“Damn, That’s Hard”: Dave Burd and GaTa Ask Each Other the Tough Questions

Dave is about many things. The quest for fame, music industry maneuvering, artistic merit, destructive ambition, power dynamics, sex, celebrity. But over the course of three seasons, the FX comedy has revealed itself to above all be a story about love and friendship, and nowhere is that more apparent than when it zeroes on its central relationship between Dave, played by series creator Dave Burd a.k.a. Lil Dicky, and GaTa, his best friend and hype man. Since Dave is only semi-autobiographical, many elements and characters are fictionalized, but Burd’s connection with GaTa, personal and professional, is not one of them. They’ve been working together for a decade, beginning when Burd was primarily a rapper. Here, on the day of season three’s outragreous conclusion, the friends and co-stars discuss the harder parts of the job, the show’s trademark celebrity cameos, and their very special relationship.


GATA: Yo, yo, yo. What’s up? This your boy GaTa from Dave, and I’m here with Dave, from Dave, and we’re here to discuss season three. 

DAVE: I would like you to ask the first question.

GATA: Cool. So Dave, which parts of making Dave feel most like work and which parts feel like the most fun?

DAVE: The hardest part is probably just the hours and having to get picked up at like 4:15 in the morning. I wish it wasn’t this game of racing against the sun, because it gets really difficult to be picked up at like 4:00 am. That schedule was kind of unsustainable. But the best part is—there’s so many great parts. I love the writer’s room where we’re sitting around and talking about the various things that can happen, and it’s just like, I’m in this room with really smart people who know so much about life and have so many funny stories and we’re hashing out everything that could possibly occur and breaking down the best way to move forward. What about you GaTa?

GATA: Getting up early in the morning, traveling the hour in traffic, then the hour back definitely makes it feel like work. But overall, when I’m there every day, every second, every minute, as soon as I hit the trailer, it doesn’t even feel like work. It feels like a dream. I got a great question for you. When you’re not on camera and when you’re editing, do you feel like, “Damn, I wish I was a part of that scene”?

DAVE: Thankfully no, because you guys are all so great. There have been times where I’m like, “I hope GaTa brought his comedy pants today, because this scene needs to be funny and I’m not in there to generate any jokes.” But any time that’s happened this season, I’m blown away by how funny it is. It’s a testament to the cast that I never feel like the scene’s suffering without me.

GATA: Right, right, right. Okay. When people approach you on the street and talk to you about the show, is there a specific scene or moment that you particularly bring up?

DAVE: Honestly, the thing that people say the most to me is, “Man, that GaTa bipolar stuff is the most important stuff.” Someone in their family who has bipolar disorder and it helped them deal with how to talk about it differently. I’m sure you hear it a thousand times more than me, but I feel like your story, on an emotional level, is really resonating with people.

GATA: Oh, definitely. I appreciate you for making me feel like the chosen one, putting my story out on the line. Does acting feel more like work, play, therapy, or a mix of all three? Let me answer first. It feels like work, like play, and it definitely feels like therapy, just touching in on my story and mental health awareness, it’s so much weight off my shoulders. 

DAVE: Of all the things that go into making a show and all the different hats I wear, the thing that is easiest and least demanding of my brain capacity is the acting. You’re kind of in the moment and you’re free. I don’t have to put much thought into it, because it’s all so natural and organic as far as we’re putting ourselves in positions to how we’d react in real life, we’re supposed to react in the show. I don’t want to over prepare. I’d rather live in the moment and be surprised by things you say, so the acting part of it is the most freeing for me.

GATA: I got a great question I’m going to ask you. The cross-branding, was it done on purpose? Could this show have been called anything else but Dave, and will it still have Lil Dicky attached to it, or was that done on purpose?

DAVE: First off, I have a love-hate relationship with my rap name, and I don’t like when people on the street are like, “Yo, Dicky.” I just don’t click with it the same way I click with Dave. I’m a rapper named Lil Dicky, but really the show is about the guy behind the rapper. I think my rap name was the right choice overall, and I’m really happy I did it, but there are times where I’m like, “Oh, I’m Lil Dicky?” I knew that I would never regret Dave, because it’s so simple. As far as the cross-branding, I almost didn’t name the character Lil Dicky, which would’ve been a major mistake. My rap name in the show, I was going to name it Young Man, because Young Man was my second favorite rap name behind Lil Dicky, and I always think to myself, “I wonder if I would’ve succeeded as Young Man?” I thought, “Well, in the show I can name myself Young Man.” Boy, am I happy I didn’t do that, because that would’ve been the dumbest move ever. Wouldn’t you agree?

