“Who wants to see 42-year-old boobs?”
According to Jay Duplass, this is what Amanda Peet said before shooting her nude scene in “Togetherness.” The statement exemplifies the comfort level between cast members while shooting the upcoming HBO comedy; a quality quite evident during the cast’s discussion with the TCA press core Thursday evening in Pasadena. There to promote the show (premiering Sunday), creators Jay & Mark Duplass joined cast mates Melanie Lynskey, Amanda Peet and Steve Zissis to sell the world on their half-hour comedy. Considering our own affection for the series here at Indiewire, we’ve compiled the nine most compelling bits from the 30-minute chat in case our reasoning wasn’t good enough for you.
So, straight from the horses’ mouths, here’s why you should be watching “Togetherness”:
Equality reigns supreme in “Togetherness.”
“I feel like this is the first time, for us, that we have a story with four equal protagonists,” Mark Duplass said.
“Togetherness” focuses on a married couple who brings on two roommates despite already having a full house with two kids. Traditionally, the married couple would take center stage, or even just the two men. Instead, in true Duplass style, each character is treated with equal humanity and given their due on screen. It’s a refreshing take on a standard story, and one very much in tune with its title.
TV creators are parents, and actors are drunks.
Jay Duplass was asked about his recent “boom” in acting, primarily with his work on “Transparent,” and how it compared to his role as a writer and director.
“I think Mark said it best when he said, ‘If being a writer, director and creator of a show is like being a parent who burps and raises a child to fruition, being an actor is sort of like being the drunk uncle who shows up at Christmas and hands out Oreos, is a champion, and gets the hell out of there.'”
Mark, though, had a slightly different take on the matter. “I’m God,” Mark said. “There are multiple gods, and I’m all of them.”
The women of “Togetherness” are “complicated”…
Though many TV comedies have taken steps to better illustrate the complexity of their characters, women are still short-shafted more than their male counterparts. Not here. Melanie Lynskey (“Hello I Must Be Going,” “Up in the Air”) plays Michelle, the spouse of Mark Duplass’ Brett, but thankfully she’s so much more than just someone’s wife.
“Michelle is a complicated person,” Lynskey said. “Oh, you feel like it’s a wife who’s just over sex, but then you discover she’s a very sexual, complicated person who has a lot of stuff going on, and she’s at a point in her life where she’s looking around and thinking, ‘What else could it be’ or ‘What else could it have been?’ ‘Did I take the right turns in my life and make the right choices?’ I think it’s something everyone can relate to.”
…and they’re very, very funny.
“I think it’s really vital to stay in a comic place if you’re going to take your clothes off at age 42 after breastfeeding two children,” Peet said when asked how she approached her nude scene in the show. “Otherwise, it’s really tragic.”
“Why didn’t you ask about my balls?” Mark countered, joking with the reporter about picking on Peet’s choice of clothing on the panel (which was demure in comparison to her topless scene on the show, where she was not wearing a top). “I’m dressed, I think, very sharply, and I showed my balls and you didn’t ask me anything.”
“A lot of you may think of Amanda as a very composed, supermodel-esque, just very New York-y,” Jay interjected. “And I just want to say that you’re also looking at the most spastic and hilarious human beings on the planet. […] When we were about to shoot that nude scene, someone was in the other room shouting, ‘Who wants to see 42-year-old boobs?’ And we were laughing our asses off harder than we ever had on set.”
Anything can happen on set.
“It’s really important for us to create the sense that anything can happen in this moment,” said Jay Duplass, regarding the show’s production focus.
The Duplass brothers are known for keeping an open mind while shooting: They often encourage their actors to improvise within their characters, so they can say and do things that the writers may not have thought possible — even though the scripts are very tightly written. The actors were quick to praise the writing while the brothers, who wrote and directed the entire series, passed the praise right back to their actors. No matter how the sausage is made, it tastes damn fine thanks to these choice chefs.
One cast member has no talent, but it doesn’t matter for the show.
Much has been made about the real-life parallels between Steve Zissis and his character on “Togetherness,” Alex Pappas. Both are struggling actors trying to make it Hollywood. Both face similar challenges in pursuing their dreams. Both are good friends with someone who looks exactly like Mark Duplass (the real-life Mark Duplass or his character, Brett). Even the names have a similar ring to them.
When asked about the commonalities, Zissis had a very simple explanation.
“It’s how it had to be because I don’t really have any acting talent, per se, and I don’t have any imagination,” he said. “So I had to do something really close to my real life to be believable.”
(For the record, we don’t believe his humbly sarcastic statement for a second. His is a standout performance on the show.)
They’ve brought the independent filmmaking mentality to TV.
Growing up in New Orleans, LA and attending the University of Texas in Austin, the Duplass brothers have stated repeatedly their early ambitions. “We were trying to be the Coen brothers in the early to mid ’90s, because everyone was trying to be the Coen brothers back then,” Jay said. “We failed at that because they’re the Coen brothers. They’ve cornered that market.”
“We spent a lot of time making small art in Austin, and luckily it was the era of Richard Linklater and Robert Rodriguez,” he continued. “The only thing we were smart about was making things cheap enough where we could fall on our faces, get back up and try again. We really slugged it out for about 10 years, trying to find our voice, and it just happened one day when we were hanging out.”
Mark went on to say how he felt the duo has kept that kind of mentality to this very day, including the show they’ve just wrapped with the big boys at HBO.
“At the end of the day, we still feel like unless we make the work it will not come to us, which is kind of why we made this show.”
Locations don’t matter: it’s the actors who count.
There have been a glut of Los Angeles-based TV series over the last half-decade or so, including Jay Duplass’ most recent acting role on “Transparent.” Some argue the demystifying of the often-fantasized LA is part of a movement toward transparency and hyper-reality, but the Duplass brothers didn’t have any high-minded reasons for choosing their setting.
“This might be somewhat controversial to say, but the location is not terribly important to what’s the core of the show,” Mark said. “To us, we wanted to make a show that was representative of how Jay and I see the world, which, for better or worse, is how we’re constantly striving to be closer to the people we love: our spouses, our children, our friends, our parents. We want to be embroiled in that intimacy that makes for a great life… and as soon as we get it, we are immediately like, ‘Get us the fuck out of here.’
“Transparent” characters “would kill” everyone on “Togetherness.”
If you enjoyed “Transparent,” but were looking for something with a little less bite, “Togetherness” might be exactly what you’re looking for. Despite the similar setting of Los Angeles, one shared creative body in Jay Duplass and comparable tones, the characters are much different. So different, in fact, Jay Duplass thinks a fight between the two ensembles would be no contest.
“‘Transparent’ characters would murder all of these people,” Jay said. He was met with some boo’s from this cast members on stage, but the writer/director held firm on his position. “Tina would kill everybody. Tina would destroy everybody.”