“It feels like shooting a movie every season because you get all the information, so you can plan,” says Melanie Lynskey about getting a full season of scripts before filming HBO’s “Togetherness” (watch our video chat below). “It’s so nice that they work like that. I think it’s harder on them, but I’m really grateful for it.”
But it wasn’t all on the page. Lynskey, a native New Zealander, went through auditions to show that she could improvise with an American accent. In general, improv “was something that I was comfortable with and something that I loved,” she explains. “And the great thing about the show is they present you with a script that’s perfect. You don’t have to change anything, so the burden of creating the story and creating the tension is not all on you, but if something comes to you … then you can take it wherever you want to.”
Lynskey plays Michelle Pierson, a Los Angeles wife and mother whose marriage to Hollywood sound designer Brett (Mark Duplass) becomes strained, leading her into an emotional affair with a single father (John Ortiz).
In addition to his role as Brett, Duplass is also the creator, writer, director and producer of the series, along with his brother and creative partner Jay Duplass. But despite his many duties on-set, “he’s good at being very present in the scene when he’s in the scene, but also part of him is directing, so sometimes there’s a part of me that’s like, ‘Oh, he’s going to give me a note about that.'”
However, even when their characters are estranged, Lynskey always feels she’s in good hands with her director and scene partner: “Even if Michelle is mad at Brett and doesn’t want to hear from him in that moment, Mark for Melanie is always a good thing.”
That includes their most intimate scenes. Mark Duplass has publicly discussed Hollywood’s double standards regarding nudity, and he takes a more egalitarian approach on the set of “Togetherness.” So he puts his body where his mouth is. “It’s a complicated thing for a woman to sort of stand there and be physical. It carries a lot of inherent meaning to it,” Lynskey says. “I’ve tried to be really careful to have it feel normal to me and have it feel feminist to me, and part of that is really about how Mark is also willing to be completely naked as well.”
Lynskey will enter the Best Comedy Supporting Actress race at the Emmys, where she may face awards darlings like Allison Janney (“Mom“) and Julie Bowen (“Modern Family“), but the prospect of choosing her best possible episode submission is a “weird concept” to her. However, she is especially proud of episode five, “Kick the Can,” in which Michelle tries to organize a fun-filled outing with her friends after a fraught couples counseling session: “I got to be drunk and I got to be kind of falling in love with somebody and I got to be in a huge fight, I had a moment of triumph – that was a great episode.”
She’s also partial to the season finale, “Not So Together,” in which her extramarital flirtation intensifies. “As an actor, you’re just like, what is this dream world where I get to play all these different things. I feel so lucky.”
While “Togetherness” is just getting started, another long-running role came to an end for Lynskey this year. After recurring on “Two and a Half Men” for 12 years as “out of her mind” Rose, she returned one last time for the series finale in February, “and it’s just now that I’m like, I’m never going to go there again … It was such a fun character for me because it was so different to anything else that I was doing … It was just such a nice kind of release. I felt like I was going to space for a couple of days.”
She remembers working on a film with Paul Giamatti and trying to tell him about her work on the ribald sitcom: “I did so many crazy things … he was like, ‘What do you do on it?’ and I remember saying, ‘Well, right now I’m married to a mannequin.'”
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