If you’re not watching Industry on HBO, you’re missing out. Set in the high-stakes world of London finance, the slick, soapy drama is basically Gossip Girl meets Succession—like watching a billion-dollar real estate development property get wiped out by a wave of youthful hormones. The series follows a group of college grads, freshly hired by a prestigious investment bank, who have to spend the next three months jockeying for approval and validation, or else risk being among the 50% of their class who will be let go during “Reduction In Force” at the end of the summer. And at the center of the storm is Harper Stern (Myha’la Herrold), an American hire with a secret or two up her sleeve and a fresh-faced disposition that belies a cutthroat sense of self-preservation.
Harper’s arc is all the more effective because of the actor bringing her to life. It’s hard to imagine petite, sunshine-y Herrold out-backstabbing a veteran financial power player, so it’s all the more exhilarating to watch her Harper get the drop on her colleagues and superiors. In real life, though, Herrold is much more chill—especially these days. “I just love to be lazy,” she says about her 2020 routine—"it’s mostly a lot of lying around all day”—before immediately contradicting herself with a laundry list of marches she’s participated in, rallies she’s attended, and hobbies she’s been pursuing (pole dancing, anyone?). Read on to learn more about her deep-seated devotion to Biologique Recherche products, Frasier reruns, and activist Janaya Khan’s Instagram.
I binged the series over the weekend. I’m not really a binge watcher, but I raced through it.
Oh, amazing! I'm so glad.
I feel like so often we get these like fish-out-of-water stories about an underrepresented person coming into a cutthroat culture, and you get a main character who's sort of expected to embody a sense of moral goodness. I thought it was really refreshing that that's not Harper.
Me too, me too. I love that you say that, because I think there's this idea of what a hero is and what that means. And this expectation that, oh, they're an underdog, so obviously they're going to do the right thing all the time. And in this story, you’re watching a person do what's right for them, for their survival, and after a while, you have to take morality out of the equation. I think what's what makes a finance bank so right as a setting for this kind of story: morality is not even a question in the bank. Even characters like Daria or Sara who are being like, “Let's change the culture!” Like, even them. They're abusing their power as well. So it’s really interesting to like go on Twitter and see how people are responding—people being like, “I still stan Harper because she did what she had to do,” and other people being like, “I've never hated someone more.”
This was also your first starring role in a TV or film project, so you were kind of going into a new environment and a new setting around the same time as the character. How did that parallel affect your experience playing Harper?
I mean, I felt like I was mirroring Harper's journey almost to a tee, minus all of the horrific choices she made. Like, “This is the same but different because I just don't have the guts.” [LAUGHS] And also I wouldn't, but yeah. Harper comes into this thing being like, I have to prove that I'm capable of doing this. And I know that I am, but there's all this pressure, and it's so new, and I've got all these expectations to live up to and a lot of responsibility. And I absolutely was feeling all of those things. Also, it was my first time out of the country ever, so I was feeling exactly what she was feeling—all of this culture shock, and feeling accepted by everyone but definitely apart. Like, I didn't get most of the jokes. It was one of those things where you just have to smile and laugh and nod if everyone else is doing it, you know? But I caught on, and then as Harper becomes more savvy and more relaxed in her new situation, I felt the same.
Where you still in production when COVID hit, or were you already done?
We were very lucky. We wrapped end of December in 2019, and then I moved. I was previously living with my two best friends in Brooklyn, deep in Flatbush, and then when I moved back, I moved to Manhattan so I could be a little closer to auditions. And then they were like, “Just stay home.” And then I was—not stuck, because I like to be alone, and my cat Salad was here with me. But I was living by myself for the first time in New York and paying an unreasonable amount of money on rent in a neighborhood I didn't really care for. So it was definitely strange, but I really like to be alone, so it was actually fine for me, for the most part.
What have you been doing with yourself since March? How has your day-to-day life changed?
Well, truth be told, I'm not really a going out kind of person. I'm a serious homebody. So at first, my first thought was, like, Great, now I don't have to have any kind of excuse for why I don't want to go out. I don't have to feel weird. But my first thing was like, Okay, I should probably do some things that I usually don't have time for. So I told myself, “I'm gonna start flossing every day.” And now I’ve flossed every day since March. [LAUGHS] And doing yoga. I've always really hated yoga because I wasn't very good at it—like, I didn't get it, and it was uncomfortable. And now I really love it. There’s a really great website called Yogi Approved, and you pay a subscription, and every time you take a class, they plant a tree in the world. So that’s been really lovely for my body and my mind.
Do you have a daily routine at all?
I have a very specific morning routine. I get up and I go to the bathroom and I do my hair and I cleanse my face. Right before quarantine, when I got back from Industry, my skin was completely ruined because I don't wear makeup ever, and then for six months I was in full face every day. So I’ve started using a very luxurious skincare brand, Biologique Recherche, and they’re the only brand I use.
