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[Warning: This story contains spoilers from the second season finale of Togetherness, “For the Kids.”]
To fans and co-star Amanda Peet, Sunday night’s finale of Togetherness was supposed to wrap up the second season of the Mark and Jay Duplass-created show. Instead, it provided an all-too-abrupt series ending when, midseason, HBO decided it wasn’t going ahead with a third.
Though Peet admits that the cast saw the writing on the wall — the series has been well-received by critics but viewership has been small, with numbers dipping in season two — that didn’t make the news any easier to swallow.
“We all really fell in love with each other and so it’s been rough,” Peet tells The Hollywood Reporter. “It’s next to impossible to have the combination of good writing and sane people, reasonable people, who write well for women — who write well for middle-aged women.”
The half-hour dramedy follows the Los Angeles foursome of Brett (Mark Duplass) and Michelle (Melanie Lynskey), who are working on their marriage, and Michelle’s sister Tina (Peet) and Brett’s best friend Alex (Steve Zissis, also a co-creator of the show).
Togetherness wrapped its second season with two happy cliffhangers: Brett, who apologizes and asks if he can come home, and an accepting Michelle appear to begin the road to reconciliation; and Tina and Alex, after two seasons of tension, finally got together in the show’s final moments.
After banding together and putting on a play to save Michelle’s charter school, Tina, who has been exploring the idea of motherhood all season, is struggling to remove her costume when Alex finds her and offers to help. In a touching moment, Alex kisses Tina and when she asks if he has a condom and he says no, they make the decision to continue without one.
The Duplass brothers, who also exec produce HBO’s Animals and have a two-year overall deal with HBO, had said they already started writing for a third season. But Peet says they didn’t delve into the details of where the story would go for Tina. “I guess my hope is that she was going to zigzag towards [Alex],” says Peet. “Which is to say, kind of run towards him and then become terrified and paralyzed, and then run towards him and then become terrified and paralyzed again. It’s not like she has suddenly matured.”
Here, Peet talks to THR about her journey as Tina, if the show could find a second life with a steaming deal (the Duplasses also have a four-movie deal with Netflix) to give fans the third season they are clamoring for — “I think we all just have to hope that the Duplasses have something up their sleeves,” she says — and if she has forgiven her husband, Game of Thrones co-creator David Benioff, over the fate of Jon Snow.
How did Mark and Jay break the news? Were you surprised?
We saw it coming, so we weren’t blindsided or anything. But it’s still devastating. We all really fell in love with each other and so it’s been rough.
Are you in a mourning period?
Yeah. If I didn’t think I could work with them again I’d be really devastated, but I’m pretty sure we’ll do something else.
Does that mean we could see a third season find its way to a streaming service like Netflix?
[Laughs] I don’t know, I don’t know!
But I assume if the opportunity arises, you would all be game?
Yes, I’m pretty sure we would all come running, with our own brown bag lunches. Yeah.
You could blame the age of “peak TV” on why a show like Togetherness doesn’t get to go on, but the show is unique in how it shows a nuanced kind of realness in everyday struggles, and then you have these two strong and layered female roles, yours included. What do you think makes the show so great?
I think it’s the Duplasses. They’re really, really good writers, they have a really great sense of story, a great sense of tracking minutiae and also capturing what’s funny. They have a great sense of humor and they are very unique observers of relationships and parenting and women and sex. I’m not worried about them at all. Plus, they’re really prolific. I just hope I get to be a part of it.
Before the season began, Mark and Jay had said they started writing for season three (they also wrote season two before they got the pickup.) As a viewer, I feel like the there is much more to tell for these four characters — and especially for Tina with the finale’s happy cliffhanger with her and Alex. What was it like filming that final scene?
It was really, really fun. I was about to go on an 11-hour flight to London with my three children with no nanny and they were waiting for me while I shot this sort of sex scene. [Laughs] It was very surreal and it was also my last scene of the season and needless to say, I was very emotional. I was a total wreck. I took the airplane wearing some really weird makeup.
Did Mark, Jay or Steve give you any sense of where things would go for Tina in a season three?
We didn’t talk about it that much. I think they thought it would be pretty interesting if I were really conflicted about having a baby and kind of, zigzag towards something. So yeah. But we didn’t get deeply into it yet.
Where would you have liked to see things go for Tina – would she and Alex be happily expecting?
I guess my hope is that she was going to zigzag towards him. Which is to say, kind of run towards him and then become terrified and paralyzed, and then run towards him and then become terrified and paralyzed again. It’s not like she has suddenly matured.
It feels criminal to not see Tina going through the ups and downs of being pregnant and a new mom. As a mom yourself, I imagine that would that have been fun.
Could you see her surviving it?
Yes. I think if nothing else she’s a survivor, for sure.
All four characters are so strong, but Tina is the scene-stealer — you go from playing her as cringeworthy to so vulnerable that you can’t help but root for her. How would you describe her, and what drew you to her?
