Eddie Kaye Thomas on ‘How to Make It in America’ & ‘American Reunion’

Eddie Kaye Thomas is branching out. The thirty-one year old actor best known as the banger of Stifler’s mom in the American Pie franchise is gravitating to roles that resist the toilet humor he’s become associated with, sort of. He’s currently starring in the MCC Theater’s production of The Submission, a heady drama about race and art. Starting on October 2, he’ll resume his role as the likeable hedge fund blowhard David Kaplan on the second season of HBO’s How to Make It in America.

Still, in spite of the eight years that have lapsed since his appearance in American Wedding, the third official entry in the franchise (a bunch of forgettable straight-to-DVD installments followed), Thomas couldn’t resist returning to familiar territory with American Reunion, to be released early next year. We recently spoke to the actor about his play, reuniting with his American Pie costars, and the new sexed-up season of How to Make It in America.

You must be swamped at the moment. How many things do you currently have on the go? Well, I’m just working on the final touches of a play right now, it premieres in about a week.

That would be The Submission. That would be it. I’ve just been going to the theatre every night at 7 o’clock for two hours and banging it out.

What’s it about? It’s about a young white guy who’s a struggling playwright and writes this play about a black family in the projects. The play does really well and it winds up getting into this big festival, but when he submits it he does so with a fake black name. You can imagine where it goes from there.

Do you prefer stage, TV, or film? They’re all so completely different. This year, I was so lucky to do such different things in a short period of time. I did an independent film, and then How to Make It in America, and American Reunion. You haven’t really played a role like Paul Finch since your early American Pie days. Do you find yourself shying away from that type of character? I wouldn’t say I’ve shied away from that type of Finch role in particular, but I think it’s more so something that fit in only one movie and I’m not sure it would really fit anywhere else. Some actors find it a struggle jumping from role to role so quickly, let alone from screen to live audience. How do you deal with the variance? For me the biggest struggle is that I’m constantly making amazing new friends and forming families, becoming very close with people, and then saying goodbye. But when a job’s done, a job’s done, and you have to start a new thing in your life.

Unless it’s American Pie. That family seems to keep on popping up in your life. Yeah, you could say that. About every two years or so I expect to see them, and then they pop up again. Even with the same people, you know each movie is different. I was really lucky after shooting the movie to jump right into this play immediately. Speaking of American Reunion, how was the dynamic between you guys? It was mostly just fun. We all had an amazing time, and it was just like it always is. It always feels like camp in a way, and we all want to be there Hopefully it will translate again onscreen.

Will this be geared more towards adults? Well, we’re older. There’s not much I can say about this. You’ll definitely see some new things. But yeah, we’re older.

Let’s talk about How to Make It in America. Happy to see you guys got a second season. What should we be expecting from your character? I was so excited that we got the second season too, because it gave us a chance to really find our voice. And I think all shows, even really great shows, take a few seasons to find their stride, and the beauty of TV is it’s allowed to grow and change from season to season. This time around, we really identified that the show surrounds itself around passion, struggles, and people, and the unharnessed energy of those people. I’d be watching this show every week even if I wasn’t it.

I hear there’s some sex and a lot more nudity in it. Yup. We’ve got a lot of beautiful women and sex happening on the screen. You know things that happen in New York are happening on the show. And sex is one of those things.

You grew up in New York, so do you feel like the show does justice to the New York you know? I think it does justice to the New York I’ve come to know very well. And compared to the New York fifteen years ago when I was growing up, it’s just a whole different universe. The city doesn’t stay the same from year to year. The city doesn’t stay the same at all. You’ll even notice there’s a big difference from New York in the first season and the second season. When we shot the show, HBO wanted to wait a while to put it on, and we wanted to wait as long as possible to shoot it, to make sure it was an accurate portrayal of what’s going on in New York. Things change so quickly here. The world that was shot in the show is the world that we were living in.

I remember a couple summers ago, I responded to a craigslist add titled “new HBO show How to Make It in America: looking for brooklyn hipsters” Yeah! There was actually an NYmag post about that too, and that’s a good point. It goes to show they wanted to be as genuine and raw as possible in their casting, so when we’re doing a party scene in Bushwick, we need to see what’s actually going on in Bushwick right now. And when we’re going to Kaplan’s world and going to Avenue, we need authentic, ridiculous, models. I don’t think there’s one universal look to the people on the show, and they do a good job of getting the best people in the city to be on camera.

So, after all this TV show-movie-making-play-promoting business, what do we have to look for in the future for you? Well, I’m living in Brooklyn right now and I’m absolutely loving it. After growing up in Manhattan I love it even more. I went to live out there to see if I would like it, and I wasn’t going to write off Brooklyn before I tried it. Now I’ve tried it, and I really love it.

How to Make It in New York: A-Trak, Curtis Kulig & Carlos Quirarte

How to Make It in America, HBO’s hip, snappy dramedy, could easily be re-titled How to Make It in New York. Given that its two lead characters, best friends Cam and Ben, are hustling to get their clothing label off the ground, the show couldn’t really be set anywhere else other than this fashion-happy, hard-scrabble town. To show off the series’ downtown New York-ness ahead of Season Two’s October 2 premiere, HBO has released a mini-documentary about three New Yorkers who actually did make it in America. Check it out after the jump.

