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‘Transparent’ Star Jay Duplass on Why He Loves Acting More than Directing, and His Disgust for Superhero Movies

Also: Trump's election changed everything for the Duplass brothers, and they redirected their production company's focus in response.

Jay Duplass - Sundance 2017

Jay Duplass

Daniel Bergeron


The filmmaking Duplass brothers were already making some big life changes when the election of Donald Trump uprooted everything.

“When Trump got elected, almost all of the ideas that Mark and I had immediately dropped off the table,” Jay Duplass told IndieWire recently at a SAG-AFTRA Foundation panel. “We were like, ‘everything has changed.’ Humor has changed. Impulse has changed.”

The Duplasses have changed. Once upon a time, Jay was known as the behind-the-lens guy, while Mark was seen more often on screen. But then “Transparent” gave Jay the acting bug, and he now sees himself as a thesp as much as a filmmaker. Mark, on the other hand, has been focusing his efforts lately on production.

“He’s really the leader in terms of how he’s built out our company as almost like a mini independent film studio, like a tiny Annapurna,” Jay Duplass said of Mark. The company has a film deal at Netflix and a TV deal with HBO (which includes the upcoming anthology series “Room 104”).

Inspired by what’s going on in the real world, Jay said he and Mark are now aiming to “better the cause of inclusion on every level, whether that’s hiring people and telling stories from under-represented voices.”

READ MORE: How Jay Duplass Discovered the Actor Inside Him – Video Interview

“Transparent” and creator Jill Soloway played a serious part in shaping Jay Duplass’ worldview. “The first year was about Jill was trying to make the world a safer place for her parents,” he said “And then we were evolving and it was like, We want inclusiveness for all LGBTQ people, more of a platform for trans people and gender-nonconforming people.’ Now the show has moved into more intersectional role where it’s like, ‘No, every single marginalized voice.”

Production recently wrapped on the show’s Season 4, which will run on Amazon this fall. The show is coming off a somewhat bleak Season 3, including a storyline for Duplass’ character, Josh, that gave the actor a chance to expand his dramatic chops. As the Pfefferman clan pulled apart, Josh struggled to deal with the suicide of Rita, the childhood nanny with whom he ended up having a (now teenage) child.

Jay Duplass, Amy Landecker, Gaby Hoffmann, Jeffrey Tambor

Jay Duplass, Amy Landecker, Gaby Hoffmann, Jeffrey Tambor

Daniel Bergeron

“Transparent” has already won Emmys for star Jeffrey Tambor (who picked up the Outstanding Lead Actor in a Comedy trophy in 2015 and 2016), as well as for Bradley Whitford in the guest actor category. Soloway has also won two years in a row, for outstanding directing in a comedy. Others actors receiving nominations in the past include Gaby Hoffman, Judith Light, and Melora Hardin. But Duplass broke out this year, particularly with the episode “The Open Road,” which featured Josh on a road trip looking to deliver Rita’s ashes to their son. Along the way, he develops a chemistry with his road trip partner Shea (Trace Lysette), before ruining things with a few ill-advised comments.

“I think Season 3 was really dark and we all talked about that,” Duplass said. “And Jill really wanted the family to celebrate a little bit and have a little bit more lightheartedness [next season]. There’s a really big surprise in Season 4 that is incredible and very politically oriented. I can’t talk about that but I will say that this season starts with [Josh] living with his mother Shelly. Josh has a weird subconscious thing where if he can help the most lost cause Pfefferman, then maybe there’s hope for him as well too.”

Duplass admits he’s still in awe of where his career has gone in the last few years – all because he ran into Soloway at a party. Now, he’s in the midst of a busy summer: He has roles in the upcoming films “Beatriz at Dinner” (opening this weekend), “Landline” and “Philosophy of Phil.”

“I think I am enjoying acting more than I’ve ever enjoyed writing and directing,” he said. “And I think it’s just more of who I am.”

Because of his production company and filmmaking career, as an actor Duplass can allow himself to be picky on the films he stars in, and these days, he says he “definitely needs the movie to be socially conscious.”

READ MORE: ‘Transparent’ Cast Q&A: On BDSM And What It’s Like When Jill Soloway Whispers in Your Ear

Here’s what Duplass isn’t looking to do: a blockbuster superhero movie. Duplass said he doesn’t have a problem with all superhero movies, but he believes many are indicative of a “bankrupt” national mythology.

“Most of the ethos of a superhero movie is there’s some good people and there’s some bad people and the bad people are kicking ass and the good people need to do is get real strong and fucking kill those bad people,” he said.

“And once we do that everything’s going to be OK. That is the ethos of this country and that’s what’s wrong with our country right now. And this art is only fortifying and reinforcing that bullshit and people are gobbling it up… that needs to be questioned because I think there is a ‘might is right’ mentality about it. There is a separatist mentality about it, and it bothers me… I’m the dad of two young kids and I can’t just watch those movies and have them wash over me… I’m painfully aware of the core problem.”

Watch our full interview with Jay Duplass below.

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