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'Welcome to Chippendales' Cast and EPs Break Down Steve Banerjee's Crimes, Legacy, and Final Series Moments

Plus, Kumail Nanjiani explains the moment he stopped feeling bad for his character.

Allison Bowsher
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Steve's fate is sealed on the 'Welcome to Chippendales' finale.

Hulu

Warning: This story contains spoilers for the series finale of Welcome to Chippendales, titled "Switzerland," . Read at your own risk!


Throughout its eight-episode run, the limited Hulu series Welcome to Chippendales(Metascore: 69) tells the stranger-than-fiction origin story of the famous male stripping franchise Chippendales. Led by Kumail Nanjiani, who portrays Somen "Steve" Banerjee, an Indian immigrant who moved to the US in the 1970s with the dream of becoming the next Hugh Hefner, the show brings the largely unknown history of the pop culture phenomenon to the small screen. 

In the series finale, Steve's long list of crimes, including ordering the murder of his business partner Nick DeNoia (Murray Bartlett), finally catches up to him. Although he remains a free man for years after Nick's death and therefore is able to continue expanding the Chippendales brand to international markets, it hurts him personally, becoming estranged from his family and becoming increasingly paranoid that he's being watched. Once again, Steve's need to be the only name associated with Chippendales' leads him towards violence, namely hiring his former handyman Ray Colon (Robin de Jesús) to kill ex-Chippendales dancers who have started their own nude male dance revue. 

"He had the success he wanted, he became a version of Hugh Hefner, but he didn't want to give anybody else credit," Nanjiani tells Metacritic. "I guess that's ego or childishness or whatever it is, but it was so important to him that everybody knew that the success was his and his alone."

Facing a lengthy jail sentence for his own involvement in Nick's murder, Ray agrees to wear a wire for the FBI and help elicit a confession from Steve in an extended scene that comprises most of the miniseries' finale. With just Ray and Steve sharing a few drinks in an idyllic-looking hotel room in Sweden, the culmination of Steve's years of nefarious acts come to a head when Ray manages to coax the truth of his former boss. 

Steve's taped confession is enough for the FBI to charge him with a laundry list of crimes. While awaiting sentencing, Steve learns from his lawyer (played by Jen Cohn) that the government will seize Chippendales once he is sentenced. The night before his sentencing, Steve kills himself in his jail cell, an act that allows his estranged wife Irene (Annaleigh Ashford) to secure ownership of the business she helped create. The self-made tragedy of Steve's life ends with the grim shot of his lifeless body in a jail cell, a sobering conclusion to the story of a mostly unknown pop icon.

Here, Metacritic talks to the cast and creators of Welcome to Chippedales about the shocking finale, including the outrageous true story of how Banerjee was eventually arrested and the legacy he leaves behind.

Nick DeNoia's Murder

The series finale opens with Steve still the main suspect years after the murder of his business partner and Emmy-winning choreographer Nick DeNoia, but insufficient evidence tying Steve to the murder has left police without many options. 

Jenni Konner, who executive produced and wrote Welcome to Chippendales pushed for the shocking event to take place in the middle of Episode 7 instead. 

"There was enough material to have Nick killed in the middle of the show, but we felt like once Nick is murdered, one of the problems is that you lose Murray Bartlett, and we wanted to keep Murray Bartlett around," Welcome to Chippendales creator Robert Siegel explains. "Once he's [Nick] dead there is a certain amount of air that's let out of the balloon. As great as the tension of 'Will they catch Steve?' could have been, it's not equal to the tension of these two men."

Irene and Steve

A noticeable absence in the series finale is Steve's wife Irene. After discovering a large sum of money missing in Episode 7, Irene connects the dots and realizes her husband used the funds to pay a hitman to kill Nick, prompting her to finally leave Steve. 

"I wanted to make sure she had her own arc," Ashford says. "What I think is the most exciting about Irene is that she's the strong woman that I always wanted her to be, and she leaves when a lot of women in that time would have stayed."

In one of the final scenes of the series, Steve sits alone in his jail cell awaiting sentencing. The shot of a solitary jail cell is a full circle moment for the audience, who first see him alone in his apartment with a wall filled with pictures of Hefner. Now, Steve is once again alone, this time with the backdrop of a cement room that is mostly bare except for a handful of pictures of the daughter he shares with Irene, neither of whom he's seen in years at that point. 

