Mark Duplass stars in the hit television comedy series “The League,” and he has appeared in dozens of films, such as “Zero Dark Thirty” and “The One I Love.” With his brother Jay, he has also written and directed several acclaimed films, including “Cyrus” and “Jeff Who Lives at Home,” each with a wry look at modern life. Mark’s latest project with Jay is the new HBO show “Togetherness,” which debuts this weekend.
Brendan Francis Newnam: Mark, welcome to our show.
Mark Duplass: Guys, I could not have written that intro better myself. I mean…
Rico Gagliano: Let’s not lie. You did write that intro.
Mark Duplass: Right. I made you read it. There’s a gun to your head, right now.
Brendan Francis Newnam: And, were like, “I have a free three minutes between my other jobs. How about I write for you guys?
Mark Duplass: You got it.
Brendan Francis Newnam: We appreciate that.
Rico Gagliano: So, let’s talk about this TV show of yours. It is a comedy set in Los Angeles, but this not the glamorous side of LA living that you present here. This is pretty regular-looking, middle-aged people stumbling through very real, messy lives, which is standard for your work with your bother. Why have you made that choice?
Mark Duplass: Well, in the case of “Togetherness,” the show is set in Los Angeles, but it’s really about being on the fringes of LA and not able to access all the things that look glamorous to you, when you look at it from the outside. It’s about trying to maintain those personal dreams of yours, that made you feel inspired and excited when you were thirteen years old, but at the same time, trying to be a good friend and a good spouse and a good parent. And, those things seem to constantly be at odds to me, and I can never get that balance right. That used to really annoy me, and Jay and I just said, fuck it, let’s just put it on screen and examine it.
Brendan Francis Newnam: There’s also, to me, there’s a feeling of characters who have gone through their lives. They’ve achieved a certain amount of success, and then realizing that there’s an emptiness somewhere?
Mark Duplass: I think so, too.Jay and I always call this “recalibrating the mountains.” When we were in our mid-20s, our ultimate career goal was to get a feature film into Sundance. I remember sitting in that theater. I was 27 and Jay was 30 when our first movie, “The Puffy Chair,” premiered at Sundance. We cried and it was beautiful. Then, we got outside, and we stared walking around, and we started looking at each other. We were like, “OK, we’re here. Now what?”Where’s the happy button?
Rico Gagliano: When does the crown happen?
Mark Duplass: What are we supposed to do? And that is when the panic attacks start, guys. I guess Jay and I realized that we’ve come way further in our careers than we ever thought we would. I never thought I would be sitting here talking about myself or my career, in any way, shape, or form. I mean, I could in my bedroom, but there wouldn’t be a microphone in front of me. It’s become very, very clear to us that achievement of any goal is not going to bring us any lasting happiness.
Rico Gagliano: Look, maybe you can bring some happiness to our listeners. They have sent in etiquette questions. Are you ready for these?
Mark Duplass: Excellent.
A Neighbor’s Scent-Assault
Rico Gagliano: All right. This first one comes from Park, in San Luis Obispo, California. Park writes: “The households on either side of ours both used perfumed laundry detergent and/or fabric softeners. Their dryer vents assault us daily with the scent of aerosolized urinal cakes.” This person should be a screenwriter. “Should we share with them studies showing cancer links to the chemicals in those products? Maybe just a nighttime sortie to redirect dryer vents? Or, just continue to endure with closed windows for parts of each day?”
Mark Duplass: This is tough. Judging by the writing style of this person, I believe that you’re not an emotionally-involved person in particular, who is able to do head-to-head confrontation well. So, what I would recommend is, I would recommend an Old Testament approach of an eye for an eye. I would invite each neighbor over for dinner, and I would cook two soups. Those soups should consist of the actual detergent that they’re using. Say “You’re welcome to keep using your detergent, and for every batch of clothes you wash, you will have to drink a bowl of my soup”.
Rico Gagliano: Is this eye for an eye? They assault your nose and then you poison them?
Mark Duplass: Yeah, I guess you’re right. I guess it’s death for a nose, or something.
Brendan Francis Newnam: The other sad part is, Park’s neighbor is trying to be clean. You know what I mean? Park’s neighbor isn’t smoking or rendering bones in his bathtub.
