MARK DUPLASS (The League) Exclusive Interview

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I recently got a chance to speak with MARK DUPLASS who plays Pete on FX’s new show, The League, which airs on Thursdays at 10:30pm.

He talked about what’s coming up for Pete on The League this season, his future projects, his love of “Friday Night Lights,” and much more. So enjoy the interview below.

Congratulations on ‘The League’. Can you talk about how you first got involved with the show?

Mark Duplass: Thank you very much, yeah. I met Jackie [Schaffer] and Jeff [Schaffer] and I knew they were looking around for some actors who could do the improv thing because it’s definitely a specific process. We’re working from outlines and there’s no formal script. So there’s a lot of not only what’s said but sort of what your character does and even the narrative drive of the show is kind of in your lap as an actor. So, Katie [Aselton] met with Jeff and Jackie after they had seen a movie we made called ‘The Puffy Chair’. Katie and I acted in that and my brother and I wrote and directed that. It just felt like a really good fit because Jackie and Jeff are this couple, this amazing couple. They’re super self-aware. They are constantly making fun of each other but it’s totally done with love and Katie and I are very similar. We were having breakfast with them and it was sort of these mirror images of ourselves. It’s a very precarious thing to try and work with your spouse and we kind of connected over that. I think that Katie is a filmmaker and I’m a filmmaker so there’s a specific type of acting that you do here where you’re acting but you’re also writing as you go. You’re thinking where the scene should go, what your character should do here and so I think we all felt comfortable like that. It just seemed from about ten minutes into the meeting we were all just like, ‘Alright, I know there’s going to be auditions and I know there’s going to be studio approvals but I think this is going to be what’s happening.’ Then six months later we were shooting the pilot.

Do you like improvising more than actually having to memorize a script and act off of that?

Mark Duplass: I’m more comfortable in it just because I think it’s what I’m used to. As a filmmaker, my brother and I have a whole philosophy of working where nothing feels as fresh, obviously, as something that is coming up right in the moment there. So it’s kind of what I think I’m better at. But I did do a role with Noah Baumbach and Ben Stiller in this movie ‘Greenberg’ where Noah is super specific about his script and being on that. So I had to do more preparation with it. Honestly, I was nervous but it is its own version of challenging and it was really, really fun.

Now we know that Pete has left his wife already on ‘The League’. Will there be a new love interest for him this season? What’s coming up for him?

Mark Duplass: I can definitely say that Pete is on the loose, but the thing about Pete is that he’s so confident and so great at fantasy football that you’d kind of think if you don’t know him that well that he carries that through every other aspect of his life and that’s really not the case. He’s basically a God of the virtual gridiron and pretty much a loser at everything else. So he gets himself out into the dating world and he has absolutely no idea what to do. He’s been married for a while and he’s just clueless. So a lot of it is Pete trying to make his way through there and the guys giving him some good advice and some horrible advice as he tries to find someone to connect with. It’s pretty fun for me.

What’s been the reaction to the show so far, any encounters with fans of the show?

Mark Duplass: We’ve gotten recognized on the street and stuff. It’s hard to figure out because in some ways we are the little show that could, the little show on FX. I haven’t had any negative encounters. I don’t think people go out of their way to trash a new show. It’s mostly positive stuff. They say, ‘It’s great because it feels like what I do in my fantasy football league.’ Or on the flipside of that, ‘I have that conversation with my wife after we drink too much.’ It’s good. It’s what I’ve always tried to do as a filmmaker as well, try to present something that feels natural and feels real and it’s not too preposterous. It’s just some real life stuff that you can connect with.

How has this experience been different from something else that you’ve done?

Mark Duplass: Well, the main thing for me, honestly I do work mostly as a writer/director and so just being an actor on this show, it’s basically just pure fun with no pressure. I leave set and I don’t have to worry about, ‘Oh my God, how am I going to carry this storyline through? What am I going to do with this edit? What am I going to do about this actor?’ It’s literally like just showing up, have a scenario to play, play that with a bunch of people that I really like playing it with. Jeff and Jackie, they’re so, laid back is not the right word. They just have the right perspective on what’s important and what’s not. It’s a very low stress set. It’s just a lot of fun. We eat some good food and then we go home. It’s really this ridiculous dream job. My brother and I put a lot of pressure on ourselves when we’re making our movies and so it’s the perfect antithesis to making movies. It’s like camp.

