In their arthouse feature oeuvre, from feature directing projects such as Cyrus to productions such as last summer’s quirky The One I Love, Jay and Mark Duplass have shown a knack for capturing the eccentricities and foibles of romance.
“I received a compliment from a fan after they saw our film The Puffy Chair and they said, ‘It felt like you put a microphone in our apartment and recorded that fight scene.'” Mark Duplass said during the TCA panel for Togetherness, the new HBO series the brothers created.
Premiering Jan. 11, Togetherness marks the Duplass Brothers TV series debut. The show follows Brett and Michelle (Mark Duplass and Melanie Lynskey) who are weathering ennui in their marriage and sex life. Their domestic lives are shaken up when Brett’s friend Alex (Steve Zissis) and Michelle’s sister Tina (Amanda Peet) move in under the same roof.
For Jay Duplass, the series’ backdrop in the older, increasingly hipster Northeast Los Angeles neighborhood of Eagle Rock symbolizes the mid-life hijinks at the heart of the show.
“Eagle Rock is on the fringe of Los Angeles,” Jay Duplass said. “It’s often said that it’s a place where hipsters go to die or go to have children. It’s like a weigh station and our characters have one foot in Los Angeles and one foot out. They’re not sure if they fit in, not sure what they’re doing. It was important to set the show in that particular neighborhood.”
Added Mark Duplass, “The location is representative of how we see the world. How we strive to be closer to our family, kids and friends. But as soon as we get that, we want to eject and be on a trip by ourselves. It’s sad and funny. When we started cooking up the show, that’s the core of what we wanted to make.”
Elaborating on their process, Mark Duplass said the duo bring complete scripts to the actors, but leave them opportunities to improvise at the table read or during filming: “Improvisation is used as a means to get intimacy between the characters.”
Peet, commenting on the creative license, praised the brothers.
“As actors we’re fighting to keep their writing,” Peet said. “It’s an unusual position to be in as an actor. It’s a delight and makes you feel trusted, but it’s scary and exhilarating.”
The actress then added, “But we do have complete scripts.”
Snapped Mark Duplass, “Stop defending our scripts!”