If there’s one word Gaby Hoffman and Jay Duplass can agree on to describe Jill Soloway’s Transparent, it’s "chaos." For more than three years, the actors have lived in the chaos that comes from playing Ali and Josh Pfefferman. For Duplass, it’s “very, very lightly controlled chaos,” and for Hoffman, it can only be described in a string of adjectives: “It’s a very beautiful, messy, emotional, chaotic process,” she explains, while Duplass nods alongside her with a grin.
Though they've spent years playing the characters, Transparent's fourth season of this beautiful, messy, emotional chaos is, in many ways, just the beginning. “It feels like we’re just getting started on some level even though it also feels like we’ve lived a lifetime together,” Hoffman says when we discuss the longevity of the groundbreaking Amazon series. Built around the lived experience of Jill Soloway’s father, who came out as transgender, the show centers on Jeffrey Tambour as Maura and her children, ex-wife, and friends as they adjust to her transition.
As we binge-watch the fourth season, out now, it’s easy to see why such a revolutionary, trans-centric production has defied the odds and changed today's entertainment landscape. Transparent may, on paper, be about a father transitioning into the woman she always was but, at its heart, the show is about family dynamics—something that resonates with all viewers.
We caught up with Hoffman and Duplass to talk about the new season, breaking down the binary of death and full-blown personal revolutions.
Gaby, this season you’re really exploring your own gender identity. How did it feel to have that story arc this season?
Gaby Hoffman: This is a fluid movement for Ali, so it’s a fluid movement for me. She keeps... They keep moving forward and, of course, forward motion involves lots of back stepping and side stepping, but that movement is all I need as an actor.
Jay, even though your character is the middle child, it feels like you’re the youngest because you’re continually stuck in that childhood phase. What was it like dealing with the ghost of Rita?
Jay Duplass: That part was really exciting to me—this continuing relationship with someone who is no longer on Earth. That is something I’ve experienced in my own life and everyone experiences different interpretations of it. In a binary world, the person dies and then it’s over and you live your life without them, but Jill [Soloway] is trying to awaken us all to this idea that we do not live in the binary world. That is a human construct that causes pain, war and suffering. It’s beautiful to let that unfold and it’s deeply soulful to experience that.
It’s a really deep season for Josh. He’s pivoting and he’s looking at himself for the first time fully, like 100 percent—probably a little too black and white. He’s self-righteous with his sister because she’s not as hardcore about facing sex addiction as he is, which is also funny. I’m still trying to figure out what really happened because I think this show is one where we are all in a process of discovery. Gaby and I have been staying up late talking to each other about what this all means both for our characters and our own personal lives.
You two are so close in the show, too. Do you hang out a lot outside of the show?
JD: We don’t hang out because we live in different cities, but we text all the time and talk all the time. Energetically, it’s weird. It’s a thing. We have a bond that is always existing and happening.
GH: We might not see each other for six months.
JD: We might not talk for two months, but we’re weirdly anticipating that conversation at all times.
Photo Courtesy Amazon Prime Video
You’re on the same wavelength. What was your favorite scene from the new season?
GH: I directed [“Babar the Borrible”] and, in that episode, there’s a fight scene between Jay, Rob Huebel, and Amy Landecker. Directing it was my favorite and watching it was my favorite. [Laughs]
JD: That’s my favorite scene, too. That moment happening literally within minutes. We had probably 20 minutes to shoot that epic scene and it all happened so naturally. Gaby created the space for us to just do it the way she trusted us to do it and was hollering at us between takes and it was everything we wanted it to be. For me, it’s the single most Pfefferman moment of the season, which is categorized in my mind as full-blown conflict and limitless love. Conflict based on love and what these people want for each other—and it’s the funniest scene of the season.
GH: They’re so good in it. It’s so fun and it was so fun to make them do it!
How have you grown outside of the show?
JD: Full-blown personal revolution. It’s still happening and it’s still uncomfortable and beautiful and all of those things.
GH: The show has changed our lives in so many ways. I try to go into each season with the attitude: lead me to the water and I’ll dive in. I mean, Jay found himself as an actor, too, which has changed his life dramatically.
JD: Yeah, I wasn’t really an actor before this, so now that’s the primary thing I’m doing and not only doing it, but somehow inciting revolution in other people through that. When Jill put us all together, lightning struck at the dinner table and we’re all just trying to figure out how to best share and unfold all of this lightning that is happening in the show.