This story originally appeared in the Comedy/Drama Series issue of TheWrap’s Emmy magazine. #selfieinterview was produced in partnership with Verge.
Melanie Lynskey first won fame at 16 alongside Kate Winslet, playing her lover in Peter Jackson‘s breakthrough hit “Heavenly Creatures,” and she played a crazy neighbor on “Two and a Half Men.” Now she’s head-over-heels again as an adulterous wife in HBO’s “Togetherness,” by Jay and Mark Duplass–and she told TheWrap she’s crazy about them too.
TIM APPELO: You’ve worked with Peter Jackson, Steven Soderbergh on “The Informant!” and with George Clooney in “Up in the Air.” What’s distinctive about Mark and Jay Duplass as directors of “Togetherness?”
MELANIE LYNSKEY:The thing that’s so different about them is, first, they’re such gentle souls, so collaborative. The script is perfect, you could shoot it as is, but if you’re yelling and the passion ignites a different kind of sentence, they love that.
What do the Duplasses bring to TV that hasn’t been there before?
I don’t want to say “Mumblecore,” because it’s a little diminishing, but there’s a naturalistic, semi-improvised, really true-to-life feel I love in indie films and haven’t seen a lot on TV. “Parenthood,” because they do a lot of improve, has felt similar at times, but because this is cable, it can get a little rawer, a little tougher.
Maybe the Duplass method should be called “Emotionally Articulate Core.”
I love that! Because nobody’s mumbling.
So what is your “Togetherness” character Michelle like?
She’s messy, makes mistakes. I love playing moments where you’re not in control of your emotions. She’s not great at talking about her feelings, and her usual defense mechanisms aren’t working [as her marriage disintegrates], so it explodes in different interesting ways..
There’s emotional nudity and also physical nudity on “Togetherness.”
Sometimes at the same time. Mark and I had this giant naked fight. I was in that moment forgetting that I was an actor exposing myself to the poor crew people.
What’s it like acting naked with your director?
To be in the middle of a horrible argument with someone who then gives you a note is not fun. I got really stressed out one time. And it helps the character because it gives a tension. It’s painful but funny.
What’s your favorite improv on the show?
A lot of stuff with Amanda and me, because they like to get a sister dynamic going. In the pilot, we had a fight on the porch and improvised almost all of it. We don’t look like sisters, because she’s the gorgeous Amanda Peet, but we feel weirdly like sisters. It’s on the fly. We never run lines.
Are you trying to be funny or heartbreaking?
I’m trying to be honest, I think. One of my favorite all-time comic performances is Lisa Kudrow on “The Comeback.” She’s so honest. So sad, painful but hilarious. I like that.
How do you feel about your Critics’ Choice Award nomination?
I love critics! My dream is to be a film critic, or a TV critic.
OK, you’re a critic–who do you rave on “Togetherness?”
My main rave would be Amanda. She’s going to places I don’t see a lot of actors go to. She’s the bravest actor I’ve ever worked with. And Steve [Zissis] is such a discovery. Mark is funny, precise and amazing. And I wish I had more scenes with Peter Gallagher.