Jay and Mark Duplass on the origins of the LA schools storyline on ‘Togetherness’

Jay and Mark Duplass on the origins of the LA schools storyline on ‘Togetherness’

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HBO’s “Togetherness”; Credit: HBO

The show “Togetherness” on HBO centers on the characters Brett and Michelle Pierson, two L.A. parents working through a bit of a rough patch in their marriage.

Brett’s best friend Alex and Michelle’s sister Tina round out the cast of characters who are all in some way unhappy with the current state of their lives and on a mission to change things.

Dissatisfied with the choice of schools available to her, mom Michelle is inspired to join a movement looking to start a charter school:

Brothers Mark and Jay Duplass are the executive directors of “Togetherness,” and Mark plays the character Brett in the show.

In some ways the show is a bit of art imitating life— like Brett Pierson, both Duplass brothers work in the entertainment industry. Both are parents, living in L.A., and they’ve struggled with school choices.

They joined Take Two to discuss the inspiration behind the school choice storyline just before the launch of season 2. 


Where you ever concerned that this storyline would hit too close to home?

Jay Duplass: We didn’t really have any trepidation about sharing our lives, I mean pretty much everything that happens in the show is a thing that’s happened to someone that we know. If anything, it kind of motivates us and inspires us to make the show because when you know it’s real it just gives you the material and the courage to come out with the specific details of the pains and the joys and the tragedies and the comedies of your life.

How did you come up with the idea to tackle the school choice storyline on the show? And how was it influenced by the setting of Los Angeles?

Mark Duplass: Finding a good school for your kids is obviously important to everybody, but it’s very specific depending on where you live. And I think for us, in Los Angeles, particularly on the east side of LA, you’ve got a lot of people who don’t quite feel comfortable in this large city, and they kind of have one foot in and one foot out. And what we find amongst ourselves and our peers is you’re trying to establish a sense of community that’s meaningful inside of this massive metropolis that makes you feel a little only and isolated. 

So I think Michelle’s quest to find the right school for her children is also a quest for herself to be a part of a community of people that she can see in the neighborhood and know their names and feel comfortable sending her kids to their home. And longing for that sense of a small community that quite frankly Jay and I had growing up in the suburbs of New Orleans where we knew everyone. And that to us is very very specific to where we live.

How did your own experience with L.A. schools fit into this arc in the show?

Mark Duplass: I think the way that it struck us is like, there’s three or four public schools in your neighborhood, two of which are awesome, one of which is not so great and one of which kind of sucks, is what it comes down to. And depending on what street you live on you get a little lucky or not. We happened to be in a place where like we didn’t really score with the street we were living on and we faced some similar issues that Michelle faces about like how can we educate our children but not put them in a place where it’s going to feel like just you know a unilateral cultural or financial group of people that is just not reflective of the world. And it’s impossible to get right, so we felt like it was fun to kind of put it in the show.

To listen to the full interview, click the blue player above.

Series: Good Schools

As part of its Good Schools series, Take Two looks at the education landscape in the Los Angeles area. That includes its public schools, magnets, charters, private institutions and dual-language programs. You’ll hear from parents, academics, teachers, kids and even a couple of TV show producers.

Read more in this series and let us know your thoughts on Facebook, or tweet us @Take Two and @KPCC with the hashtag #goodschools.