Kai Ryssdal: This has always been the place, right? America, I mean, where anybody can start with nothing and turn it into something. People are quite rightly questioning whether that’s true at the moment. But the hope still lingers.
Ian Edelman has it and developed a television TV show around it. “How To Make It In America” starts its second season on HBO this Sunday. It’s a classic ensemble piece about a couple of fashion designers and others budding entrepreneurs trying to find success on the mean streets of Manhattan. Ian Edelman joined us in our New York studio with Victor Rasuk, who plays one of the aspiring designers, Cameron “Cam” Calderon. Hey guys.
Victor Rasuk: Thanks for having us.
Ian Edelman: Thanks for having us.
Ryssdal: Ian, give me the pitch that you gave to HBO when you said, ‘Listen, I have this idea for a fashion show in New York and it’s really not about that at all.’
Edelman: It’s, that’s exactly… Were you there? I was like, I have a pitch for a fashion show that’s actually about sort of aspiration in downtown New York City. And it was just sort of, it’s that who will I become, mid-late 20’s, existential journey.
Ryssdal: The thing that came through to me as I was watching a couple of episodes was that it is about the hustle.
Edelman: Hey, 100 percent. In Ben and Cam you have two characters who set out to make it in the world of fashion who are outsiders. And I think you have to beg, steal, borrow just to scrape by, and to make every step. And so there is kind of a real-time learning curve, especially in season one. In season two, they have a lot more sort of understanding. But they’re beginning at the beginning from finding a split of denim to wanting to launch a denim line.
Ryssdal: Victor, tell me about your character a little bit, Cam Calderon. But also the way this thing pulls together, the threads of the stories that come through in one episode. I mean, there’s a lot going on.
Rasuk: Well there’s always a lot going in New York and that’s to give credit to Ian, who just sort of captured all the ups and downs and all the things that happen in New York. But in terms of my character, he’s sort of like that guy who doesn’t take no for an answer. He’s trying to venture into a business he doesn’t really know nothing about, but knows that there’s a lot to be made. And what’s so great about the show is that he hooks up with a friend of his — who, Cam, he’s Dominican and this kid is his best friend, played by Bryan Greenberg, who’s Jewish. So it’s like, all right, I’ll get the money, but you become the brains of the operation. I think that’s just like the tall tale of all the New York stories, you know.
Ryssdal: The name of the show obviously is not “How To Make It In New York,” it’s “How To Make It In America,” right?
Rasuk: They say if you can make it here, you can make it anywhere. Come on, Kai!
Ryssdal: I know that though, come on. I grew up in Westchester, dude. I know this stuff.
Edelman: You heard that one?
Ryssdal: That’s right. Victor, I want to talk about two other guys who are native New Yorkers, made it big in fashion, and who I imagined sort of influenced this show. And Ian, you can weigh in here obviously as well. who Ralph Lifshitz, now known as Ralph Lauren, and Calvin Klein. Right? Two guys from the Bronx who made it big.
Rasuk: Yeah and Ian, you should tell them about this story about how it was inspiring — Ralph Lauren’s story.
Edelman: Yeah. Kai, I’ll just jump in. Obviously for me, the Ralph Lifshitz story was like a big thing in my family growing up. My parents are first generation Eastern European Jewish immigrants, and so they would tell us about Ralph Lifshitz and the story is like bonkers. The spirit of that is the spirit of Ben and Cam. They are cut from that cloth.
Ryssdal: Well, so let’s play that out a little bit. There’s a scene in one of the episodes coming up, Victor, in the second season where you go and you’ve been called to a meeting with this big fashion designer whose name I forget. And you’re all excited and you go in and you sit down, and she says, “Boys, great opportunity for you.” And you get more excited. And then she says, “I want you to design the t-shirt for my kid’s middle-school graduation.” Remember that? And you are clearly PO’ed, and yet Ben says, “Wait a minute. You know what, we can do this.” There is a tension between the got to make money, and you’ve got to do what it takes to get by thing, right? And that’s sort of that scene right there.
Rasuk: Yeah, it is. And again, a testament to Ian’s writing. He really captured the whole what is Cam about and also what is Ben about. And also tells about their backgrounds and how they grew up. And also Cam, he’s like cool, you know, “So how much and when is it going to pay?”
Ryssdal: Yeah. That was the first question. It was great.
Rasuk: Yeah, then Ben, he sees that it’s a longer road, you know?
Ryssdal: Yeah. So carrying along with the theme of the title of this show, “How To Make It In America,” I’ve got to ask each of you this question. Ian, you now are running a show on HBO, which is doing well I imagine beyond your wildest dreams. So, have you made it?
Edelman: I have not made it, but I have this amazing opportunity and I hope to continue to keep doing it.
Ryssdal: Victor Rask, what about you?
Rasuk: Kai, he stole my answer. That was the same answer I was going to give.
Ryssdal: Victor Rasuk and Ian Edelman from the show on HBO called “How To Make It In America.” Season two coming up. Guys, thanks a lot.
Rasuk: Thank you, Kai.
Edelman: Thanks Kai.
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