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April 23, 2014

Wondering 'How to Make It in America'? Ask These Guys

by Mike Harvkey, posted Feb 10th 2010 12:00PM
On the new HBO series 'How to Make it in America,' Victor Rasuk and Bryan Greenberg play Cam and Ben, two best buds living the struggler's life in and around New York City. Ben's an artist. By day he hocks designer denim at Barneys; by night he paints skateboards, canvasses or whatever else he can get his hands on. He's as familiar with the downtown late night art scene as he is with the Upper East Side Jewish community his parents belong to. He's the straight man to Cam's exuberant hustler-from-the-hood. Cam's the kind of New York kid who's always on the lookout for the next score and is willing to ride his bike all the way to the Bronx in order to find it.

'How to Make it' was created by Ian Edelman and came to HBO via Mark Wahlberg and Stephen Levison's Leverage production company, which is responsible for 'Entourage' and 'In Treatment.'

AOL TV recently caught up with Greenberg and Rasuk, two of the most animated guys you'll ever meet, to get their advice on B-Ball, Brooklyn and the American Dream.
On the new HBO series 'How to Make it in America,' Victor Rasuk and Bryan Greenberg play Cam and Ben, two best buds living the struggler's life in and around New York City. Ben's an artist. By day he hocks designer denim at Barneys; by night he paints skateboards, canvasses, or whatever else he can get his hands on. He's as familiar with the downtown late night art scene as he is with the Upper East Side Jewish community his parents belong to. He's the straight man to Cam's exuberant hustler-from-the-hood. Cam's the kind of New York kid who's always on the lookout for the next score and is willing to ride his bike all the way to the Bronx in order to find it.

'How to Make it' was created by Ian Edelman and came to HBO via Mark Wahlberg and Stephen Levison's Leverage production company, which is responsible for 'Entourage' and 'In Treatment.'

AOL TV recently caught up with Greenberg and Rasuk, two of the most animated guys you'll ever meet, to get their advice on B-Ball, Brooklyn and the American Dream.

How did this show come together?
Greenberg: I was coming off 'October Road' for two years on ABC, and I did some movies, and I wasn't really itching to jump back into television, just cause you never really know what you're getting into and it can be a real grind, you know? I was kind of in a place where I wanted to jump from project to project. I knew Ian. I didn't even know he was a writer. I played basketball with Ian in L.A.

He was a production assistant back in 2001.
Rasuk: He was a P.A.?
Greenberg: Yeah. When I played ball with him he said, "I loved 'Prime,' I thought you were great in it. We've got a lot of similarities in our look and everything." [Rasuk laughs] That's funny, you know. And we had the same game, we would run to the same spot on the court when we were playing ball. We were on the same team. We won like six games undefeated.
Rasuk: Which league was it, not the E league, right?
Greenberg: No we just played at this, like, church. So we had chemistry off the bat, just through ball. We didn't lose. And then I was reading the trades, and I saw Ian Edelman sold a show to HBO. And I was like, "What is this?" So I said let me read this thing. And apparently, he was thinking of me and Vic the whole time. Well, that's what he says [they both laugh].

Did you guys know each other before?
Greenberg: I know his work.
Rasuk: Likewise, but we never knew each other. And you know we crossed paths, we played in the same ball league in L.A., but we never knew each other.
Greenberg: So I met with Julian Farino, the director,
Rasuk: This before they started casting?
Greenberg: This was before they started casting.
Rasuk: Ah, I didn't know that.
Greenberg: Yeah, and [executive producers] Rob Weiss and Steve Levinson, and Ian, and was just like, "What's your plan? Where is this going?" You know, what is this show? It's cool, but like, where do you see it going? Cause it's kinda hard to get that from 30 pages. They broke it down and I got their vibe and I was like "All right." Then they did a chemistry read. Victor and I, that's where we met. And we just hit it off, like [they slap hands].
Rasuk: Off the bat.
Greenberg: Off the bat, yeah, we were just like, yes, and I think everybody kind of knew it. We've been hanging out ever since.
Rasuk: Like throughout the year we been waiting for the pilot, 'cause we're wrapping up the show now. It's taken a year to get from the pilot to the show, and we've been hanging out this past year. But they did a whole casting thing, you know, L.A., New York, maybe even some other cities I don't know about.

What, to look for your character?
Rasuk: For both of us.
Greenberg: For both of us.
Rasuk: I guess that's totally the protocol, correct me if I'm wrong, but they gotta see everybody. That's just how the business is.
Greenberg: And HBO was pretty hands on with this one. This is like, their baby. There's a lot of people who care a lot about this show. We're on a great network. It's basically like doing a long movie every year. They're not afraid to take risks.
Rasuk: They take a lot of risks.
Greenberg: [They laugh]. And to be in New York, a great cast, and the directors we're getting are top notch. These guys are filmmakers. Joshua Marston, who did 'Maria Full of Grace.' And Jonathan Levine.
Rasuk: Jonathan Levine.
Greenberg: The guy that did 'The Wackness.' We bring in like, voices, guys who have a voice, it's not just you know, a TV gig.
Raskuk: It's HBO. [They laugh]. They do a really good job on getting the right people to do the job.


