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Mark Duplass talks ‘Room 104,’ brotherhood, Maine and more

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Brothers Mark and Jay Duplass (“Togetherness,” “The One I Love”) are back with a new HBO series which offers a twist on the anthology TV format. 

“Room 104,” which airs Fridays at 11:30 p.m., is set in a single room of a nondescript American motel and tells a different story every week of the assorted characters who pass through it during various eras of the motel’s existence. Each episode features a unique cast and is directed by a different filmmaker.

Mark Duplass says that he and brother Jay have been sitting on the idea for “Room 104” more than a decade.

“This is something we’ve wanted to do for a long time,” Duplass told me during a phone interview. “We’ve spent so much time in hotels looking at those dings on the walls and stains on the carpet and smelling moldy pillows and just imagining what kind of stories could be told about the people who stayed there before us. We saw this as a way to collaborate with all of these wonderful filmmakers we’ve been working with over the years.”

Since the only locked-in show element for each episode is the room in which it’s shot, the brothers saw the series as a vehicle for telling wildly disparate stories – from the comical to the sweet to the macabre.

“One week it might be straight-up fun comedy and it might be more serious next week,” Duplass explains. “The week after that it could be straight-up horror. We even have a modern dance episode in there.”

The Duplass Brothers are frequently asked about the ups and downs of working together. According to Mark, the pros unquestionably outweigh the cons – a fact that they recognized early in their filmmaking endeavors.

“My brother and I were just two kids growing up in the suburbs making two dollar movies on our parents’ video camera and we needed to stick together because that was our only chance,” Duplass says. “The truth is, it’s a little hard at times but two heads are better than one.”

The brothers have produced 20 feature films over the last two decades, including two set for release later this year, “Duck Butter” and “Creep 2.”

Mark Duplass can also be seen in the Discovery Channel series “Manhunt: Unabomber” where he plays David Kaczynski, the younger brother of Ted Kaczynski, the domestic terrorist convicted of killing three people and injuring 23 others in a series of mail-bombings spanning 18 years. David Kaczynski and his wife were the first to notify federal authorities of their suspicion that the older Kaczynski may have been responsible for the terror campaign.

Unlike the character he portrays in “Manhunt: Unabomber,” Mark Duplass says that he and brother Jay had an unspoken honor code when they were growing up.

“We don’t rat on each other,” he said.

“It’s so funny. We weren’t really average brothers,” he continued. “Jay and I were like our own little mafia and our parents were the Feds. If something happened between me and Jay – no matter how bad it would get – we would never tell them. We’re the Duplass brothers and it’s a very unique relationship. We actually wrote a book about it which is coming out next year.”

Mark Duplass is no stranger to the state of Maine. In 2006, he married actress and Milbridge native Katie Aselton.

A 1996 graduate of Narraguagus High School in Harrington, Aselton is a former Miss Maine Teen USA who starred alongside her husband in the FX fantasy football comedy series “The League” as well as in the Duplass Brothers’ HBO series “Togetherness.” She also starred in FX’s “Legion” and the recent film “Fun Mom Dinner” among other projects.

“You guys did a fantastic job with that one,” Duplass says of his wife’s Maine upbringing. “I feel like a Mainer at this point. We’ve spent so much time up there. I have family all over the place in Maine – from Bangor to Milbridge. I’m a big fan of what you guys have going on.”

And fans of multi-genre storytelling have a lot to like in “Room 104.” New episodes are scheduled to air through October 13.

“HBO is the best, they just let us do our thing,” Duplass says. “Our goal was to do something really different with this show. We all have 300 shows in our Netflix queue and you know what they are. They’re going to be good. We’re something really, really different if you want to try us.” 

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