It’s a busy season for Mark Duplass , who currently stars with Jennifer Aniston, Reese Witherspoon, Steve Carell, and Billy Crudup in Apple TV+’s “The Morning Show” – premiering on Friday, November 1, when the new streaming service launches – as well as a role as Megyn Kelly’s husband, Douglas Brunt, alongside his “Tully” co-star Charlize Theron in the upcoming feature film “Bombshell.”
IndieWire’s Executive Editor and Chief Critic Eric Kohn recently sat down with Duplass for a Q&A at the SAG-AFTRA Foundation Center in New York to discuss his role on “The Morning Show.” In the Apple TV+ series, Duplass plays Charlie “Chip” Black, The Morning Show head producer who’s tasked with cleaning up messes — especially the very big mess from Carell’s Mitch Kessler that drives the first season — and constantly comes to verbal blows with showrunner Alex Levy (Jennifer Aniston). Duplass likened the relationship between Chip and Alex to a dysfunctional work wife-work husband relationship.
“Yeah, we talked a lot about there’s somewhere between work wife and husband, brother and sister,” Duplass said. “I don’t know if you guys have ever been to couples therapy or anything like that, but the first thing that always comes up is you are giving all of your good energy to everybody else and then you shit on the person that is closest to you when you get home when you’re tired because you feel safe and you know they’ll never leave you. And that’s basically what she does to Chip, and a little bit about what he does to her.”
Duplass continued, “So while it is not fun, the bedrock of that, the therapist would tell you is that, ‘Oh, you’re actually expressing there’s a deep love and commitment there that, ‘I’ll take all the bad shit, but I’m not going anywhere.’ And that was kind of how we made that glue of our connection.”
As Kohn brought up Duplass’ ability to really get into his characters’ mindsets, the discussion turned into one about how someone as comfortable as working in improv-heavy films and television was able to bring that skill and talent to something much less malleable in a show like “The Morning Show.”
“I mean, there’s an almost like a Sorkin-like quality to some of the dialogue in this that’s mellifluous and poetic and it begs to be spoken as written, which is not traditionally either what I’m hired for or what I’m known for,” Duplass said. “And it ended up being a really good marriage of what I do, which is I try to add the ‘ums’ and the ‘ahs’ and the stumbles and the things so that subconsciously it feels a little bit more real. And Kerry Ehrin, who’s our showrunner, was really into that and really having a couple of characters who did that. They would always joke like, ‘Oh, Mark is here, so it’s time to have the humanized, more naturalistic documentary approach to what this character would be.’”
“I really kind of was craving it when I would read the pages,” he continued. “And I would say, ‘I want to make sure we’re not doing five-minute walk and talks down the hall that feel too rehearsed, and we’re hitting the points.’ And so I would occasionally throw things in that were a little off. And I would stop early and try to just create a little bit of chaos just to get the shaggy vibe going and I didn’t have to fight for that. They were all into that.” Duplass specifically noted an argument scene in the second episode of “The Morning Show,” between his and Reese Witherspoon’s (who plays Bradley Jackson) characters, where this truly came into play.
Duplass continued, “When a show like ‘The Morning Show’ comes to me, and I think to myself, ‘OK, what’s this all about?’ Try and go in that meditation mode of like, ‘Is this the right thing?’ And I’m like, ‘Well, we’ve got Reese and Jen in the executive producer chair for something they squarely believe in.’ And you can feel from them when I was talking to them early on, all these wonderful dialogue scenes where Jen’s character is just like, ‘You bozos aren’t in charge anymore. I’m in charge.’ Reese has a bunch of those scenes coming up. That is their characters, but it’s also them, and I wanted to be able to be a part of their coming forward and telling this story.”