I like her because she’s a mess and I love that she’s uncensored and I think she has a lot of the feelings — the juvenile, petty feelings — that we all have, she just doesn’t have any capacity to censor them. [Laughs]
That has to be fun to play.
It’s really fun, because it’s exhausting to be subtle and poised and polite. Just exhausting.
On HBO’s Inside the Episodes, Mark and Jay constantly say how much fun it is to write for Tina. What about playing Tina has been the most fun?
The most fun for me is, cleavage. And I think one of the most fun things to play as an actor is being in love with someone and not being aware that you’re in love with them. I don’t know what’s more fun to play. So the more they gave me that, the more I reveled in it.
Do you have a favorite moment, line or scene from season two?
I loved all of it, I really did! My favorite moment was definitely when Alex says to Tina, “You’re too old to be this much of a bitch.” I pretty much fell off my bed and I was like [to my husband], “David, you gotta come read this!” And then he couldn’t stop laughing either. It was so brilliant, that Alex had the last line. To me, it was a great gift, that line. Even though it wasn’t mine, it was typically great Duplass writing. I got to be the recipient of a great line.
In the finale when Sophie breaks her arm and Tina ends up being the reliable figure for her – do you see that as her full-circle moment from when we first met in season one?
Kind of, yeah. I think that, coupled with the last scene with Alex. I think it’s very exciting when you realize you’re good at something.
You’ve gotten such a range to work with this season: In the beginning, Tina is kind of lost, regretful and jealous, and you get these comical, sometimes tragic scenes. And then when Michelle’s world falls apart, Tina finds herself and gets these touching moments. Is there a part of the journey you enjoy playing more?
I think variety is really fun and I never know what they’re going to write. I think they very much enjoy defying my expectations and the audiences’ expectations. [Laughs] So I think that’s part of the fun of it, is that she’s unpredictable.
Do you improv?
We improv a lot, they make us improv even though we don’t want to. I live with a writer and I know a lot of writers and I don’t know anyone who is as good as they are, who are as loose as they are.
Does that add pressure?
Yeah, it is pressure! And it’s exciting and it makes you feel very vulnerable. I had to get over my talent crushes on them very quickly, so that I could actually you know, hit the ball. [Laughs]
What’s a memorable improv scene that really worked this season?
I think [Steve and I] were going to be naked in that final scene — we weren’t going to still be in our costumes, or I certainly wasn’t going to be in my costume. We made that change toward the end where I was going to actually be stuck in it. They also call things out to us a lot. We’ll be shooting and they’ll call out, “Tell him this” or “Tell him you love him!” It’s really interesting trying to stay inside of the scene. It’s a very intimate set. I’m sure, for some people, it wouldn’t be their cup of tea but we work really well together. We have similar styles and similar sense of of humor. They don’t like a lot of drama and hoopla on their sets, and as a mother of three kids, I really have zero tolerance for those kind of antics. It used to be Ok, but it’s not anymore. [Laughs]
That’s funny because it ended up feeling almost more intimate, compared to if you did a nude scene, which you’d think would be the most vulnerable.
We realized we had to come at it obliquely. We couldn’t be too, sort of, planful, because Tina probably would get too scared and so we knew that we had to kind of come at it from the side.
Did you get the whole season script before you started filming?
No, not all of them now. We had a chunk.
Did you get a sense that Tina was in for a midlife crisis?
I think I might have gotten to the point where it was my favorite moment that I had, which is that Alex line. I think when I got that piece of dialogue, even though it wasn’t my dialogue, I thought, “I can die now as an actress.” Because I thought it was so brilliant and hilarious and also kind of harrowing.
In your mind, do you see Tina getting her happy ending, whatever that might look like?
I don’t know, I don’t know. I hope so.
What do you think would have happened for Michelle and Brett if we got to see them in a season three?
I’m not sure if they were going to be back, full on. I’m not sure.
What has the fan reaction been since they announced that the show was ending?
People are so amazing and sweet and some people are even angry, which I find to be really moving. It feels really good because we were all so sad and we were, just sad. So it was very nice to have this sort of outpouring of sympathy and frustration from our fans.
So I’m going to try this again – is there any hope for a second life?
Well, we’re all game, that’s for sure. I think you’d have to talk to Mark and Jay. I don’t know exactly what their plans are. We’re just totally in love with them, all of us, it’s almost annoying. [Laughs] If they just told me, “I have some idea and we’re gonna shoot it, but there’s no script and you have to leave your kids and do you want to come?” I’d probably be like, “Yes, just tell me where to be. Tell me where to be, and what you’d like me to be like and what clothes to bring and I’ll be there. Or if you want me to be naked, I’ll be naked. Whatever you want.”
I was going to ask if we will see you getting involved in any future Duplass brothers’ productions, but I guess we have the answer.
Honestly, if you told me I was only going to work with the Duplass’ for the rest of my life, I’d be like, “Oh, so I won the lottery?”