GATA: I’m happy, too, because you’re definitely a grown-ass man. Was there a scene in season three that made you particularly nervous or apprehensive to shoot? I’m going to say every celebrity in a cameo, I was nervous, man. When I found out they were coming, I’m just like, “Damn, are they coming?”

DAVE: It’s always a little nerve wracking to have a celebrity. You never know if they’re going to show up or show up on time. But the more the show has earned its stripes the more people are wanting to be a part of it. I’m trying to think of the thing that was the hardest. I’ll say this: The Met Gala, the suit that I wore, as beautiful as it looked, and Romy, our costume designer, killed it, but the suit itself was so heavy and my shoulders were just—

GATA: That’s surprising, because I thought it was like a light trash bag with a string.

DAVE: Oh, it’s like 80 pounds and my shoulders are so frail, so for two days straight I was being pulled down by the suit. It was worth it, because I think it looks so good on camera, but that combined with having to juggle 10 celebrities being there and making sure everyone’s happy and feeling accounted for, that was the hardest.

GATA: I know you mentioned this a little bit earlier when I was talking about you cross-branding Lil Dicky and Dave, but do you find people in real life have been confusing who you really are with your persona on the show?

DAVE: People usually are like, “Wow, you really are like that.” Because in the show, I’m a guy who’s trying to be silly and make people laugh all the time and that’s how I act in real life. I think I’m a little bit more of a confrontational asshole at times in the show, for the sake of plot and drama. But for the most part, I’m sure you get the same thing, we call it how we see it and we wear our hearts on our sleeves, and that’s why people connect with the show and with us.

GATA: Yeah. How blurry is that line between who you really are and the character that you play?

DAVE: It’s blurred. Like I said, in real life am I somewhat of a perfectionist who strives to be great at all times? Absolutely. But am I nearly as abrasive and difficult to work with?  No.

GATA: True. Have you improved as an actor between the first season and now?

DAVE: I think so. People tell me that I have. There’s not much difference from a process perspective, but both of us have gotten way more comfortable. I know that as a guy who edits all the footage, you’re at such a different level now than you were in season one, and there’s a level of comfort that allows it to be even better acting, because we’re not thinking out there.

GATA: I agree, man. I definitely stepped my game up. One of my favorite things that I noticed this season is that I know what to do with my body language when I’m not even on camera. I also noticed that you don’t always have to be directly in front of the camera or looking at the eye line to deliver a line. One of my favorite scenes is when we walk in that store in Texas with those two white guys and you’re talking about getting the condoms, and then I’m reading the magazines, and I said, “Man, why don’t you just use the scroll guard?” I don’t even look you in the eye. I deliver the line while I’m reading the magazine, but I still deliver it firmly. I feel like I stepped my game up this season.

DAVE: You did.

GATA: Alright. With Succession ending this week, there’s a lot of talk about the show’s legacy, its place in the culture, how television shows end. Does that make you think about Dave‘s mortality?

DAVE: Succession is a show I can watch as a fan, but a lot of times when I watch other shows, I’m thinking competitively. When you make a TV show it takes a lot of the glamor out of watching TV, and you’re thinking about your own show and what they’re doing to make their show, but Succession is one where I’m just a huge fan and I can just get lost in the thing. 

GATA: When you were ending the season, what was on top of your mind? Are you trying to wrap up the story you’re telling or set up the next one, or are you trying to balance both?

DAVE: I don’t really try to think too much about next season. I like to think of each season as  standalone, that there’s a full circle journey that goes on through them. And so, yes, you want to leave windows open for character growth and put yourself in a position to shine the next season, but I try to have each season be its own full-circle chapter, and I think we did that.

GATA: I agree, man. I like how every season feels like its own master painting. This one is in this hallway, that one’s in that hallway. They’re all separate, but they’re all connected. 

DAVE: Thank you. How about I start asking you questions?

GATA: Oh, yeah. I got to ask you the next one, though. How did the Don Cheadle and Jack Harlow cameos come about? 

DAVE: I just asked both of them, and luckily both were aware of the show and loved it. A lot of people ask how we get these cameos, but it’s a testament to the greatness of the show. It’s not like I have special relationships with these people. 