So where is the show going?
Rasuk: You wanna take this?
Greenberg: I'll take this. I mean, this show is not a plot-driven type show. It's definitely a lifestyle show about people in New York City who work really hard, hustling, trying to make it on an unconventional path and then at night they play really hard as well. You'll see scenes of us at a really dope downtown loft party 'til like 4 in the morning, and then we're gonna be at a meeting at 10 in the morning. And that's just the life we're living, that whole generation. The show's really more about a tone and, just, the world and the characters. We're trying to capture that vibe of people on the grind, you know, not being satisfied with their place in life and doing whatever it takes to get ahead. And that's hustling, you know, we're borrowing money from drug dealers, we're borrowing money from stock brokers. Basically, I guess, plot-wise you're gonna see us try to build this company together. We don't know what the fuck we're doing.

The company about the high-end jeans? In the pilot your characters borrow three grand to buy a roll of premo Japanese denim off the back of a truck.
Greenberg: Yeah, jeans, and, we might launch into uh ... [grins]
Rasuk: Yeah, we might launch into something else, cause the jeans might not work out. You know, you don't know.

There might be setbacks?
Greenberg: Yeah.
Rasuk: Yeah, the setbacks that happen in everyday life.
Greenberg: The beauty is we don't really know what we're doing, we just have a dream, and we're just figuring it out as we go along, and the audience isn't going to know what the hell ...
Rasuk: Yeah.
Greenberg: What the hell this world is about either. We're familiar with it, we're in it, you know? But we don't know what we're doing. We just start going for it, and then we fail, and then we succeed, and it's basically just like swinging from one vine to the next. We don't know, we just leave it all behind. It's like the time in our lives when we just go for it.
Rasuk: Yeah.
Greenberg: You know.
Rasuk: Yeah.

Courtesy HBO

'How to Make It' is the latest show to call New York home. Where have you guys been shooting?
Rasuk: Everywhere in New York.
Greenberg: Yeah.
Rasuk: I was born and raised here and there's locations I've never been to. They've chosen awesome locations, real locations. They're all throughout the five boroughs.
Greenberg: We do three moves a day on the show, it's crazy. We're only on the stage one day a week. It's pretty much all locations.
Rasuk: Yeah.
Greenberg: Primarily downtown, LES (Lower East Side) ...
Rasuk: East Village.
Greenberg: Williamsburg, and Greenpoint.
Rasuk: Yeah.
Greenberg: But I mean, we're shooting in the Bronx, we're shooting in Staten Island, I mean, we're fucking all over the place.
Rasuk: Yeah.
Greenberg: In Barneys.
Rasuk: Yeah man. Where Ben works.
Greenberg: Yeah, that's his grind, you know. I mean, that kinda represents uh ...

The boss riding your ass.
Greenberg: Yeah, Ben's just miserable working at Barneys.

It must be interesting for you especially, Victor, because you grew up in New York.
Rasuk: Yeah, I took him back to where I grew up. I grew up in the projects on the Lower East Side, the Jacob Riis projects. And I took him back when we shot the pilot. I was like, you should just get a taste of this. Bryan was very familiar with that neighborhood. Can I tell them you went to NYU?
Greenberg: Yeah.
Rasuk: And he actually like, lived down the block from where I grew up. So it's not like he wasn't familiar with it, but I was like, why don't you come inside.
Greenberg: Yeah, I'd never been inside.
Rasuk: And go to the apartments, you know what I mean? I remember when you came, and you was just like [his eyes go wide]. 'Cause it's so small. But yeah man, growing up on the Lower East Side, I don't wanna speak for Bryan, but doing this show and shooting here, the vibe of 'How to Make it in America,' a lot of my character and even Bryan's character, I've seen growing up in the neighborhood. I feel like Cam in a lot of ways is sort of a composite of guys I either grew up with or guys I came across in New York.
Greenberg: I've always been drawn to New York. And for some reason all the actors I respect were coming out of New York, and all the musicians I was listening to, it was all coming from New York. And I knew I wanted to do the acting thing, so it was either L.A. or New York, and there's just something about this city that makes me feel like myself. Even though I'm not from here, I feel like I'm a New Yorker, I really do. I feel like this show really lays it down for New York too. My character, Ben Epstein, is a guy that I think sorta symbolizes Manhattan, in a weird way. He's basically like ...
Rasuk: A chameleon?
Greenberg: Yeah. He brings it all together. I've lived in a lot of places, but this is the only place I've loved. I don't love L.A., I mean it's all right. But I love working.

And now working has brought you back to New York.
Greenberg: Yeah! That's the thing.
Rasuk: It's crazy, yo.
Greenberg: Yeah it is.

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