‘Room 104’s Mark Duplass & Sydney Fleischmann on Testing Limits in Season 3

hbo room 104
HBO; Dominik Bindl/Getty Images for Tribeca TV Festival

HBO’s odd-ball anthology series Room 104 from Duplass brothers Mark and Jay continues to enchant audiences with its unique chapters, and Season 3 is no exception.

The show, which is built on the concept of all stories being contained within a single hotel room, is somewhat shattered in the premiere when episode stars Luke Wilson and Christine Woods’ characters convene in a spot intended for their future joint investment.

“Season 3 is very much about pushing the boundaries of what the room can be, taking bigger swings, being more experimental about what it is,” Mark Duplass tells us. “We wanted to stretch the limits this season in terms of not only the container that the room is and still abide by the rules of the room, which are we don’t leave the room, but maybe we do a little bit.”

“We’re going to test the rules a little bit,” executive producer Sydney Fleischmann adds.

Among some of the boundary-pushing concepts explored this season are a post-apocalyptic storyline and a video-diary style installment as well as a brief documentary that certainly stands out from the crowd — partly because you’ll question if it’s real or not. Rest assured, Duplass and Fleischmann cleared things up by confirming that one of Season 3’s episodes is in fact a true documentary.

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The stories of the third season range from dark comedy to poignant drama to musical romance.

“I really love that this has been the response, the label. ‘Is it a documentary?'” Fleischmann jokes.

“People are like, ‘Did you just fake that? Is it a documentary?'” Duplass reiterates before confirming it is.

“That was like our version of somewhere between a documentary and also a reality show. Like, ‘Come into the room and make art out of whatever you can find,'” Duplass says. “They’re like, ‘We’re going to use the box springs.’ We’re like, ‘Oh, shit!'”

Sydney Fleischmann and Mark Duplass (Credit: Dominik Bindl/Getty Images for Tribeca TV Festival)

Peculiarities don’t end there though. “We have an episode called ‘New Song,'” Mark shares. “I think the script was less than a page, and it’s based upon one of my favorite musicians. Then we created some animation to go along with it that was projected onto the walls, and she made up songs on the spot and we crafted a narrative that went with it.”

“We just kind of put it together like an arts and crafts project like you would do when you’re nine years old, and that’s a little scary sometimes, but we’re trying to just honor the people who keep showing back up by giving them new things,” he continues.

In the process of creating episodes, it must be noted that Room 104 is pretty much in a constant state of reconstruction with everything that occurs within the four walls.

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The multihyphenate also talks about this season's musical episode, fan theories, and the secret book he has in the works.

“Our production designer, Jonah Markowitz, makes sure that we can figure out how to do these things quickly so that we’re not down,” Fleischmann praises. “We’ll do changeovers over the weekend, get a crew in to change the set. We really have tried to make the room as versatile as possible so that we can just take out that entire wall that they cut a hole in and put in a new one. The room has become really malleable in that way.”

“It’s tough on our production design team,” admits Duplass. “There’s always a call to them once we know what the stories are and be like, ‘All right, guys, so we’re going to light the room on fire. There might be some flooding and there’s going to be some blood splatter, some vomit,’ and they’re like, ‘Okay, how are we going to do this?’ Because obviously, our budgets are pretty small for this show.”

(Credit: HBO)

This bingeable series has given fans plenty of varied offerings to amuse every taste, and just like the genres, there’s been a wide selection of stars that have appeared over the seasons, including Mahershala Ali in Season 2. This year comedian Arturo Castro made an impression on Duplass and Fleischmann.

“Arturo Castro was someone who we love, and we were just so charmed by him and impressed with his talent and all of that, so we knew we had to find a place for him somewhere,” Fleischmann says of his guest role.

“That’s part of the spirit of the show, is clearly people are not coming to do this for the money because there really is none,” Duplass adds. “We just really want people who are excited to be there.”

(Credit: HBO)

While silly and outlandish most of the time, Room 104 has heart, and for Fleischmann that’s particularly clear in the unique documentary entry. “I think the end product is … I find it really moving and powerful,” she says.

“Yeah. That’s like a found art piece that just came together in the last few minutes,” adds Duplass. “Those execution-dependent wild swings, I feel so proud of those when they come through. It’s almost like your problem child when he graduates from high school.”

“The emotional core of the show for me is that if you’re really honest with yourself and look back at the last time you were in a hotel or a motel room, you will notice that you behaved a little bit differently and a little bit strangely,” Duplass says of the show’s concept. “That is what this show is about. We just turn it up and hyperbolize it for fun.”

Don’t miss the anthology series when it returns Friday night, September 13 on HBO, and keep an eye out because Season 4 is on the horizon.

Room 104, Season 3 Premiere, Friday, September 13, 11/10c, HBO