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The Dads of Tully – Interview with Ron Livingston and Mark Duplass

Tully is a movie about motherhood and getting help from a night nanny, which begs the question; Where are the dads? I sat down with Mark Duplass who plays Craig, Marlo’s (Charlize Theron) brother that gifts the night nanny as a new baby gift. We also talk with Ron Livingston who plays Marlo’s husband and the father in this beautiful story. 

Mark Duplass and Ron Livingston for Tully
Mark Duplass and Ron Livingston for Tully

Brotherly Love with Mark Duplass

One of the aspects you’ll see in Tully is the role of fathers and family in regards to helping a mother. From the beginning, we can see that Marlo is tired and exhausted and she is still pregnant with her third child. Examining the relationship of Marlo’s brother Craig, we get to see that his baby gift is coming from a place of love. Most women don’t want to admit when we need help. Mark Duplass tells us about his thoughts on first reading the script and how it reminded him of a conversation he had with his wife. He describes his wife as “in some ways was like the earlier version of Marlo that’s hinted at early on.  Fun-loving, able to throw parties, and I think she really envisioned that she would be able to have it all and do it all.” Duplass goes on to explain that women want that lore of “How does she do it?” Which I think most women can relate to saying about another mom at some point in time.  Duplass continues, “and my wife and I always joke about how she has to avoid that desire to have people saying that about her and admit that — well, I do it because I cry a lot in between and I get a shit-ton of help.” It’s that relatable notion that he found the story very good and was looking forward to working on the project. 

Mark Duplass stars as Craig in Jason Reitman’s TULLY, a Focus Features release.

To come up with the sibling bond that we see on screen between Charlize Theron and Mark Duplass, Duplass just had to look to Theron’s relationship with director Jason Reitman. “I saw the special chemistry between Jason and Charlize–they were like a brother and sister together, and it would be like it, ‘oh, I’m just going to do that'” Duplass said. “The character Craig is interesting to me because he, you know, at once is white, privileged male trying to tell a mom how to live her life — which is like — cut the mansplaining.  Right?  Right away it’s got a problem.  But at the same time, the core of his message of being able to admit that you need some help — there’s no shame in that — is right.  So I like that little complexity there.” Jason Reitman chimed in that one of his favorite improvisations anyone has done onset was during the tiki-bar scene when Craig tells Marlo ‘Okay, asshole, sit-down,’ “And it was like — oh, I get this brother and sister act.  I really like that,” Reitman said. Duplass replied, “Which again, it was exactly the way you guys treated each other on set.  I really appreciated that.”

Dad, the Babysitter? Ron Livingston

You can’t have a story about an exhausted mother of three that needs a night nanny if there wasn’t an unhelpful father in the picture. While not all fathers are like this, but we do live in an era that is still trying to break the mold that dad brings home the bacon while mom takes care of the house and family. There are a couple of moments in Tully that draw attention to the fact that there is a father present, so the kids aren’t “unattended.” Without calling dad the babysitter, there is an implication as such. 

Ron Livingston stars as Drew in Jason Reitman’s TULLY, a Focus Features release.

My friend Dawn from Eat Play Rock had a great question about our modern era parenting how women are choosing to be in the workforce while dads are opting to be stay-at-home dads and what it would take to break this dad the babysitter mentality. Ron Livingston had this to say; “I’m not sure.  I think maybe — A, more dads will have to do it and B, they’ll have to get better at it.  And then I think they have to get a little prouder about talking about it.  I think a lot of dads, even if they are — primary caregivers and even if they are great at it, there’s sort of a, they don’t want to [talk about being a dad] They don’t want to brag  during the football game, because it doesn’t go over well.  So — there’s a little bit of that, I think.”

I love watching Ron Livingston play the father in this film because he plays the oblivious dad well. He goes about his daily routine just like Marlo is going about hers, and by the end he sees the bigger picture. He see that he plays a large role in Marlo’s mental health and that it’s time to step up. As I mentioned in my review of Tully, having someone to care for you as a new parent is important and this role of father and brother were portrayed beautifully by Mark Duplass and Ron Livingston. 

Tully is in theaters May 4th.