"When we first started working on this project, we didn't know how their love story would end and then we realized how beautiful and special it was and how that made things a lot more complicated," says Ashford. "They really loved each other in that real deal soul-connecting sort of way."

For Nanjiani, his feelings towards Banerjee had a major shift after viewing the show. The actor needed to find empathy for the character he was playing while shooting, and he admits that he had moments of feeling "really, really bad for him." 

"While shooting it, I always thought of the story as a tragedy because I think he was so close to being good. He's so close to redemption. He has so many different moments when he could have done the right thing when he should have done the right thing, and he just didn't. So to me, he was in a hell of his own making, and I found that very sad," he explains.

But after watching the final two episodes, he says, "that's when I stopped feeling bad for him. That was the first time I was like, 'Oh, he's a bad guy. F--- this guy.'"

Steve's Confession

Each episode of Welcome to Chippendales is packed with scenes that will likely send viewers down an internet rabbit hole to confirm whether the events on their screen really happened — and, for the most part, they did). When it came to shooting the finale, Siegel, Konner, and co. had the difficult task of deciding how much of the outrageous true story to include. 

"For the show, Rob toned down the specifics of it in order to make it more emotional and something that people can connect to, and I think that was the right decision," says Nanjiani. "I think that just made his [Steve's] journey a lot clearer. There does need to be growth at the end for him, and there is. But it's too late."

That journey was the real-life Banerjee hiring his longtime handyman turned right-hand man (the real-life Colon) to murder two former Chippendales dancers who had started their own nude male dance club. But Colon, who had hired a hitman on Banerjee's behalf years earlier to kill DeNoia, was already incarcerated and facing life in prison. Dealing with a guilty conscious and several illnesses at this point, Colon made a deal with FBI agents for early release. The agents arranged to have him released from jail to travel to Europe and meet with Banerjee about the dancers so that Colon could get Banerjee to admit on tape that he ordered DeNoia's murder. In the show, the months of behind-the-scenes work by the FBI and Ray's health issues aren't shown, but the hit against the dancers, the restaurant filled with agents posing as waiters, and the hours-long conversation between the men in Ray's hotel room in Sweden? All real. 

"We wanted to end it by going deep within Steve," Siegel explains. "The more obvious way to end the show is so tempting because the real story plays out as this international manhunt with double-crossing. It's all there on a silver platter to do a Bourne Identity-style with an international chase with wires and guys getting frisked, and we had some of that in that one [hotel] room, but there's just so much more of that, and we could have gone crazy with that. But it felt like it would have been a little more expected."

"It was such a fresh way to do it, to spend the end of the show getting quieter and smaller," adds Konner, whose husband Richard Shepard directed the finale. "He [Shepard] seems to specialize in those contained bottle episodes," says Siegel. "He was very excited about how claustrophobic it is."

The majority of the episode is taken up by Steve and Ray's hotel room reunion, with an almost tangible tension felt by the audience. 

"One of the bonuses of casting Robin is that he's a Broadway guy; he can handle huge chunks of dialogue. We really approached it like a play. It's really just these two men having a conversation," says Siegel. "It somehow feels more momentous. There's not a lot of score in the final episode. It just gets quiet. This whole big world that we built just narrows done to these two people, and I liked that." 

Konner credits Hulu, who had already enjoyed a successful partnership with Siegel on Pam & Tommy, with giving the team the space to make a finale that felt subdued within a show comprised of sex, drugs, and murder. 

"The last two episodes are so different from the rest of the series. To me, there's something really exciting about that and the freedom in Rob's writing and how he's not scared to go off the rails," she says.

The Legacy of Steve Banerjee

After learning from his legal team that the government will seize Chippendales following his sentencing, thus leaving nothing for his estranged wife and children, Steve kills himself in his jail cell hours before he is to be sentenced. Steve's body in his jail cell is shown in the final moments of Welcome to Chippendales, a sobering end to the story of a self-made man who was also the creator of his own tragedy.

"He really became a part of pop culture and still is, and yet his story is not remembered at all," says Nanjiani. "In a way, I think that's good. I don't know if we really need to lionize this guy who ended up doing a lot of bad stuff. But I think it's interesting that there is an immigrant who has so much success, and nobody knows about him, and I bet that would eat away at him."