Mark Duplass on ‘Wild Wild Nation’ and Not Punching His Companions within the Face

Mark Duplass on ‘Wild Wild Nation’ and Not Punching His Companions within the Face


One of the buzziest shows on Netflix this year wasn’t a thriller or a comedy — it was a documentary series. “Wild Wild Country,” which was nominated today for five Emmy Awards, including outstanding documentary or nonfiction series, revisits the Rajneeshees, the religious group prominent in the early and mid-1980s who were perhaps best known for sexual indulgence, criminal plots and public feuds with local communities near their desert commune in Oregon.

The series was co-directed by the brothers Maclain and Chapman Way, and its executive producers include two other sets of brothers: Josh and Dan Braun and Mark and Jay Duplass. The series nomination is the first Emmy nod for Mark Duplass, who was driving down Sunset Boulevard when he heard the news. In a phone interview, he discussed “Wild Wild Country” and being filmmaking uncles. Here are edited excerpts from the conversation.

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What were you doing when you found out about the nominations?

I was dropping off my niece to her acting program and scrolling through the nominations on my phone. And driving unsafely. Like an idiot. I’ve had a lot of experience in getting excited about potential award nominations that might have come my way, all of which never, ever did, so I was just like “Whatever, let’s just see what happens.” I got to experience it in the quiet of my car, still in my pajamas, with my first cup of coffee in my hand.

How does it feel?

Honestly, I feel mostly pride for the Way brothers. I don’t want to take any more credit for this series being what it is than I should. We were really good uncles to the boys in providing a safe, creative environment for them to do what they needed to do. So it’s less about patting myself on the back and being like “Look what I did,” and more about having the proud uncle moment where I’m like, “Wow, look at our boys, look what they did.” Chap and Mac are both very young, they’re still in their 20s. It was all about providing the support system. Jay and I never really had that, we just had to figure out how to do everything on our own.

[Read about the Emmy nominations. | See a list of nominees.]

What was it like having multiple brothers involved?

There was a familial vibe to this whole thing. We’re all acutely aware of how extremely difficult it is to work together as family members, and we all have a way of doing it that’s very therapy talk-ey. Everybody’s very sweet to each other. And aware that, if we’re not, we’ll all be punching each other in the face.

Is there a specific moment when that familial feeling came up?

Watching the first cut of Episode 1, it became very clear to the Brauns and to the Duplasses that the Ways did not really creatively need us anymore. It was that moment you have as a parent where you’re like “I guess our kids are ready to go to college and they’re gonna be fine.”

Were you surprised that a documentary series received so much buzz?

I didn’t have any idea of the sort of zeitgeistian explosion that would happen. When does a documentary series that is essentially a sociopolitical study of church and state at its core ever become something that “S.N.L.” is making a skit out of?

[Our TV critics on the snubs and surprises.]

Documentaries are having a moment, not just in television but with films like “RBG” and “Won’t You Be My Neighbor?” Why do you think audiences are turning to them?

If I’m being pragmatic about it, I feel like “The Jinx” and “Making a Murderer” were the gateway drugs into great documentary filmmaking. Murder is like candy for audience members. They just love it. Then they were taking these mild left turns into subject matter that they’re familiar with, but isn’t murder-based.

What’s the best response you could hope for from someone who watches the series?

I think that if someone can deeply identify at times with some of the crazy activities that the members of Rajneeshpuram engaged in, and then at other times engage or at least sympathize with something that could easily be classified as just white xenophobia and fear of the other. [If] they can put themselves in their shoes and see how they could feel that way even though they might not agree — that’s a really nice thing for our country, at this point.



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