Duplass on Togetherness

In 11 Questions, The A.V. Club asks interesting people 11 interesting questions—and then asks them to suggest one for our next interviewee.

Actor, director, producer, singer, and screenwriter Mark Duplass is the definition of a quintuple threat. He broke into entertainment as the lead singer of Volcano, I’m Still Excited!! before writing and producing a number of short films including “The New Brad,” “This Is John,” and “The Intervention.” In 2005, he got noticed for the mumblecore movie The Puffy Chair, which he wrote, produced, and directed with his brother Jay. He went on to write Jeff, Who Lives At Home; Black Rock; and Creep, among others, and has popped up as an actor on shows like The League and The Mindy Project. His latest project is the HBO series Togetherness, which he also created and wrote with his brother.

1. What’s the worst job you’ve ever had?

Mark Duplass: I will not name it, but I had a do a rewrite for a certain studio on a screenplay, and—uff. I don’t even want to get into it. Bad, bad, bad, bad rewrite job.

The A.V. Club: Was it was hard for you to do it, or it was a hard movie, or it was hard to deal with them?

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MD: We were not a great fit. It was bad on all fronts.

AVC: And it was worse than anything you ever did in high school?

MD: Honestly, I worked at a cleaner’s, but that job was fine. I worked as a bus boy; I was making 11 dollars an hour. I didn’t have any expectation that [that job] would be good. I think it’s good to do your day job stuff outside of your art. The worst jobs are when you’re inside of your art and bastardizing that for your day job. So, to me, McDonald’s is much better than a bad rewrite job.

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2. When did you first feel successful?

MD: In 1998, I put out a self-released solo acoustic singer-songwriter record and booked a four-month tour around the country and lived in my van and felt like, “I’ve really made it.” I was making like 64 dollars a night.

In my filmmaking career, being at Sundance for the premiere of The Puffy Chair feature was kind of the highlight of my career. Jay and I kind of cried throughout the entire screening of that together.

3. If you were a supervillain, what would be your master plan?

MD: What I would like to do is be Therapy Man. I would like to be able to fly over cities and sprinkle dust on people. And when the dust hit them, I would turn them into sensitive, emotionally involved humans who know how to listen and validate the feelings of their loved ones.

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AVC: That would probably make a big difference.

MD: It would make a huge fucking difference. I mean, think about it: Go deep into that for a second. In 24 hours, we’d have the best planet in the universe.

AVC: Some people would say, “Oh, that doesn’t make you a villain,” but you would be to a lot of people.

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MD: It would ruin a lot of things that are making money in this country for sure.

4. What were you like as a kid?

MD: I was a little cocky as a young kid. And I was very into being more grown-up that I really was. Then, when I hit high school, I got really dorky and became incredibly insecure. So the combination of those two things kind of made me who I am.

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5. Who was your celebrity crush when you were younger?

MD: I had a couple. When I was very little, it was Joni Mitchell. We were playing her records in my house and that was big. And then I saw Grease and Olivia Newton-John just blew her out of the water, which is a terrible thing to say about Joni Mitchell. But, you know, when you’re 6, and O.N.J. shows up on your TV, you’re defenseless.

AVC: The Joni Mitchell thing is weird too when you’re a kid, because you’re nine or something and you see her old album cover and fall in love. And she’s 40something at that point.

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MD: Joni and I were really doomed from the get go. It was never going to work for us.

AVC: Did you like good Olivia Newton-John or bad Olivia Newton-John?

MD: I loved her as the girl next door, but when I found out she could also encapsulate the bad, I was like, “I can have it all.”

6. If you had entrance music, what would it be?

MD: It would be the theme song from St. Elmo’s Fire: “Man In Motion” by John Parr. Nothing pumps up a crowd more than that.

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AVC: Not even “Eye Of The Tiger”?

MD: “Eye Of The Tiger” has been done before; you expect that. “Man In Motion,” everybody’s trying to get their feet under them, like, “What’s happening here?” And then by the time you get to the chorus, they’re crying and cheering you on, and that’s really how I roll.

7. What have you done so far today?

MD: Well, it’s 10 a.m. I’ve been up since six. I made lunch for my 2-year-old, packed a bag for my 7-year-old, dropped her off at school. I’ve done three interviews. I have scolded my brother for forgetting to bring the blender to the office, because we were going to make smoothies here. Then I begged someone else to go out and buy us a blender. That should be arriving shortly.

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AVC: Do you have a preferred kind of smoothie? Are you doing a cleanse or something?

MD: No, no, no. I’m a big smoothie fan and I’m a big kale smoothie dude. I love the kale, and the frozen fruit, and the coconut water. It’s super healthy, it keeps me relatively energized. It took me a long time to realize that, when you eat an enormous lunch of pizza or pasta, it kind of slows down your energy and your output after lunch.

8. What other celebrities have you been mistaken for?

MD: Well, I haven’t been mistaken for anyone, but I get a lot of Ron Livingston and John Krasinski comparisons. Those are my two big “You look like this person” notes.

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AVC: Those aren’t bad ones.

MD: No, those guys are super-handsome. They’re both good dudes. I’m happy about it.

9. If you had to find another line of work, what skills would you put on your resume?

MD: I was a musician for many years in my previous life, so that’s something that maybe I could do. I’m very terrible at assembling things from a manual, because my wife and my brother are great at those things, and I’ve never had to learn how to do it. So I literally cannot put anything together. So that’s not something that I would want to do. In terms of my desire, if I really had to pick another career, I would go back to school and become a therapist.

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AVC: That ties into your supervillain powers.

MD: Exactly.

10. Do you collect anything? If so, what and why?

MD: Hm. Do I collect anything? You know, the truth is, I really don’t. I’m constantly trying to get rid of stuff—I don’t know why, you know? But I was just literally thinking the other day, like, “I need to go through my house, and get a bag together—an enormous bag—and just get rid of all this shit.” I’m not using it, I’m not doing anything. I really kind of like having very few belongings and stuff, so… no.

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That’s interesting; I’ve never realized that about myself. But I don’t collect anything and I do not have a desire to collect anything. I’m constantly trying to jettison.

AVC: You’re not a gear nerd? You don’t have six guitars or anything?

MD: I mean, I have a couple of guitars, but not as a collector—just things I like to play.

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11. What would your last meal be?

MD: Uff, that is so, so hard. Probably would be the Amarillo burger and the hand-cut French fries from—there’s a little place in Austin, Texas, on Sixth Street. And I have to look up the name of it right now because I’m blanking on it. Luckily I have my computer here—Casino El Camino on Sixth Street in Austin, Texas.

AVC: Would you want drinks? Desserts? Apps?

MD: I would do a pitcher of Shiner Blonde, one of my favorite beers. And then, for dessert, probably 25 chocolate-covered strawberries.

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Bonus question from Jaime Camil: What do you do in your car when you’re stuck in horrible traffic?

MD: I listen to KUSC classical music, because it calms me down. And my question would be “How many sessions of therapy have you had?”

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