In the final episode of WeCrashed we see one more person give a pep talk from the top of the stairs inside the WeWork headquarters. Only this time, instead of a gong-ringing Adam Neumann (Jared Leto) or an antsy Miguel McKelvey (Kyle Marvin) trying to fill Adam’s shoes, it’s O-T Fagbenle as financier Cameron Lautner, a fictional character who in the final episode is shown taking over as WeWork’s CEO. (In real life it was a pair of businessmen, Artie Minson and Sebastian Gunningham.)
In that scene Fagbenle delivers what might be both the best and worst motivational speech of all time, telling the WeWork employees that, despite what Leto’s Neumann had been telling them all this time, work was just about making money. By the end of the speech, though, the team is actually on board with his profit-focused vision. “It was a challenge,” Fagbenle says on this week’s episode of the Still Watching podcast. “But Cam was such a fun part to play, and I feel like it’s easy to have mixed feelings when you hear him, because you’re like, ‘You’re such a dick, but you’re kind of right.’”
On the final episode of the Still Watching season that has covered WeCrashed in addition to The Dropout and Super Pumped, Richard Lawson and Katey Rich discuss the WeCrashed finale, and wonder if anyone actually learned any lessons from the downfall of Adam and Rebekah Neumann. (Spoiler alert: Probably not.) In addition to the conversation with O-T Fagbenle, the episode includes a special appearance from Vanity Fair’s Emily Jane Fox, cohost of our sister podcast Inside the Hive and a person with unique perspective on WeCrashed. Not only is she a frequent reporter on the exploits of the rich and too powerful, but she’s married to WeCrashed co-creator Lee Eisenberg, giving her a front-row seat to the making of the entire show.
Listen to the season’s final episode of WeCrashed above, and stay tuned for more from Still Watching as we continue to discuss more of the best in television— as you might know, there‘s a lot to choose from.
You can also find a partial transcript of our interview with O-T Fagbenle below.
Vanity Fair: In the WeCrashed finale, you have both the best and worst pep talk in an office that I’ve ever seen. It’s this great moment of being like you’re just working to make money and get out of here, and everyone is so skeptical and by the end, you kind of win them over. How did it feel trying to rally the troops in that cynical but correct way?
O-T Fagbenle: I mean, to be honest, when I first read the speech and it says in the script at the end of the speech, they’re cheering, and I’m like, how the hell? That’s a tall task you’ve asked me to do is to go, “Oh, by the way, you’re the kind of person who signs up to be part of an inspirational cult-like thing and now I’m just telling you you’re going to work for money and get out of it and at the end, you’re going to be cheering.”
We had some great direction, and yeah, it was a challenge. But Cam was such a fun part to play and I feel like it’s easy to have mixed feelings when you hear him, because you’re like, “You’re such a dick but you’re kind of right.” You know?
I feel like Cameron has made me sympathize with the finance guys and feel like they’re correct. This happens a lot in the last episode, where even you get like Jamie Dimon (Campbell Scott) coming in and being right. Did you feel conflicted about that, how much you side with them?
Well, in a weird way, the high school I went to in London was…A bunch of my friends who are from the middle-class Indian community, they all went into finance. So weirdly, half my friends are artists, half my friends are hard-core capitalist city boys. I’ve been around them and even when I’m with them, I have conflicting feelings.
Was this world something you knew anything about before going into this?
I studied economics. I was going to go and study economics at university instead of drama. It’s just a coin flip that ended up me doing drama. I’ve always been interested in that world, I’m interested in finance.
So what was the learning curve? You’re charged with a lot of exposition in this, especially in some of the earlier episodes where you show up, of just explaining to people like me who don’t know what an S1 is, how any of this works. Was that a steep learning curve for you?
To be fair, I kind of…I’m a research…One of the things I love about being an actor is it gives me an excuse to research things I didn’t know before. It’s almost like whatever I’m doing, I always do a bunch of research. Yeah. I did a bunch of research for it. I mean, don’t question me up about it. You’ll expose me. Fundamentally, though, I feel like my job…Yes, you have to understand some historical and technical intricacies but most of the time these are a tool for character and emotional interplay, and that’s the thing that I really get into.
I think what’s important about Cameron is he emerges as a character in this, is that he’s the likable asshole, as we were talking about, and helped tip the scales because Adam Neumann is the charismatic leader who we’ve been following as the show goes on, and then this other guy shows up to be like, “Wait a second. This is all bullshit.” How do you turn yourself into the guy who walks into any room and can batten down every doubt and be like, “No, I’m right. I’m going to run this room”? The confidence that you project, I think, is fascinating.
Oh, thanks a lot I guess it’s a number of things as an actor and as a character, but I think on…Like boring actor-y, nonsense talk, I created a backstory for myself, which involved my father, where the Adam Neumann–type character was…I hated those types of people. I hated people who manipulated and stole from people. I wasn’t going in there trying to project confidence. You know? It sounds like psychobabble but in many ways, from the character’s perspective, I was going in there to confront my father. So immediately, I’m going in there with such a primal urge to dominate and to make it right, that I guess then that looks like confidence.
I feel like that fits so much with what the show is doing too, though, because, you know, with the Neumanns, it’s showing their wounds as people and how it turned into what they did here. You doing that kind of character work fits with the vibe of the show. I don’t know if you talked to the showrunners or directors about that kind of stuff or if that’s just something that you pull out for yourself.
No, that stuff, I mean, to be honest, I’m surprised I even told you, because most of that stuff, I don’t even talk about ever in interviews. I guess I’m fascinated by what draws people to act the way they do, and for the most…Most instances, no one thinks they’re evil, no one thinks they’re doing bad. They think they’re doing right. It feels intuitively good to them on some level. They’ve rationalized it. I think it all comes from some early childhood stuff. Just trying to unpin and break apart like what is it that makes someone act like this? Yeah. I don’t think it’s interesting, to be honest, or necessarily useful to the director or the writer. I think that’s just like actor’s work, you do it in your little box, and then go perform. It’s sometimes too complex and also sometimes too personal to unpack with a director. They’ve got other things to do with their time. I’ll just do my work.
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