It’s funny, talking to Amanda Peet and Melanie Lynskey together, because while they play sisters on HBO’s “Togetherness,” there’s none of the rivalry you might witness between siblings of the same gender. Instead, they’re more like BFFs; always quick to correct the other after a self-deprecating comment, and always eager to emphasize their respect and love for the other’s beauty and talent.
Sitting down with Indiewire to discuss the second season of “Togetherness,” Peet and Lynskey were full of love for their show, but also spoke candidly about the difficulties of working with babies and making big speeches to tired cast members. And they have little patience for the Hollywood attitude that demands that women be both “beautiful but approachable.” An edited transcript follows.
I don’t want to ask you how this is different from doing other television because, between the two of you, you’ve done pretty much every kind of television you can possibly do. I want to know how Season 2 is different from Season 1, though.
MELANIE LYNSKEY: It was a little different work-wise because Jay and Mark split the episodes up so one of them was more of the director for one [episode], and then they would switch off because they got so exhausted last season. That was different than Season 1 because that was just the two of them at all times. This worked well because I think it preserved their energy because they had to go shoot their own TV shows after us, which is so crazy.
AMANDA PEET: I was breastfeeding, so I had a newborn infant. They were really incredible. I thought that that is worth mentioning — that they were really great bosses for someone who has a newborn infant. I don’t think there are a lot of actresses who would be able to report that about male executive producers and directors. There would literally be people on the walkie going, “Is she done breastfeeding?! Where can she breastfeed?! We’re going to set up a sheet tent for Amanda at the next location! Is she going to breastfeed before we move to the location or after?!” I mean, just so thoughtful.
LYNSKEY: They were great. They were so kind about that and just into it.
That’s so interesting to mention in terms of where [Tina] goes through the season. In terms of the themes regarding motherhood, what did that do to your head?
PEET: It was a little weird wearing really tight clothes so quickly after having given birth.
LYNSKEY: You look amazing. I feel like all the weight is just in your boobs. [laughs]
PEET: That’s so great! [laughs] That never happens!
LYNSKEY: There are shots where your breasts look so amazing. It’s crazy.
PEET: I’m so excited about that that it’s pathetic.
PEET: I will freeze frame on that and go, “DAVID! Come look at this!” [Peet is married to “Game of Thrones” co-creator David Benioff] I will. Because those days are over. [laughs] What was the question?
Was there more to playing the role, beyond the physical element?
PEET: I don’t mean to be corny, but I was a new mom again and then I was supposed to be this– It’s weird. I’m clickity-clacking in high heels and stuff. It was weird. But then her exploration with whether she might be mom material was really fun… and a little weird, too, [laughs] in between breastfeeding.
LYNSKEY: It’s so interesting because you’re such a great mother and you’re so natural with your kids and they’re just physically the most beautiful children you’ve ever seen — because they have two parents who are so beautiful — but they’re also just really funny and polite and sweet. She has these three amazing children, and then to see Amanda be able to switch into somebody who’s holding a baby weirdly and sort of trying to figure it out — when I just know how natural and great she is at it — is really impressive. It’s hard to pretend that you can’t do that, you know?
PEET: It is weird to me to be holding the twins and trying to hold them weirdly. That was weird to me because I can’t stand it when people do that. Whenever I’ve ever interviewed a nanny or a baby nurse in my life, the way that they hold a baby is, you know… I’m watching.
I could be overstating, but it seems like the kids were much more present — especially for Tina’s character — in Season 2.
PEET: I think for you, too.
LYNSKEY: Well, I don’t have a ton of interaction. I’ve got a little bit with Sophie [played by Abby Ryder Fortson], but she’s in it a lot more because she got successful so they said, “If you want her to come back for Season 2, you’ve got to give her some more stuff to do.” And she’s such a good little actress so it was great to be able to give her that.
Have you guys worked a lot with children before?
LYNSKEY: I have.
PEET: I have, too.
LYNSKEY: I’ve had children in movies since I’ve been 21 years old.
PEET: It’s a nightmare.
LYNSKEY: These babies this season, though. One of the twins did not care for me and every time he was put in my arms, he would lose his mind. And he was the tricky one. There was this one day where he was being brought onto set because the other one was napping and everyone was like, “Shh, Shh.” [laughs] It was like, I don’t know, Michael Jackson was coming or something. Everyone said, “Don’t make eye contact. Don’t look at him.” Everyone was just standing in the hallway with their heads down as he silently passed, like he was the biggest celebrity.
PEET: It was slightly cultish and very Al-Anon, the way we all were about these babies. Like when we had to get a shot, everyone had to bend over backward and turn themselves into a pretzel to try and either be silent so that we didn’t wake them up or else make a lot of noise so we did wake them up… We were venturing into child abuse.
LYNSKEY: Well, one of the babies was great and he liked me. And I really liked him. He was nice to work with.
Do you feel the season got more intimate for both of you guys? In terms of being the story being told?
LYNSKEY: We just had so many more episodes that were so sprawling with so many characters, like all the stuff on the beach and all the stuff in the last episode in the school with so many children. The initial episodes are more intimate, I think. But then it kind of expanded.
PEET: Yeah, there were a lot of big doozies to tackle. Big scenes.
LYNSKEY: With all the speeches — like with the chat after school and things like that — I just felt like every day I was just coming and giving some huge speech, half of which were cut.
PEET: Heads will roll. [laughs]
You do not prefer the speeches.