How rare is it to get this kind of a role, on this kind of a show?
It’s next to impossible to have the combination of good writing and sane people, reasonable people [laughs], who write well for women — who write well for middle-aged women — it’s practically, I think it’s almost unheard of. People are like, “What kind of part are you interested in playing, what kind of role do you want to play?” And I’m not interested in playing a particular part, I’m interested in playing a part that’s well written. And at 44, that’s a tall order.
How do you pick that next role, be it on TV or in film, to follow this up?
The bar is really high. I actually sent them an email, it might have even been after the pilot, and I sent them a quick email saying, “You ruined me, so thanks a lot.” And that was over a year ago, so now it’s even worse.
Did you have a wrap party or are you going to get together on Sunday?
No, we’re just emailing each other and talking to each other and keeping in touch. I’m trying to write, so I’m trying to write something for them. I’m just going to stalk them, basically.
I saw that you are writing a movie — are you furiously working on it so you can pitch it to them?
Yes. [Laughs] I so want to pitch it to them. I’m not a pitcher, though, I don’t write anything on spec, ever. I think that everything’s in the execution, isn’t it? You can have a great idea, and especially the types of things that I want to do, probably sound pretty boring.
Are you writing a character for yourself?
No, I’m not actually, stupidly! I want to write for myself but I’m not inspired by my acting, I’m inspired by Laurie Metcalf and Sarah Paulson and Emma Thompson and Ben Whishaw and a lot of other people. Jay Duplass, hello.
Do you turn to the Duplass brothers for writing tips? Or your husband, [Game of Thrones creator David Benioff]?
No, I talked to them about writing when we were shooting because I had never written a movie before, but I wont give them something until I think it’s close to ready because I don’t want to waste my chance! My husband, David, his big thing is: don’t go out too early, don’t go out until it’s ready. Sadly for him, he’s the one who has to go through drafts upon drafts upon drafts. And tell me again, “No, It’s still not working.” “But I did what you said!” “But you didn’t do it right and it’s not working. I still see it coming a million miles away. I saw it coming. Please put me in suspense.”
We’re weeks away from the next season of Game of Thrones, have you forgiven him yet, over the question-mark fate of Jon Snow?
No! I haven’t forgiven him! And in fact, he just told me, Kit [Harington]’s not coming to the premiere, so I don’t really like being f—d with this way.
That could be to throw us all off.
I’m really glad you think that, and I’m really hoping to be with you, but I’ve been tricked by them too many times and lured into some sense of peace and equanimity and hopefulness, and then only to have the rug ripped out from under me. So I won’t do that anymore.
So you are not getting any spoiler or teaser benefits out of your marriage.
Well, I’m sure he would give them to me if I wanted them. But we sort of made this agreement that I’m going to go along for the ride. I heard that Kit was maybe going to be in trouble, Jon Snow, so I made him send me a picture of his hair because I heard that he cut his hair. And he sent me a picture of his hair and it was the same, and I was on cloud nine — and then two weeks later he was dead. So he’s basically gone out of his way to f— with me. I’ve sent Kit emails saying, “Noooo. No!”
What’s your theory, is he coming back as a ghost?
I’m going to be angry if he can’t have sexual relations and if he can’t kill people and sit on the throne. I want to see him in action. I don’t want to see him on a funeral pyre, I don’t want to see him in some weird, White Walker state. I want to see him as Jon Snow. And I don’t think that’s too much to ask, if you’re going to make us fall in love with someone then [sigh], don’t get me started. Literally, [David] just told me that he’s not coming to the premiere on Sunday and I’m like, “You’ve got to be f—ing kidding me,” and he’s like, “No, Amanda. He’s in a play. He can’t get out of the play, he’s in a play.” And I just can’t tell when he’s messing with my mind and when he’s not. That’s the kind of marriage I have. [Laughs]
Have you ever talked about doing a guest spot or going on Game of Thrones?
Yes, yes. I’m always begging them and then there’s this kind of awkward silence that goes around the room. I’m like, “Hey Dan [Weiss] and David, um, I was thinking maybe I could be so-and-so.” And then it’s just silence.
What’s your dream character-type that you would want to play?
I want to be like a female warrior, you know. I want to be Gwendoline [Christie]’s sidekick. I want to be her new squire. I don’t even mind being like, a dorky squire.
She needs a new sidekick.
She needs a new dorky sidekick. [Laughs]
Well, hopefully we will see you in that role, or back as Tina for — fingers crossed — more Togetherness.
Fingers crossed! I think we all just have to hope that the Duplasses have something up their sleeves.
Anything else on Tina, the show or the journey?
I’m just so heartbroken so I’m almost afraid to go there, I don’t want to fall apart! Just, thank you so much for the support to the loyal fans.
What did you think of the series finale of Togetherness? Sound off in the comments below.
Photo credits: HBO
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