The actor-filmmaker talks about the sophomore season of the Apple TV+ drama, and how he balances the indie with the mainstream
It seems like Mark Duplass has come a long way since his days as one of the pioneers of mumblecore, the indie cinema sub-genre that he inadvertently popularised along with the likes of Andrew Bujalski, Greta Gerwig, Lynn Shelton, and his own brother Jay Duplass, to mention a few.
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The actor-director, known for films and shows such as The Puffy Chair, Blue Jay, Safety Not Guaranteed, Togetherness and his biggest claim to fame yet — The League — spent decades being an inspiration to indie filmmakers across the world. Along with sibling Jay, Mark proved consistently that it was possible to achieve commercial success with low-budget projects starring relative newcomers, scripts low on production value but teeming with intriguing everyday characters, and making the humdrum fascinating. His interpretations of love, relationships, friendships and marriage were not just relatable — but empathetic — and indirectly galvanised creators to take the leap into the unknown.
In recent years, the Duplass brothers have also gotten their due recognition in mainstream Hollywood; Jay has come in for wide acclaim for his roles in Transparent and The Chair, while Mark has been one of the stand-outs in Apple TV’s flagship series The Morning Show.
After season one opened to rave reviews and propelled Apple as a force to contend with in the streaming wars, the sophomore season is now set to tighten tensions, up the ante and make things even more uncomfortable. Mark returns to the show along with the rest of the star-studded cast that includes Jennifer Aniston, Reese Witherspoon, Steve Carell and Billy Crudup, as well as high-profile new additions like Hasan Minhaj and Holland Taylor.
Mark and Jennifer Aniston in a still from the show
“It was definitely exciting to think that a show like this would have the international reach that a lot of my smaller projects don’t get. More importantly, it was also about knowing that I’m working with people who I’ve grown up watching on television and movies (he is a self-confessed Jen Aniston fan); all these things have been new and different,” says Mark, when asked about how he felt, when the opportunity to be part of the ensemble cast came his way.
“You know, my whole career I’ve been trying to balance making my smaller, intimate projects with bigger ones that reach large audiences… so I can continue making the small ones! John Cassavetes (a giant of independent cinema) was a big hero of mine, how he balanced his indie projects with the bigger ones, and I really modelled my career after him,” he adds.
Playing the executive producer of a breakfast news program on the hit drama, that revolves around sexual misconduct in the workplace, Mark’s portrayal of Charlie ‘Chip’ Black — a man who is seemingly torn between loyalties and the right thing to do — earned him an Emmy nomination for supporting actor. “The first season of The Morning Show was a very timely story for many of us. Lots of men in positions of power like to believe that they are the good ones, just because they aren’t doing bad things. What we were able to examine with Chip, is that you can still be complicit if you aren’t actively on the right side of the story. You need to be able to call out bad behaviour, and use your position to support and lift up the right kind of people,” Mark says, adding that it’s been incredible to work on a show run by women, and a showrunner such as Kerry Ehrin.
Billy Crudup and Mark Duplass
As a producer-filmmaker himself, has working on a show that asks tough questions revolving around #MeToo and workplace harassment, made him introspect and change in any way?
Mark replies, “While I don’t see that kind of behaviour at Duplass Brothers Productions, we are not a big powerhouse. We just have a tiny, little corner of the sandbox where we like to tell emotionally-supportive, important stories. Having said that, I have thought a lot about what it means to be an ally while playing Chip. I learnt a lot about what are the right kinds of things to do, in order to be supportive and how active a role I wanted to play in being an ally.”
He concludes by saying, “We have made some changes as a company as well; the kind of opportunities we are offering as filmmakers, actors, writers and so on, to women and people of colour, and — more importantly — putting them in positions where they can succeed. A lot of the time, these opportunities are given, but they are set up to fail without the adequate support system. That’s what we have been thinking about and trying to change.”
Season two of The Morning Show is currently streaming on Apple TV+ with weekly episodes
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