He went from stripper to tycoon in a matter of years.

Matt Bomer has a theory about how he landed the lead role in the upcoming Amazon television series, The Last Tycoon, which premieres July 28th — the studio knew that they would get a great return on their investment in him. “It all goes into the cart,” he told Moneyish. “Amazon shopping! My entire paycheck goes back to the Mothership. I guess that’s why they hired me for this job.”

Okay, so he’s joking. But the actor, who starred in USA’s White Collar and danced to our delights in the Magic Mike movies, is serious about the themes presented in his new show premiering July 28. “At the time that the job came my way, I was also weighing out the ideas of art versus commerce, as probably every actor, every director, every artist does at some point,” he said. He’d also just finished reading Day of the Locust, by Nathanael West, which was in the same orbit as F. Scott Fitzgerald’s Tycoon — Locust was also about making it in 1930s Hollywood.

“It had similar themes,” Bomer said. “So the synchronicity of them calling me and talking to me about this piece, and all those themes, which are so relevant, was too good to pass up. It’s the debate — how do you create art in a commercial world? How do you sell out without selling out? Are you even allowed to sell out? Will you be invited to sell out?”

Thanks to Amazon’s television business model, everyone has an invite — customers get a chance to stream and review pilots during pilot season, to help choose the next original series available to Prime members. Last summer’s series pick-up for Tycoon was a relief for showrunners Billy Ray and Chris Keyser, who had spent the past five years trying to develop the show, including with HBO, which considered Tycoon a runner-up to the ill-fated Vinyl. “HBO was only going to make one period piece that was about the entertainment industry with a hard-driving guy at its center,” Ray told Moneyish. “And Vinyl had a year jump on us.”

HBO ultimately picked Vinyl, only to later cancel the show. But by then Tycoon had moved on to Amazon, one of the studios that had originally expressed interest. “They had a different perspective,” Keyser told Moneyish. “HBO had a slightly darker point of view about the show, so the original draft emphasized the underbelly of Hollywood. Amazon said, ‘We love the romance.’ They really pushed us on romance and glamour.”

At one point, Bomer’s character Monroe Stahr is given a blank check to make the kind of movie he’d really want to make, without studio constraints. If Bomer got such a check himself, he has no hesitation about how he’d spend it — financing a couple of “small, socially conscious” films that have “something meaningful to say.” That, and a few gifts for his kids. “When I’m shooting on location, that’s my guilt parenting,” he said, laughing. “‘Of course they need these colored headphones for their iPods. Ship them home! They’ll get them tomorrow!’”