Rico Gagliano: Human sacrifice.
Brendan Francis Newnam: That’s going to be a tough argument for Park.
Mark Duplass: I have one thing to say: “The road to hell is paved with good intentions.”
Brendan Francis Newnam: And it smells like fabric softener.
Mark Duplass: Yeah. Fuck that guy.
Brendan Francis Newnam: All right, there you go, Park.
Rico Gagliano: That’s just the etiquette attitude we want on this show. Super polite.
Getting Back Your ‘Meat Candy’
Brendan Francis Newnam: This next question comes from Will in Saratoga Springs, New York. Will writes: “I woke up at 6 AM on New Year’s Day to start a slow pork roast. I brought it to a party later that afternoon and only had a little of this perfectly-cooked roast. Is it rude to ask my host if I can take some leftovers with me? If it is rude, what is a subtle way of getting some of my meat candy back?”
Mark Duplass: That’s an excellent question. I think this is really in the details, here. I mean, if you brought over a nice bottle of wine or a bottle of champagne, you clearly can’t bring that home. That is just as much of a housewarming gift as it is an addition to the party. But, if there is some stuff like meat, that have a time limit on it, it could go bad. You could be at someone’s house who lives by themselves. There could be a few pounds of meat there. I would hope that you’re in the level of friendship and communication with this person, where you could walk up to them and just say exactly what you just said there.
“Hey, man, look, I’m feeling a little insecure about this, but I also feel like there’s a good chance you won’t eat all this meat. If you tell me you’re going to eat it all, or even if you are going to have another party tomorrow, say no more. I’ll back off. You take the meat. But, if you tell me it might be going bad in your fridge five days from now, I wouldn’t mind taking a quarter of it back. And also, you don’t have to answer right now.” You throw that out at the beginning of a party and let them think about it.
Rico Gagliano: Before anyone’s even cut into it. It’s like, “If there’s anything left over here, I want you to know, I got dibs.”
Mark Duplass: Exactly. But, then, slowly, that allows you to, slowly, throughout the party, passive-aggressively make plays for the meat, which is really what any good party is about.
Rico Gagliano: All right. Well, there you go.
Brendan Francis Newnam:That’s how you get your meat candy back, Will.
Do Not Discuss Disapproval Over Breakfast
Rico Gagliano: Here’s something very simple from John in Pasadena, California. John writes: “Should I tell my brother that I disapprove of his girlfriend?” Perfect for you because you have a brother.
Mark Duplass: So, you have to be extremely careful in this situation, but you have to have this conversation. In my opinion, what you need to do is not call a breakfast.
Brendan Francis Newnam: Don’t call a breakfast meeting with your brother?
Mark Duplass:If you call a breakfast, you have to sit and look each other in the eye, and it’s going to be too difficult. You call for a drive or a hike. If you’re driving, you don’t have to look them in the eye, and you can say a bunch of things. If you’re hiking, you’re looking forward and watching for vermin, so you don’t actually have to look each other in the eye. It makes everything about 25% less painful, but you have to have this conversation.
Rico Gagliano: Really? You can’t just kind of shut up and let that person live his her own lives?
Brendan Francis Newnam: No way.
Mark Duplass: You’ve got to hit this thing on the head. Because, in my opinion, and I’m going to get real therapy-serious for a second here.
Brendan Francis Newnam: Here we go.
Mark Duplass: If you avoid this issue, it will say to him, in the end, that you think you are better than him and know character better than him, because you’re just going to let this thing go and just ‘let him have his time.’ It’s a little patronizing.
Rico Gagliano: How does he know you’re being patronizing if you say nothing?
Mark Duplass: Because, when you’re brothers, and when you’re close, you’re going to sense that stuff. When you’re three and a half beers in, everybody’s going to know how you feel, and it will reduce your intimacy. If you tell him about this, you’ll have a huge fight, but then you’ll hug it out, you’ll get over it, and you’ll be closer. It’s worth it.
Brendan Francis Newnam: All right. From poisoning your neighbor to hugging your brother, Mark Duplass. Thanks for telling your audience how to behave.
Mark Duplass: Thanks, guys.