One With All the Money” now streaming on Apple TV+, Marvin told Variety about researching the way Miguel McKelvey moved his body and getting caught up in the moment on set.
What were your first impressions of Miguel McKelvey as a character and the version of the WeWork story that “WeCrashed” tells?
When I got on board, the ship was already moving, so I had probably the least time of everyone to prepare. A good month. I spent a lot of time trying to understand where [McKelvey’s] roots came from, what it must be like to travel from Oregon to Manhattan and grind and grind and grind, and all of a sudden find yourself at the top of one of the biggest companies in the world — then all of a sudden find yourself lambasted in the media. The company that you spent all this time growing became a joke that everyone laughed about.
It’s a pretty wild experience, because to them, this was truly their baby. And they actually had a great product. If you think about the commodity of shared office space, everyone needed it. They caused a tremendous amount of problems [with] their business model, but I don’t think their product was ever a bad thing. The way they went about it was the bad thing.
Since Miguel is a real person, what was your process of getting into character and becoming him?
I spent a lot of time doing architectural work. Obviously, being an architect takes a pretty extensive college education, but I did what I could as fast as I could. I learned to write the way that architects do, which is in capital block letters because it’s clear when it’s small in an architectural rendering. I had a small architectural drawing pad on me at all times, and I would write my notes to myself in between takes.
His facial structure is slightly different. I would trying to get my jaw really loose. His body is so big! These guys were very tall people. [Neumann is 6’5” and McKelvey is 6’8”.] And when you’re a very tall person, your body moves a different way. There’s an organic lag between your brain and your body parts. I really latched on to that. I got a little more in shape, because they were certainly in shape at the time. They played basketball. But other than that, I think the real interesting thing to me was learning how he dealt with things, and how he talked about his past. That really informed the physicality of the character.
There’s a ridiculous moment in the finale when the WeWork employees are demanding to know what’s happening. Miguel addresses them by singing Bob Marley’s “Three Little Birds,” telling them that “every little thing is gonna be alright.” Where did that come from?
It was something that came up as we were shooting it. I don’t think it was originally. Miguel is put in a pretty awkward place a lot of the time. He is a very pragmatic person, and pragmatic people aren’t the ones who wants to deal with the non-pragmatic parts of business, which include rallying the troops. The impetus for that moment was just like, you grab whatever’s closest in your mind. And what happened to be closest in his mind was, “Don’t worry ‘bout a thing!” It was great moment to have fun with the comedy of the moment because Miguel doesn’t really say a lot in the series. He’s not a dialogue person — he’s a person that exists and participates through his existence. And sometimes, you know, that results in really terrible renditions of wonderful songs.
Miguel is often the show’s voice of reason, which is a common archetype, except here the voice of reason never gets listened to. What does it feel like to play a character who is constantly ignored?
The script is very well-written and structured, but there was always looseness in every scene. There was room in every scene for Jared’s instincts to kick in, or Annie’s instincts to kick in, or O.T.’s instincts to kick in. So there was this constant vibration — anything was possible at any moment. The wildest thing you could imagine in a scene normally happened, and you’d be like, “Okay, I guess we’re standing up now and running out of this room! Or we’re screaming at someone, or he’s screaming at someone, and I’m trying to check him!” So I was very present; it kept me in this very fresh mindset.
And I would argue that the voice of reason is more often ignored than film and TV would like to admit. The voice of reason often gets ignored for the sake of greed.
Talk more about that improvisation. What scenes in particular from the final cut emerged from that process?
In [Episode] 7, when we get our [$63 billion and 18 cents] valuation, there’s this moment when we start throwing food at each other. That was not planned for. We were supposed to get up and yell, and then somehow food started flying and it became this wild food fight. As a performer, I really enjoyed the freedom and flexibility of going off into these tangents. You come into a scene knowing your character’s journey, but not knowing other characters’ journeys. And that’s acting.
I actually have no idea who started the food fight. [In the scene, it appears to be Leto’s Neumann.] I just remember a cinnamon bun coming my way.
That seems to align with the whole story of WeWork and “WeCrashed” — everyone got so roped into the energy of it all.
It’s tricky, because there’s something that’s aspirational about it. And something that’s terrifying about it. It mixes both the things we aspire to do and the people we don’t want to be. Or maybe some people want to be those people … but for me, at least, it’s a great way to explore the conversation about American ideals and American superheroes. The reason these things are in the zeitgeist is because we, as a culture, put these people on a pedestal. The CEOs of our companies are the rock stars of our generation. Now, we’re starting to explore those idols as human beings. And I think that’s a pretty healthy thing for society to do. Poke at the divinity, and see the human beings on the inside.
That humanity is really evident in your final scene with Jared Leto, where Miguel tells Adam that he loves him. Talk to me about shooting that scene.
Jared was in character from the time I met him. We shot this almost in sequential order. For the most part, the journey was two men meeting each other for the very first time, growing a thing together, the thing getting out of their control, and then this moment of semi-reconciliation. And the reality is that was my experience with Jared as a performer. We didn’t know each other at all. I never talked to him before it started; we had no contact. So we met each other as Miguel and Adam. We built this whole thing together; we lived together for months of daily interactions. So it sort of naturally happened when we got to the end of this thing: we shot the end at the end.
The set was basically cleared except for a camera and us. It was dark, and all the lights were off. It was this massive, empty space. It just felt like me saying goodbye. It felt like us saying goodbye to each other. It’s just the most simple thing. “Goodbye, for now.” It’s a very powerful thing when you’re acting, because you have these planned moments that become unplanned moments of emotion. Which is what you’re chasing.
When that scene was done, he walked back in. And we just looked at each other. He didn’t even say anything; we just looked at each other. And then he nodded, and then he walked away. And then I didn’t talk to him until two months later when we were out of character.
This interview has been edited and condensed.