LYNSKEY: No, I don’t like it because everybody’s tired. It’s not like actually giving a speech to people because everyone knows they’re not on camera. So people have been there all day, listening to the same thing. Having to direct a bunch of positive energy at people who are like, *sigh.*
PEET: It’s probably what it’s like though, to do a charter school. [laughs]
LYNSKEY: [laughs] Probably.
Did you guys know much about that process in the beginning?
LYNSKEY: No. Charter schools? Maybe you did?
PEET: She doesn’t have children.
LYNSKEY: Yeah, I don’t have children or anything. I’m just a free lady.
PEET: Free agent in the universe.
LYNSKEY: We switched roles.
Of course, you guys are playing sisters, I know you have to develop that relationship in a really special way. Does having it as a role reversal help at all?
LYNSKEY: I don’t know. I’m not as crazy as Tina.
PEET: Yeah, that’s not a role reversal, yeah. [laughs] No, no, no.
LYNSKEY: Just in terms of not having the babies and stuff. I feel very lucky that we liked each other so much. It felt very natural. I was worried because Amanda’s so beautiful, and there was a part of me that was like, people who are going to be watching the show will be like, “Oh, really?” But then, people have unattractive siblings.
[Peet is not buying this.]
PEET: I just can’t. I can’t even. It’s not possible.
LYNSKEY: I have a sister who’s very beautiful.
PEET: Oh my God.
[laughs] Amanda, you are losing your mind.
PEET: I am. Yeah.
LYNSKEY: But it’s true.
PEET: First of all, you’re so beautiful, you crazy fucking person.
LYNSKEY: I’m a perfectly fine-looking person, and I’m very comfortable with myself, but [Peet] is like a great beauty, so there’s a part of me that was like… [laughs]
PEET: No comment.
What I really like about Tina as a character is she gets to really play this edge that I don’t think you get, or you never see. There’s this Twitter feed that someone created that’s just a rundown of scripts that this producer has read, and all the ways that female characters are introduced. Like, “damaged beauty” or “looks great in jeans.”
LYNSKEY: I just saw that. It’s amazing.
PEET: Oh, the descriptions in the scripts. Oh my God. Jesus.
But then you look at the character of Tina, who could easily fall into one of those tropes, but instead is really fleshed out.
PEET: That’s from them. That’s Mark and Jay.
PEET: Yeah. A hundred percent. It was in the pilot. You know, you’re like, “Oh, she’s that girl,” and then you turn the page and you’re like, “Not quite.” Then you turn the page and you’re like, “Oh, she’s going that way.” You know, she really needs help and it’s kinda empathetic and you just can’t stand her. Yeah, that’s them.
LYNSKEY: Yeah, but there’s no like, “Beautiful, but doesn’t know it.”
LYNSKEY: “Beautiful, but tired.”
PEET: “Was once attractive, but now…”
LYNSKEY: “Still attractive!” It’s always, “Still attractive!” Not “was once attractive.”
PEET: [laughs] Right, right. I feel like I read something kind of like that for a role for me recently, where it was like, something about pushing 50 and you know, still managing to not repel everyone.
LYNSKEY: Yeah! Still, somehow. I pointed that out to my boyfriend a couple of years ago, and he was like, “I don’t even notice that.” And now when he’s reading a script, he’s like, “Listen to this!” Cos it’s like, “Ben: thirty-five, charismatic. Abbie: Ben’s girlfriend, thirty-five, beautiful, but doesn’t know it.” It always has to say something about the woman’s physicality.
PEET: “Beautiful, but approachable. The women want to be her friend and the men wanna fuck her.”
Have you ever come across “Beautiful, and totally knows it, and totally owns it.”
LYNSKEY: [laughs] I have never seen that. Do you know what happened to me one time, though? I auditioned for a movie and the character description was, “The beautiful girl who sits next to him in class.” And then I got the part, and I got to Toronto to do the movie and I got the rewritten scene. My character description: “Quirky, but cute.” Like, they changed it once they cast me. From “beautiful” to “quirky, but cute.” There’s no need to downgrade the character description like once someone’s just like… You know.
PEET: I think we both feel really lucky that [the Duplasses] are not preoccupied with any of that.
PEET: And with the other roles that came in this year, they definitely go for interesting.
LYNSKEY: Which is a thousand times sexier.
LYNSKEY: Like both of the new women [played by Ginger Gonzaga and Emily Althanus], I think, are so sexy because they’re so interesting and they’re so unique and…
PEET: And with us, too, I feel like they’re really interested in showing a lot of different colors and states and not, I don’t know.
I don’t think Season 3 has been greenlit yet, but where would you like to see it go? What kind of paths would you like to take?
PEET: We just want it to go.
LYNSKEY: [laughs] That’s all we care about, honestly.
PEET: Literally, we see them all the time and we’re like, “Are we going?” And they’re like, “Yeah, we’re going!” But we’re like, “But for real, are we really going?”
LYNSKEY: They get really confident.
PEET: They get really confident and we don’t believe anything until we see our trailers parked in their spots.
LYNSKEY: Yeah. It’s just the greatest. I don’t know what I would do if we didn’t get another season.
LYNSKEY: I don’t know how I would go on to another job. I would be so grumpy. I’d be so awful to work with. I mean, I just feel so lucky, every script that we got this season. I was just like, “Oh! There’s something weird and interesting to get to play,” and just… I don’t know. I just really get to feel very lucky.
How much of your year is the show at this point?
PEET: Three months?
LYNSKEY: Yeah, it’s really short. Because there’s only eight episodes. I wish it was longer, but they don’t want to make more episodes.
LYNSKEY: I know.
“Togetherness” airs Sundays at 10:30pm on HBO.