“Welcome to New York, it’s been waiting for you!” screeches Mark Duplass as we sit down in his Midtown hotel room. I’ve just told him and his brother Jay, the writer/ director team behind HBO’s new TV series Togetherness, how Taylor Swift’s ode to the Big Apple wouldn’t stop playing as my cab inched slowly through Manhattan traffic—a hellish scenario. Mark knows plenty about Swift’s music, thanks to being a father. Everything else he and Jay know about parenthood and married life is the basis of Togetherness, which presents a terrifically earnest but hilarious look at the difficulty of wanting the same things as one gets older. Here, we talk about the new show, their affinity for Los Angeles, and, of course, masturbating in bed.
The show opens up with Mark’s character, Brett, masturbating to his wife’s backside in bed. How much of the show is drawn from real life? Mark Duplass: I haven’t masturbated in the bed yet, next to anyone. I’m still smart enough to wait until they leave the house. Jay Duplass: Oh, I’ve definitely masturbated in the bed with Jen [Jay’s wife] in the bed. MD: In the bed? Incredible. JD: I’ve asked permission. MD: To do this? JD: And been granted permission to masturbate in the bed. It’s hard to pinpoint specifically what is exactly real and what isn’t, but almost everything has a reference to our world.
The show is set in Los Angeles, which all of the characters seem to struggle with. Are you more or less L.A. than, say, Brett? MD: I’m more L.A. than Brett, for sure. What’s so great about Brett is he is incapable of being anything other than himself at any given moment in time. He’s a truly pure human being. Jay and I, for better or for worse, have learned to shuck and jive in any situation. We will take the temperature of someone when they walk in a room and just be that way. JD: We’re adaptive. MD: Brett is not adaptive, and that’s part of his big issue. JD: That being said, I am probably similar to Brett in my relationship. MD: You’re way better than Brett. If Brett’s a 10 on the squirrel scale [Ed. note: In one episode, Brett leaves a party to record the sounds a squirrel is making—as everyone outside stares at him], you’re like a six and a half. And sometimes an eight. And after two Crown and Sevens, you’re like a two.
Togetherness has an unaffected quality, similar to documentaries. Are there any documentaries you’re fond of? MD: A recent one is Mistaken for Strangers, which bears a similarity to one of our favorites, American Movie. They share the DNA of intensely flawed people with huge hearts, and very, very little skill sets to achieve their big dreams, but yet you find yourself rooting for them. I think that everyone in Togetherness, to a certain degree, is fist-pumping for greatness in their own way and they’re having a really hard time getting to it. That’s what we’re drawn to. JD: My recent favorite is Cutie and the Boxer. It’s about these artists trying to maintain their relationship, trying to be good to each other, but also trying to do something really hard with their careers and lives. That leads back to people living on the fringes of L.A. who want it so bad, even though it might not be good for them personally. Everything is such a struggle.
Mark, do you wear glasses? It’s a great touch—Brett looks like such a dork with them. MD: No, but I used to. I had Lasik done like an idiot in 2000 in New Orleans, the least technologically savvy place in the universe. We talked about Brett early on and Jay was just like, “There’s still, like, 10 percent of you that is an ex-high school jock and we need to just take that out.” JD: My phrase was, “Mark is too quarterback-y and we need to beat that back.” And the glasses–it was your idea. MD: But fuckin’ season two, man, I’m gonna Superman out. I’m gonna go in that booth, and come out dick swingin’, guys. It’s gonna be huge.
Text by Jeremy Gordon. Photography by Shane McCauley.