EXCLUSIVE: Jay Duplass Is Reaping the Spoils of 'Transparent' as He Puts the Brakes on Writing and Directing
By Stacy Lambe
An as actor, writer, director, producer, and brother, Jay Duplass is one half of an unlikely powerhouse duo that has taken over Hollywood over the past few years. Between him and his sibling, Mark, the two have struck a four-picture film deal with Netflix, created HBO's Togetherness, and produced a number of buzzworthy films, including Tangerine.
But Jay Duplass is ready to slow all of that down ("a little bit," he stresses) as he settles into life as an actor on Transparent, Amazon's Emmy-winning series about a patriarch who comes out as a transgender woman and her family's exploration of self-identity. Duplass plays Josh Pfefferman, the family's dysfunctional son, whom the actor says "has no skills."
It's the 43-year-old's first major acting role on a groundbreaking comedy following a decade-long career as a writer, director and producer, most recently sharing those duties with his brother while working on Togetherness. "It's very common for actors to switch over to directing in midlife," Duplass tells ET. "It's very unusual to have a successful writer-director switch over to being an actor."
"I love working from this great place of depth, where Josh wants to be a grown and he wants to do well, and he actually wants a family, and he wants to be a husband," Duplass says of the role, which saw Josh confronted with grown-up expectations, including juggling life as a father to an unknown son and his love for Rabbi Raquel Fein (Kathryn Hahn), that he failed to meet head-on. "It's just like this embarrassment of riches to be a part of this thing."
"As writer-director, you definitely do hold the whole universe in your hands and you're kind of like God," Duplass says. "Then on Transparent, my job is to be this person and to let go of all that control." He credits creator Jill Soloway for giving him autonomy over his character and working with him to figure who Josh is. "She truly gives us authorship over what our characters say and do in the best way possible. It's such a personal, deep exploration."
During the first three seasons of Transparent, which just wrapped filming on season four in May, Duplass was also busy working on Togetherness, which he says were "two extremely hard years" of back-to-back production schedules before the HBO comedy was canceled earlier this year. "I felt super lucky to do it, but I was full-up with just those two things," Duplass says. "I'm sad for Togetherness to go, but also glad to have some space in my life, and also to have some space to explore acting a little bit more."
As he's explored life in front of the camera, Duplass says he's learned he's not as much of a control freak as he might have thought or that he doesn't have any emotional blocks. He's also addicted to the joy acting brings. "Look, I love writing and directing but I can't say that it is fun," Duplass says, quick to add: "It's definitely fulfilling."
"It's been this weird renaissance for me, but I know that I'm spoiled," Duplass says.