Greed is still good. You may have thought the Thatcher-era city bankers mantra had gone out of style, but the 2020 BBC drama Industry proved otherwise. The lockdown slam on a group of young financial geniuses was shocking in its depiction of the backstabbing required to get ahead in the cutthroat world of high finance…and the depraved antics of after-hours bankers. .
The trading floor of Industry’s fictitious bank, Pierpoint & Co, was a super-toxic place where colleagues were surprisingly nasty to each other, and their daytime financial machinations were followed by nighttime intense parties involving champagne, cocaine, pills. and random sex. As one reviewer put it, they were “banking all day and hitting all night”.
Now Industry is back for season two, as are many of its hedonistic characters. The action primarily centers on Harper Stern (played by Myha’la Herrold), an intelligent but insecure American who keeps secrets about her past.
It is directed by the vicious and unpredictable Eric Tao (Ken Leung), another American who reinvented himself in London. Harper’s closest confidante is Yasmin Kara-Hanani (Marisa Abela), a dashing graduate whose manager Kenny Kilbane (Conor MacNeill) gleefully humiliates her in front of her colleagues.
Greed is still good. You may have thought the Thatcher-era city bankers mantra had gone out of style, but the 2020 BBC drama Industry proved otherwise.
And the strange thing is that it’s all true. Co-creators and writers Mickey Down and Konrad Kay, who worked as City bankers before breaking into television, insist that the cruel world of Pierpoint & Co comes directly from their own experiences. “Obviously everything is set to 11 for the drama because we’re doing a TV show,” explains Konrad. ‘But the general tenor of the way people talk to each other is very, very true to life.
“When Eric goes crazy with Harper in the office, I saw versions of it all the time when I was at Morgan Stanley,” he adds. ‘And the toxic relationship between Kenny and Yasmin…I watched it unfold every day. I was involved in one of those relationships. I was below someone who treated me in a pretty appalling way. It is definitely very common.
Yet it shows how some young graduates are willing to endure disgraceful treatment in a pressure cooker environment in order to make a lot of money, and how little they are apologetic about their aspirations to get rich. Once again, Konrad says that it is absolutely true.
“I think, culturally, it’s weirdly becoming more appropriate again to not downplay what motivates you. We’re getting back to people not having to hide the fact that they want to be successful, they want to be rich.’
As the second series begins, working from home during the pandemic has just ended and Harper, Yasmin, and fellow student Robert (Harry Lawtey) are back on the floor (the look of the industry is all sharp angles and brick-walled buildings). glass, but while some exteriors were shot in London, the frenetic parquet is a set at Cardiff’s Great Point Seren Studios).
Tensions rise when the dealers are told that the London and New York crews have turned on each other in a fight for survival, and new character Danny Van Deventer (Alex Alomar Akpobome) from the New York office has been installed. York to monitor London’s progress.
Animosity still bubbles up between Harper and Yasmin after Harper betrayed her friend at the end of the first season when she had someone fired to save Eric’s career. “The dispute is very small,” says Myha’la Herrold. “But they have no choice but to cross paths and that makes it even more stressful to be in the same environment together.” They each try to make a connection, but the other person is never in the right place, until they finally decide to be honest with each other.’
Harper’s main relationship is with Eric, played by Star Wars and Lost actor Ken Leung. He’s a fabulously unfiltered financial predator, and Ken credits Girls creator Lena Dunham, who directed the Industry pilot, for giving him the courage to make Eric so outrageous.
“She set a tone where I felt like I could try anything,” he says. “It became a little bit like, ‘Let me do something crazy just to make Lena laugh.'” She felt like a group of friends getting together and playing with the circumstances. As if the carpet in the operating room was red and that gave me this image of sharks in the operating room.
The metaphor is apt, as a compelling part of Industry is that Harper, Eric, Yasmin, and Kenny are self-centered and largely unsympathetic characters whose relationships with others are purely transactional.
But his greed and ruthlessness rings true, which is a core part of the show’s unique selling point. “Banking is a very tough world and when you get involved in it you have to be a pretty tough person,” says writer Mickey Down. “So the overall message of season two is, ‘Are you willing to give up your ability to build long-term, loving relationships in order to be successful and make money?’ If you narrow it down, it’s the cost of ambition.
The industry has a sizeable cast. See-through star Jay Duplass joins the show as Jesse Bloom, an eccentric hedge fund billionaire whose business Harper is eager to secure. Newcomer Indy Lewis plays Venetia Berens, a recruit whose confidence Yasmin finds threatening, and The Ipcress File’s Katrine De Candole is Celeste Pacquet, a manager who falls in love with Yasmin.
Harper’s closest confidante is Yasmin Kara-Hanani (Marisa Abela, pictured), a dashing graduate whose manager Kenny Kilbane (Conor MacNeill) gleefully humiliates her in front of her colleagues.
The show’s executive producer, Jami O’Brien, says expanding the cast for season two allowed them to open up the world of Industry. “If the first season was in part about these young graduates getting their feet wet at Pierpoint, we wanted to challenge that by seeing them take on their own clients.
Opening up that world is maybe a little more fun. We love Eric and Harper, but we thought, “Wouldn’t it be interesting if that relationship was challenged? Who else can Harper hang out with and how will that influence her?
And with such a high-pressure office environment, financiers continue to blow off steam at night with wild forays into sex and drugs.
The graphic sex scenes will no doubt draw a lot of attention, but despite the abandon with which the characters enjoy adventures, the shoot was carefully arranged with an intimacy coordinator to ensure the cast felt comfortable. “It’s like choreographing a stunt scene, so I hope everyone feels safe and there are no surprises,” says Jami.
The industry also carefully balances male and female nudity (last time there was a male frontal) to ensure women don’t feel exploited. “The only nudity in the pilot was male,” says Konrad Kay.
“I am very proud of the sex scenes in the second season. Someone used the word “complete” about the first season, so in the second season we tried to make it more character-driven, more intimate, more romantic. Hopefully we made it. I think there’s actually more sex in season two, but it’s much more interesting sex.
German-French actress Katrine De Candole admits she was worried about X-rated scenes when she signed on to play Celeste. “He had received so many warnings that he would be raunchy, and at the end I was like, ‘That was it?'” she laughs. “He was a lot less raunchy than he expected.”
However, he found that snorting fake cocaine was more complicated. “Somebody said it was milk powder and it was disgusting,” she says. “I was trying to get away with not doing it for as long as possible, because when you do it a lot it gets stuck.”
But it’s all part of a day’s – and a night’s – work for hedonistic young bankers willing to betray anyone who stands in the way of their big deals in the cutthroat world of Pierpoint & Co.
Industry, Tuesday, 10:40 p.m., BBC1.