What do you use from them?
So, I cleanse, and I have two serums. One is for really deep reparative things. It's got placenta in it and it smells like it's got placenta in it. The other one is for hyperpigmentation, because my skin regenerates pretty quickly. Then I have a placenta cream and a really hydrating cream.
You’re really into the placenta on the face.
Placenta is it! [LAUGHS] And then a pigment cream situation that's got this really beautiful pearlescent finish—I do all three of those. I have an oxygenated cream that I do around my eyes, do a little massage. And then there are two masks that I use from Biologique Recherche as well. One is Masque Vivante, and the other one is Masque VIP. I mix those with a little bit of baking soda, which is a natural astringent. And I use their holy grail of products, their P50, every day.
So you do some version of that, and then what?
So every morning I do my little face situation, and I brush my teeth, and then I make a cup of tea. I'm serious tea drinker. And then, because of this fucking election, I try to watch the news for like five minutes. One thing that I didn't mention that I absolutely did over quarantine is that I was protesting almost every day for like a month and a half. It feels like a part of my life now, but the lockdown I think is really the only thing that made this this wave of civil rights activism as powerful as it has been. Literally everyone was inside, and they couldn't not look. They were forced to look and interrogate all of these issues and recognize that it's everyone's problem. It's not just Black people's problems. It's not just minorities’ problems or anyone who's affected by police brutality. This is everyone's issue.
Right. I also think, after months of sitting still, that people were compelled to go out and take a stand for something.
Yeah, because most of the time, I was like, “I'm not leaving my house. I'm just not. I don't have to. I don't want to.” And then I was just like, “I have to leave my house, I cannot stay here.” I was called, you know? And I met a lot of really wonderful people and role models, like Warriors in the Garden, and Chi Osse, who’s running for City Council in Brooklyn. He’s amazing. He’s like 23, and he’s so smart and just a person for the people. And then of course Sunday Sermon with Janaya Future Khan has been getting me through. I tune in every day, and if I can, I watch it. They are my idol and my hero, and I feel like they sing my song. Like, I've never felt more seen by a person who didn't know me and didn't even know I was watching, but I'm obsessed with them and I love them and I want to meet them one day.
I like how a lot of people have found peace in community during a time of intense isolation. We’ve had to spend a lot of time with ourselves this year.
I've enjoyed this time for its blessings in disguise. The biggest lesson this year, which had to do mostly with like personal relationships, is how to maintain my boundaries. No one's gonna be able to respect them if you don't make them very clear. I'm notorious for sugarcoating things, for not wanting to hurt anyone's feelings, but sometimes you just have to be straight with someone, and how they feel is really none of your business. And it's not your responsibility. So that's been a good thing, learning how to communicate my boundaries. I guess I felt like I had no choice, because I was alone, and like, Why does it matter anyway? I'm never going to leave this apartment. I’ve just been watching things and yelling at the TV and drinking tea, mostly. [LAUGHS]
What have you been watching?
Oh my god, I watch a stupid amount of TV. I rewatched Mrs. Fletcher at least a couple times this year, which is amazing. The Vow, which I'm obsessed with. I rewatched for maybe the fifth time all of Adventure Time. All of it, because it’s one of my favorite shows of all time. I go to bed every night watching Frasier. That’s a big secret—anytime I tell anyone that, they’re like, “Isn’t that just for people who wear sweater vests?” And I’m like, “Do not cap on the fucking ultimate cleverness of this series!” And also some classic things, like, I love Law and Order, Criminal Minds; I’ll watch that shit over and over.
So, you already told me about your skincare routine. What about your hair care regimen?
Um, so, on my hair. My mother is a hairdresser and an aesthetician, so I've been really lucky my whole life to have a direct line to resources. On my hair I use mostly Mizani products. I use their moisture replenish shampoo, and I also use their scalp treatment shampoo and conditioning products because those things are really good for a deep cleanse. I also use Mizani’s scalp treatment, which is super soothing and really good for when you have braids. When I was on the show, I would go through bottles of those things, just soothing my scalp every couple days. Usually I wear my hair in a ponytail just because it's easy, but when it’s wet out I like to pull it back or do little braids so I don't have to put heat on it. I wrap it up in a durag when I go to bed to keep it soft. Oh, and I have a silk pillowcase, which is quite good for your skin.
Yeah, I hear silk pillowcases are the secret.
They are so lovely. But the thing is, like, you have to wash your pillowcases. You can’t just wash them as often as you do your sheets. My aesthetician told me that she changes her pillowcase every day. Every day! So she has to have at least seven.
That’s a lot of silk pillowcases.
I know! I don’t know if they’re all silk, but it’s a lot. [LAUGHS]