GATA: I’m going to tap in on that Jack Harlow scene. It was one of my favorite scenes this season. I just want to know, because it felt so genuine, was that real beef? 

DAVE: No. Obviously, we’re both competitive people and we have a similar physical vibe, but it was our first time hanging out and I really enjoyed him and I think he really enjoyed me. Iron sharpens iron, as they say. At the end of the day, we both were aware that we just like each other. That’s the long and the short of it.

GATA: That was a very special moment for me, too, bro, honestly, seeing y’all come together. Because I know, just like you said, this industry is so competitive and people try to pin artists against each other, so for y’all to be together like that, head to head, both putting your talent on display, that was good for the game, bro. And now, you can make the little 360 and ask some questions.

DAVE: Okay. If you could be looked at as the greatest rapper ever or the greatest actor ever, which one would you pick?

GATA: Damn, that’s hard. I want to be the greatest actor. 

DAVE: Why?

GATA: Because of the experiences you get to have when you act. People get to look you in your eyes and you get to have a moment and really let your legacy live on and breathe through your work. 

DAVE: Do you feel like you fully made it?

GATA: I definitely feel like I fully made it. It’s not even about the things I have, the places I’ve been, and the life that I live. It’s about the goals I set for myself. I got to make it out the hood. I got to make a name for myself. I got to be able to take care of my family. I got to be able to buy a house one day. I got to be able to learn and try things that I’ve never tried before, like acting. So yeah, I definitely feel like I made it, because I fulfilled all my childhood dreams. I’m everything that I always wanted to be. You can say my name in the same sentence as Brad Pitt.

DAVE: What is the quality that you like most in a woman?

GATA: Her mindset. It’s all about what she’s thinking about every day, what she wants to accomplish, how she makes you feel. I’m a big mental health awareness guy, so your mind got to be right. You got to be able to know how to transition from hot and cold, or if you’re having a bad day, you got to know how to be able to snap out of it, in your own way. You shouldn’t be relying on other people for happiness. So a woman’s mindset got to be equal to mine, or damn near close.

DAVE: On that note, when you’re in a mental funk and not the happiest you could possibly be, how do you get out of that?

GATA: I take a step back and reflect and think about the past and before I met you and think about when I was struggling. It makes me feel like, “Okay, man. Slow down. You upset for whatever reason, it might not even be that serious. It might be about the business or it might be about somebody saying something that rubbed you the wrong way. It’s not even that serious to be that angry compared to the struggle you have got over.” So I always remind myself that I’m in a great position in life, I’m healthy, I don’t have any burdens that weigh me down to the point where I can’t control them. 

DAVE: What was the hardest lesson you learned about the entertainment industry?

GATA: The hardest thing as a whole is that you got to be able to accept broken promises. A lot of people will meet you on a handshake like, “Yeah man, we going to do this, the movie starts in two months, you’re going to get the role.” But a lot of things are just smoke and mirrors and you control your own destiny. I also noticed that you’re going to hear a lot of nos before you start hearing those yeses and before everybody starts cheering you on. You’re going to live with a lot of self-doubt and a lot of moments where you questioning yourself, but that’s the part of the game. You just got to be able to deal with the negativity.

DAVE:What is your biggest fear in life?

GATA: Dying broke and not being able to leave nothing behind for my legacy to show for and not being able to plant seeds for the future generation. I don’t want to die in a fucked up financial situation, because a lot of these stars, when people pass away, you start really knowing about their business. People start putting stuff out there like, “His house wasn’t in his name. He didn’t own this and he owed child support.” I just want to have a good legacy and I want to be able to have somebody to take care of me as I get older, because that’s what I’m dealing with right now, my mom getting older. So I got to take care of her, make sure she got a nurse constantly. I just want to be able to have somebody to take care of me when I get older and set myself up for greatness so I can be out there like Jack Nicholson, old as fuck at the game. 

DAVE: Yep. Last question. Who do you look up to the most, as far as people that you’ve had in your life up until this point?

GATA: My mom, just seeing how she worked jobs and helped me and my sister. That’s my mom. But as far as daily inspiration, I ain’t going to lie, bro, I look up to you. On some real shit. I just love how you be so laser-focused, how you shut down your social life just to get something accomplished and how you zone out and focus on your music and how you take your career to the next level. I done seen you go from rapper to actor, now you’re a  filmmaker. So you are  my daily inspiration, bro.

DAVE: I love you, GaTa.

GATA: I love you, bro.