Who’s your favorite character on the show apart from yours?

Mark Duplass: That’s a good question. Favorite character? I like them all for different reasons. It’s funny because when you’re on a show for a while, and even though we’ve only shot six episodes, you start to get into the more subtle stuff of what’s really going on. There’s some very special stuff about the character of Andre that I’m tapping into as I really watch the intricacy of his performance. On the surface level he’s just kind of the rich dork in this group of friends. We know that character but when you really, really watch him you realize that this guy is trying so hard to fit in with his friends and he’s constantly quoting things that they said before to try and make him sound funny, like he’s one of them, but he’s just one click off. He’s so close to getting it but he’s not quite there. To me, the more that I watch it, it’s funny but it’s so tragically sweet. He just wants in and he’s so close, he’s saying all the right words with the jokes but it just doesn’t land and he can’t figure out why. That to me, a little bit of that lovable loser aspect – I love that stuff.

Do you know at which point they might renew the show?

Mark Duplass: I don’t know at which point they’re going to renew the show. I’m very new to the TV world and the business end of it. I don’t know how that all works but I do know that FX loves the show and I think sponsors are super happy with what the response has been and so we’re all very hopeful that we’re going to be around for a little bit.

I think it’s a great pairing with ‘It’s Always Sunny In Philadelphia’.

Mark Duplass: It is. It’s a good balance. I think those two, and we’ve been kind of following the responses to the show on Twitter and Facebook and there’s definitely this thing that’s happening where people are starting to make a night of FX on Thursdays. I think that’s good, a good companion piece.

You have quite a few projects coming out. Can you talk about some of those?

Mark Duplass: Yeah. We are editing our first quote/unquote big movie which for us, we came from the world of making micro-budget movies for Sundance and stuff. So we wrote and directed a movie for Fox Searchlight earlier this year. It’s a comedy with John C. Reilly and Jonah Hill and Marisa Tomei and Catherine Keener. We’re literally just about to finish the edit. We’ve been testing it and people are loving it. We’re nervous but super excited to get it out in the world and so that’ll be out sometime next year. We have a second movie that we are just kind of about to announce a deal on. I can’t talk about it but it’s something that we’re going to shoot earlier next year that Jason Reitman is producing for us and we’re just super excited about that. So it’s been kind of busy going back and forth between the writing/directing world and the acting world but it’s a really cool balance.

Do you like one of those three more than another one of them?

Mark Duplass: I definitely like doing it all. There’s something, I can’t quite figure out what the balance is but I think there’s something to the fact that I like to stay busy and I’m a type A workaholic. I know that about myself. I couldn’t write and direct more than one movie in a year because that would destroy me and there’s something about the balance of writing and directing a movie, as I said before, and the ease and fun and freedom of acting on a TV show like ‘The League’ or doing little parts with Noah in ‘Greenberg’ that balances my life out really, really well. So I kind of like the idea of making a movie and then acting in something each year. That seems like a way to stay creative but also stay relatively healthy.

If you could guest star on any show which one would it be?

Mark Duplass: That’s a pretty good question. I don’t know if I’m right for it, but I’m so obsessed with ‘Friday Night Lights’ and the way that they shoot. It’s very similar to the way that my brother and I like to shoot except ours are comedic versions of that. That would be like a giddy school boy thing. I would probably suck on the show because I’d just be looking at all the actors, smiling, but I would still love to do it. One of the guys who’s a cameraman on that show shoots our movies with us. It’s like a very similar aesthetic.

Is there an actor or a director that you would love to work with?

Mark Duplass: God. So many. I love Richard Linklater and I went to college in Austin when he was really hitting his stride. He’s always been a kind of hero of mine. As a director he’s kind of definitely way up there. As an actor – God that’s tough to say – there are people that I’d really like to direct and see what we could do with them. I’m obsessed with Richard Jenkins, the guy who plays the lead in ‘The Visitor’. He’s an older guy who’s been a character actor for a while and I think he’s just got this explosive potential. It’s very obvious on some level, but any chance to get near Meryl Streep in any capacity, even if it’s just delivering some coffee would be [great]. I just feel like she’s a living legend and I don’t know anyone who’s better at what they do than she is.