chas­ing dreams

Find out what it takes to make it in Amer­ica in a new HBO se­ries.

The Star Malaysia - Star2 - - LIFESTYLE - By MUMTAJ BEGUM

THE Amer­i­cans like to say that if they can make it in New York, they can make it any­where. Hence, it is only ap­pro­pri­ate that a se­ries – ti­tled How To Make It In Amer­ica (HTMIIA), about two men in their 20s try­ing their best to make some­thing of them­selves – should be set in New York.

It is in this con­crete jun­gle where dreams are made of (to bor­row a line from Ali­cia Keys’s song Em­pire State Of Mind), we are in­tro­duced to Ben Ep­stein (Bryan Green­berg) and his best friend Cam Calderon (Vic­tor Ra­suk).

Since this is a HBO se­ries and is from the same peo­ple who are ex­ec­u­tive pro­duc­ers of En­tourage – Mark Wahlberg and Stephen Levin­son – the char­ac­ters and the story are grit­tier than a typ­i­cal TV se­ries, but some­what fun­nier and more en­ter­tain­ing than real life.

For ex­am­ple, the eas­i­est way to de­scribe Ben and Cam would be to say that they are the ul­ti­mate losers who have failed in prac­ti­cally ev­ery busi­ness ven­ture they’ve gone into. Well, it’s a given that these busi­ness ven­tures are not so much busi­ness-based, but a cou­ple of get-rich schemes that went bust.

Any­way, Ben mopes around all day – re­gard­less of whether he’s help­ing a friend set up her art gallery, fold­ing jeans at Bar­neys New York where he works, or at­tend­ing a party in a pretty girl’s loft made up of a pseudo crowd.

He was once a stu­dent at the Fashion In­sti­tute of Technology and was dat­ing the girl of his dreams, Rachel (Lake Bell), but a New York minute later, he has nei­ther and is prac­ti­cally broke.

That’s when his pal Cam (who may very well be the hu­man ver­sion of the En­er­gizer bunny) comes up with a plan for them to en­ter the city’s thriv­ing fashion in­dus­try, aim­ing at re­viv­ing a 1970s denim line.

How­ever, not want­ing to do much of the work it takes to suc­ceed in this busi­ness, the bud­dies choose to do a lot of wheel­ing and deal­ing that may very well cross the line of le­gal­ity. Af­ter all, the guys get their mer­chan­dise from the back of a truck and a loan from a New York “ah long” – Rene (Luis Guz­man) who is also Cam’s cousin.

In a phone in­ter­view with Ra­suk from Los An­ge­les re­cently, he says the 30-minute se­ries does cap­ture the real-life hus­tle in the city, only the se­ries has cap­tured it in a more hu­mourous and elo­quent man­ner.

He adds: “What I think is so great about the show is that it re­flects all as­pects and dif­fer­ent ages in terms of try­ing to make it in Amer­ica, where there are no bound­aries. I don’t think it’s just Cam, I think it’s the whole show.”

To put it sim­ply, HTMIIA is the op­po­site of En­tourage. “Those guys in En­tourage are suc­cess­ful and al­ready know what their life is go­ing to be like. Here. we are still try­ing to fig­ure out our lives and how to pay the rent the next month.”

This no­tion of try­ing to make it is some­thing that the ac­tor can iden­tify with.

De­spite en­joy­ing steady gigs and recog­ni­tion, Ra­suk, who has ap­peared in high pro­file movies like Che, Rais­ing Vic­tor Var­gas (for which he re­ceived a nom­i­na­tion from the In­de­pen­dent Spirit Award) and Lords Of Dog­town (a nom­i­na­tion from Teen Choice Award), feels he has a long way to go be­fore he can pro­claim that he has made it.

“When would I say I have made it? I think when I’m in my 60s or 70s, when I’m re­tired and sit­ting in my beachhouse some­where.

“Peo­ple say to me now ‘ Oh wow, you’ve made it! You’re in a TV show, you’ve been act­ing for six to seven years.’ I say to my­self, I didn’t make it, I’m try­ing to make it. I think I’ve been do­ing well so far, but if you don’t man­age it well, it could all go away to­mor­row.”

Ul­ti­mately, he be­lieves it takes a lot of hard work to be suc­cess­ful.

“Peo­ple tend to switch or change ca­reers when things don’t look promis­ing. In my opin­ion, that’s ac­tu­ally when you should work the hard­est – when things are not look­ing up.”

Even when he’s talk­ing on the phone, Ra­suk’s ex­u­ber­ance about his work and the show came through loud and clear, helped tremen­dously by the fact that the 26-year-old was speak­ing in that dis­tinct New York ac­cent re­ally fast.

Born and raised in New York, Ra­suk ad­mits hav­ing a great time work­ing on this se­ries be­cause he gets to roam his old neigh­bour­hood, hang out with his old pals and catch up with his fam­ily.

No won­der he is su­per ex­cited that the se­ries has been picked up for a sec­ond sea­son as it al­lows the now Los An­ge­les-based Ra­suk to be close to home.

“I have so much pride in where I came from and how I got to where I’m now, so I love film­ing back in my neigh­bour­hood, I love see­ing all my old friends and even fam­ily that I haven’t seen in a while. I love when they watch me do­ing what I love to do.

“We lit­er­ally shot the show in places where I had my first kiss, played hooky from school for the first time and the first time I learned how to play bas­ket­ball.

Lov­ing the Big Ap­ple: Bryan Green­berg and Vic­tor Ra­suk (right) play good friends try­ing to make good in HowTo MakeIt In­Amer­ica.

Many of the scenes in the HBO se­ries are set in places that New Yorker Vic­tor Ra­suk is fa­mil­iar with.

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