The three success stories are DJ, budding record mogul, and BlackBook columnist A-Trak (who even pops by our office in the video); graffiti artist and photographer Curtis Kulig (who recently remixed one of our inaugural covers); and BlackBook Industry Insider Carlos Quirarte, who, along with partner Matt Kleigman, owns The Smile and Westway. Let these three fellas show us all how it’s done.

Terry Richardson, Justin Bieber, & Mark Wahlberg Star in ‘Luis Guzman’

If you haven’t seen the HBO comedy How to Make It in America, shame on you. And if you’re a young, hip New Yorker who hasn’t seen it, then pack your bags and get out. HBO knows a good thing when it has one, which is why they gave the show a second season, despite not-that-great numbers. So in the lead-up to the Season 2 premiere on October 2, the HBO marketing brain trust is using the internet to its full advantage by dropping a major cameo-stuffed music video, featuring the show’s secret weapon, Luis Guzman.

The song is essentially a sort-of cover of Duck Sauce’s ubiquitous disco banger, “Barbara Streisand,” but instead of Babs, the focus here is on Guzman. Joining him is the cast of the show, Asher Roth, Justin Bieber, Mark Wahlberg (who’s a producer on the show), and many, many more. Ten million dollars if you can spot them all.

Good Party for a Good Cause: ‘How To Make It in America’

In the late afternoon on Friday, Superman Matt Levine came at me faster than a speeding bullet. He had a party that needed a space for a hundred people for Saturday night. They needed it to be private—a word many people don’t really understand. There aren’t a lot of places that haven’t already been completely sold out on a Saturday night; rooms with room to spare on weekends don’t last. The solution was the not-ready for prime-time roof of Hotel Chantelle, which I am readying for an opening in about 2 weeks.

Raw but serviceable, the courageous crew of Chantellers worked day and night for an event that would bring celebrities like Kid Cudi, Yankee pitchers C.C. Sabathia and Joba Chamberlain, baller Drew Gooden, actors Victor Rasuk and Luis Guzman, and Celebrity Apprentice/Playmate of the Year Hope Dwoceryczk. It was a super-secret surprise party for How To Make It In America birthday boy Bryan Greenberg.

It was an HBO crowd mugging with the usual assortment of models and hipsters that used the secret password “Crisp,” a How to Make It reference. At one point Kid Cudi needed a seat for his entourage, and unknowingly bounced a show producer from his seats. I told the producer to tax his paycheck, and got a surprising “lightbulb went off in his head” reaction to my little joke. Kid Cudi once performed at my birthday. When we asked him what he wanted for the performance, he replied with a couple of cheeseburgers. He’s a great guy, and I hope he gets paid in full. DJ Silver Medallion kept everyone on their toes. Cast, crew and friends had a good time as the room really works. The weather gods cooperated for the first time in 6 months. I can’t wait to finish it. About a zillion flowering vines trellised on ancient iron gates will complete the gig.

More important than all the cake and celebrating was the event that these folks threw at brunch earlier in the day. Le Cirque hosted this affair, which raised 60K for The Olevolos Project. This loot will build a library in Africa. Among the celebrities attending were Gina Gershon, Gabe Saporta, Eddie Kaye Thomas, Lake Bell, Margarita Leiveva as well as Kid Cudi and Luis Guzman. Club icons Danny A., Eugene Remm and Mark Birnbaum came to support. Matt Levine told me about the Olevolos project:

“The Olevolos Project is a non-profit organization that works tirelessly to develop young leaders in the Olevolos Village using formal schooling, tutoring programs, and extra-curricular activities. A lot of friends came together to support an amazing cause, raise awareness and money for those less fortunate in Africa. 50% of kids from the village don’t make it to 10 years old. No pretenses for yesterday’s birthday party—just good times with friends and family. Cocktails, conversations and laughs with friends (and Silver Medallion killed it with the background music), the late affair was especially gratifying because we all came together earlier in the day for the charity. I really have to thank the staff at Hotel Chantelle for coming together at the last minute, they were extremely accommodating and a pleasure to work with. All pro’s—great service.”

Matt sold his Eldridge space and just got his liquor license approved for a project he is developing in the old Mason Dixon space. He is hoping to open in September, and I’ll tell you more when it’s time to tell you all about it.

‘Shutter Island’, Ron Jeremy and ‘How to Make It in America’

A business trip to Miami and its not New York cold climate was supposed to give me a much needed break from everything. Instead I came back more agitated than before to a pile of work that had only gotten bigger in my absence. Feeling my stress, my dear friends basically dragged me from my desk to see the new Martin Scorsese, Leonardo Dicaprio flick Shutter Island. The complexities of the plot and the ambiguous ending did the job. I machinated over the ending, seeking internet chatter and clues and this had the Effect of a Prozac.

