New HBO drama ‘Industry’ takes on cutthroat finance world

The HBO workplace drama “Industry” follows several millennials entering the cutthroat world of finance.

The series (Mondays at 10 p.m.) takes place at fictional London investment bank Pierpoint & Co., where a group of ambitious young graduates compete for a limited number of permanent positions. (It airs concurrently on BBC Two in the UK.)

The ensemble cast includes American outsider Harper Stern (Myha’la Herrold); privileged yet perpetually underestimated Yasmin (Marisa Abela); working-class Robert (Harry Lawtey); upper-class Gus (David Jonsson); and managers — the supportive Eric (Ken Leung) and the brutish Kenny (Conor MacNeill).

The younger employees brush elbows and make friends and foes alike as they vie for their place at the company — and have plenty of drama with their love lives at the end of the day.

“We love each other so much as a team, and when you watch the show, they’re all so awful to each other,” says the Irish-born MacNeill, 32. “It’s kind of crazy how well everyone [in the cast] got along outside of [the series].”

Abela, 23, says that the key to playing Yasmin was figuring out the nuances of her personality.

“She’s very complex. She can be very much the victim and the submissive person in the situation, depending on who she’s around,” she says. “I really had to find that truth in where that power came from, and where her tendency to submit comes from — because otherwise I was worried that it would feel that I was playing two different people.”

Marisa Abela in “Industry.”HBO

In order to prepare for “Industry,” the cast members shadowed people they know who work in this particular field.

“I have a friend who works in finance and I went down to his trading room,” says MacNeill. “I got him to bring me out afterwards to a few bars where bankers drink, because I feel like that was more [of] what our show leans into — their behavior in social situations and how they interact with each other. I think that was the most beneficial [to help prepare].”

The series, which was filmed pre-pandemic, seems to now have a somewhat different feel to its depiction of everyday life for these characters.

“I’ve seen a few people talking about how it’s instantly a period piece because of the world we’re now in,” says MacNeill. “A friend watched it and said, ‘It made me so nostalgic and sad, the thrill of watching people in an office and going out to bars together!’ But it’s an incredibly intelligent and complex show that poses a lot of questions about power and abuse of power and gender, race.

Conor MacNeill in “Industry.”HBO

“I’m sure each individual will get different things from it.”

Kenny and Yasmin have a tense on-screen dynamic, in that he often bullies and disrespects her. Both MacNeill and Abela say their relationship is exactly the opposite in the real world.

“For these kinds of contentious relationships, it was really important to be able to trust each other,” says Abela.

The only problem, MacNeill says, is that sometimes they got along too well.

“It’s uncomfortable stuff that they’re doing; it’s not a nice relationship,” he says. “There are so many micro-aggressions beyond just the out-and-out bullying. The fact that we love each, and have the space to push those thing comfortably, is pure luck.

“Our only other issue with each other is that we’re terrible gigglers.”

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