Novi-bred producer, editor behind HBO’s ‘Togetherness’

Mekeisha Madden Toby
Special to The Detroit News

Growing up in Westland and later Novi, Jay Deuby never thought he’d actually end up working in the television and film industry. But that’s exactly what Deuby, a producer and editor behind HBO’s comedic relationship drama “Togetherness,” does.

“Loving movies, I definitely felt like Hollywood was a million miles away,” says Deuby, 43, a graduate of Northville High School, who earned his undergraduate degree at Western Michigan University. “It’s why I ended up in marketing in college and eventually found my way back to film. I didn’t know anyone who worked in the industry. I had no idea what that career path looked like.”

This changed once Deuby tapped into his passion. He stopped working in marketing after a few years, enrolled and graduated from Wayne State University’s Masters of Arts in Communication program and started focusing on film. His wife also attended Wayne State and graduated from the university’s medical school. The couple moved to Austin, Texas, in 1998 for her residency and it is there that Deuby met filmmaking brothers Jay and Mark Duplass.

Deuby edited the Duplass brothers’ films “The Puffy Chair” and “Baghead” and when the siblings brokered a deal to do “Togetherness” for HBO, he became a part of that, too, as a producer and editor. He also participated in the writing room where he made suggestions and shared stories from his own life. In case you haven’t watched it — and chances are you haven’t, considering the less than 500,000 viewers “Togetherness” draws on average — the half-hour series focuses on two Los Angeles area couples in their late 30s as they try to figure out life and love. The two male characters, Brett (Mark Duplass) and Alex (Steve Zissis), are from Detroit and went to high school together. The series finale of “Togetherness” airs Sunday.

“In the room we all pitch story ideas, give feedback on storylines and scripts, pitch dialogue and jokes and tell embarrassing stories from our lives that may be useful to the show,” says Deuby, who has lived in Los Angeles for a little more than a decade. “The absurd things we do behind closed doors that are hilarious after the fact. Basically being middle aged and realizing you’re still trying to sort out how to balance your work and your family, trying to figure out how to be happy. It’s all fair game and potential material for the show.”

The show’s themes also inspired Deuby and the Duplass brothers to make Alex and Brett Metro Detroit natives. “Alex and Brett being from Detroit originally came out of Alex wanting to go home in the pilot,” Deuby says. “Because the Duplass brothers’ storytelling is so reliant on details and specificity, I think they wanted them to be from somewhere one of us knew intimately. It seemed like bigger stakes if Alex left Detroit to be the king of his high school and declare he was going to Hollywood to make it big only to come home 20 years later having achieved little.”

But Alex didn’t move back to Detroit and in the show’s second and final season, fans have gotten to know an Alex full of confidence and drive as he enjoys a late-blooming career in acting. Viewers will also find out if Brett and wife Michelle (Melanie Lynskey) stay together or get divorced.

As for Deuby, whose film editing credits also include hit comedies such as “Trainwreck” and “The Heat,” life in Hollywood continues to be full of ups and downs. But he’ll always be a Metro Detroiter at heart.

“My parents live on the west side of the state, but my brother and his family live in the area and I have cousins, aunts and uncles scattered all over Metro Detroit,” Deuby says. “My parents and brother saw the pilot the night it premiered. My mom said it was funny and had great music, but ‘too much F-words.’ ”

Mekeisha Madden Toby is a Los Angeles-based TV critic and entertainment writer.


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