But just as I was getting my groove back, distress cried out from my blackberry . A text took me to a different, desperate reality. A friend of mine was correctly dragged to the psych ward at Bellevue. I was tasked to visit. A one-visitor-at-a-time policy left me in the psych ward’s holding area, where one prisoner/patient who was handcuffed to a wheel chair immediately lost it and started screaming at the top of his lungs. He then proceeded to bang his head violently against the wall. For literally a minute nobody even looked. It was business as usual.

Soon other inmates started to get agitated and the authorities took the poor fellow to the “blue room.” Really nice doctors and nurses came to chat with the people around me, who were seeking meds and food for what ailed them. One seemingly nice and sane fellow told me that the headbanger probably was seeking the better meds available at Bellevue. “He didn’t want to go to jail tonight. It was too late to get processed. He’d rather just sleep and be himself here.” Through glass windows people with Albert Einstein’s hairdo and Kramer’s walk stared at me and into space. Some smiled at me. deep secret smiles or sad smiles or “soon you will be in here” smiles. I lowered my hat over my eyes to the exact point where I could still see them without attracting their interest. In a rather chilling moment, reminiscent of the film I just saw, a doctor came to me and said, “Now, how can I help you today?” I swore to him I was just visiting a friend as his trained smile and “I’ve heard this all before” eyes fumbled to believe me. I fumbled for my visitor’s pass and he went back to his flock. When my sad friend and I finally chatted he assured me that where I was was way better than where he was.

I met up with porn pal Ron Jeremy who is in town for a bunch of meetings. Ron and I were born a month and a couple miles apart and attended the same college and share common and uncommon friends. We’re going to go to Lit’s 8th anniversary soiree tonight. A zillion DJs and a creative crowd will descend on this bastion of grungy fun to celebrate and hope. Lit is, as we mentioned here before, the subject of intense scrutiny and legal actions. Targeted as one of the clubs where smoking was prevalent, the jury is literally still out on its fate. We all hope for the best as 50 peoples’ jobs and the cultural importance of both the club and the attached Fuse gallery are at stake.

Last night’s episode of How to Make It in America had to be watched. The show, which fairly accurately describes how to make it in New York, features places and people all to familiar to me. Nightlife locations like Freemans and 1Oak are the background for this very NY scene series. It’s been described as an East Coast Entourage and that seems fair.

Mark Wahlberg produces both shows. Mark used to be a regular at my clubs and was always a gentleman. When I was at my lowest point I remember him stepping up to help. How to Make It in America also features my old friend and club manager Donal Lardner Ward, who I still call Donnie. I spoke to Donnie after I saw the show. I asked him about his role on the series.

“The pilot was made before I was hired. I actually pitched the guys getting the break of being invited to sit with Varvatos and then getting placed so far at the end of the table they might as well have been in another joint. Shit like that happened to me all the time when I was coming up, trying to meet show biz people. So close yet so far. It’s a fun gig, good group, trying to make something true to New York.”

He went on to talk about working with the show’s amazing Luis Guzman and other crew. Donal is one of those people I always talk about. They work in clubs year after year, pursuing their career, their dreams. Without a vibrant nightlife they could not survive. Castings and meetings are unpredictable and during the day. The entertainment crowd needs to work at night until they can support themselves. When a club closes these people desperately pound the pavement or are forced to head back to the wilderness. Donnie was my manager, who jumped in to become my chef one hectic New Year’s eve. He fed Grace Jones and hundreds of others who never suspected he was to have a bright future in showbiz.

After Donnie I caught up with My friend Eli Morgan Gesner, who is a creative consultant for the show. Eli ran the crew that occupied the skateboard ramp I had put in the Tunnel back in the day. I had seen Eric Goode put a small half pipe in Area as part of an installation. The one we placed in the Tunnel was four times the size. Eli supervised the whole thing, maintained the ever-chipping wood and made sure the young skateboarders were in control. Harold Hunter was there, as well as some future bold face names. Eli told me, “Ha! I miss that ramp. I built it. It’s funny. I helped make the movie Kids and I’m skating and I’m skating that very ramp in that scene in the Tunnel. I’ve always wanted to work in film, just got distracted with making skate board companies. How to Make It is a project I’m really proud of. I think it’s a fun and accurate depiction of life hustling in NYC.”

Towards the end of the show my ex, Nicole Pope, appeared as Jon Varvatos’ assistant’s secretary. She had a line and looked amazing. I replayed it 20 times. We’re great friends again. She makes her money in clubs as she pursues her passion acting. I facebooked her in Paris where she is shooting a movie. She was filled with glee that I caught the show. One of the ways Nicole and Donal and Eli and thousands of other talented people can make it in America is if they have jobs, night jobs. Mr. Mayor please stop closing down clubs or making it impossible to keep them viable. An experienced club investor told me that opening anywhere else in this country, you deal with a business climate that encourages you to open and has a “how can I help you?” attitude. For the most part you take in as much money and you don’t have constant harassment from city agencies. He asked me why he should continue here, why should he bother? My answer “because this is where we live” satisfied him … for now