TOGETHERNESS premiered just over a month ago on HBO and surprised everyone with its raw and beautiful portrayal of marriage and relationships. There were no explosions, no run-ins with the President, or angst filled teenage-vampires. Instead the Duplass Brothers produced show features realistic storylines and relatable people.
What TOGETHERNESS lacks in cast size it more than makes up for in talent. With four lead actors the show somehow manages to make you want to know everything about these people, what they were like in high school, what their parents are like, and how did they become the people they are now. Michelle, Brett, Tina, and Alex are flawed and charming people. Watching an episode makes you feel like for that half hour you’re in their friend group, and in on they’re ridiculous, spiraling lives.
Melanie Lynskey wonderfully plays the tired, broken, and beautiful mother and wife, Michelle Pierson. The hurt and sorrow she constantly goes through trying to repair her marriage is addicting and captivating to watch. I caught up with Lynskey about what it was like to audition for the role, Brett and Michelle’s future, and what we can look forward to on tonight’s episode.
What was your initial reaction to reading the Pilot?
Melanie Lynskey: Oh Gosh! My initial reaction was just sort of overwhelming excitement (laughs) and fear because whenever I read something I love, I think it’s not going to happen, someone else is going to do this and I’m going to be so jealous. I just really loved it, it was whimsical and I thought it was really, really funny without being annoying. There was a lot that I loved about it.
What did you love about your character, Michelle?
Jay (Duplass) actually showed me the script for two episodes before I auditioned so I really got to see a lot of different sides of her, cause the second episode has the handcuffs and spanking. I really liked that she’s a person who is dissatisfied but she’s really doing her best to work it out, she’s not sort of moping around complaining about it, she’s doing her best to talk to her husband. I liked all of the different relationships; her relationship with her sister is very loving even though they are very different people. I just really liked the depiction of their marriage, it’s not the typical thing that you see, where people are really sick of each other there’s a lot that they really love about each other but it’s just not working out.
How did reading the second episode change the way you approached your audition rather than just reading the Pilot?
I auditioned with one scene from the Pilot, the scene that Amanda (Peet) and I have on the porch where we’re having a big argument. The other scene was the handcuffs scene, which was miserable, horrible scene. Then they cast me and I read that scene with every actor that came in to read for the part of Brett before Mark knew that he could fill it. So I did that scene a million times, but its good to always have as much information you can have. It was really great to get that second episode and to see how much she tries to take charge. It kind of informs stuff from the first episode where she’s getting steam rolled over by everybody.
How was developing that chemistry with Mark?
It was great; it’s a really complicated thing because the nature of the relationship is that you can’t really have sexual chemistry. You have to have the chemistry where you really love each other and have know each other for a very long time, it’s a really sort of delicate balance when working with another actor because you can’t get too excited about each other, sometimes actors try to fall in love with each other. We really had to develop this deep knowledge of each other and how to behave like we’ve known each other for a long time.
Do you think we’ll get to see Michelle and Brett get out of the sort of rut that they’re going through right now? Will we see them go through therapy or at least try and work out their problems?
The next episode we go to therapy but you don’t see it in the episode, which is one of the things I really love about the Duplass’s it’s always kind of surprising. You don’t see the couple sitting there talking about their problems but you do see the aftermath of it and how they both feel after a bunch of stuff has been discussed and dealing with the fact that their marriage is in trouble. I think it’s more interesting to see what happens after therapy to see what happens in therapy. They have very, very different reactions to it. Michelle’s not really somebody who is comfortable talking about her feelings but she wants to, she’s kind of just we’ll go to therapy, give it an hour and that’s enough.
Aside from Michelle and Brett this week what can we look forward to from Tina and Alex?
It’s really funny because we are all together. Its kind of a Tina and Alex storyline, it’s a really good one! We all go to the park and play this game of kick the can and a lot of developments happen, it’s a really great episode.
What are your thoughts on Alex and Tina’s “will they or won’t they” that developed really early on?
I think they’re so amazing together, I think they’re so adorable. In real life they have that crazy kind of chemistry, they just crack each other up all of the time about stuff that is nonsensical to everybody else. I feel like half the time I don’t know what [they] are saying. They have this really goofy, fun kind of energy with each other but the complicated thing is Tina is somebody who is so worried about her position in the world and so worried about her status. She really loves Alex and I think the feelings are surprising her and a part of her thinks I should be with somebody who is better than that, or richer than that, or more handsome. She still has all of those status issues going on.
You improvise on the show, how has that been?
I love it! I’ve never had any formal acting training but from when I was about nine or ten I took this acting class in my hometown in New Zealand and it was dramatic acting but it was improv. I learned to act and everything that I’ve done pretty much has been scripted, but it’s been wonderful to use those tools and get to have the freedom. Especially because there is a script and you’re not just kind of being hung out to dry and forced to makeup a whole story. You’re very safe and if something comes to you in the middle of a scene you don’t have to hold back.
The show is so fantastic! I’m so glad you guys got picked up for another season. What would you like to see happen next season?
Mark and Jay haven’t told me anything because I was so nervous we wouldn’t get picked up and I didn’t want to get excited. The little actress who plays Sophie (Abby Ryder Fortson) is so great. I’d love to have a few more scenes with her; she’s always been really wonderful. I trust the Duplass’s so much, I would like the relationship t remain as complicated and interesting as it is now.
What shows are you loving on TV right now?
I just started watching EMPIRE, which I think was literally created for me. I’m really sad that PARENTHOOD is over.
The finale was so great.
Oh gosh! So many tears! That’s really like a big gaping whole in my life now that it’s gone. I’m super excited for VEEP to come back on I really love VEEP. I also watch a lot of murder shows like, DATELINE and FORENSIC FILES and stuff like that.
You should watch HOW TO GET AWAY WITH MURDER it’s really great.
I’ve kind of missed it and I just need to do sort of a binge watch of it.
It’s very addicting.
It’s Viola Davis; she’s the greatest actress. I really need to watch that!
You can watch Melanie in TOGETHERNESS Sundays at 9:30PM on HBO.