Mark Duplass
Rex Features

He may play divorced, unhappy loser Pete Eckhart on the hit FX comedy The League, but that does not mean that there are not things about his character that actor Mark Duplass does not envy.

“When bad things happen to me, I get insecure,” he says during a recent phone interview. “When bad things happen to Pete, he just puts on a little more bravado, takes a bigger step, and walks right through it. And I like that about him. The only thing he’s good at, basically, is fantasy football, and he goes for it 100%.”

Now heading into its fourth season, The League stars Duplass (Your Sister’s Sister) as Pete, whose only real passion is participating in a fantasy football league with his best friend Kevin MacArthur (Stephen Rannazzisi, Paul Blart: Mall Cop), the paranoid Rodney Ruxin (Nick Kroll, I Love You, Man), naive plastic surgeon Andre Nowzick (Piranha), and Kevin’s stoner brother Taco (Canadian Internet comic Jon Lajoie). Duplass appreciates the cast’s camaraderie (“we genuinely are very close friends and like hanging out with each other”) and finds their characters’ love-hate relationship curiously appealing.

“I’m a very emotional and outward and loving person, and these people don’t know how to express their feelings to each other except for verbal abuse,” he says. “And it’s fun for me to play that and play that with people that I genuinely like on the show. It’s not how I talk to my friends, but I have seen it happen and it’s really a weird wish-fulfillment thing to be able to play that out.”

Duplass also gets to work on the show with his wife Katie Aselton (Our Idiot Brother) who plays Kevin’s competitive wife Jenny. I ask Duplass about the advantages and disadvantages of working with his spouse.

“Well, the disadvantages are when we shoot, the house goes to hell basically,” he says. “We have two kids, and trying to figure out the scheduling and seeing our children and working is just insanity. But the advantages are obviously being at work with someone you love. There’s never any distance between us that can happen when someone doesn’t fully understand your job and what you do and they are alienated by it, particularly in this industry when you are spending fourteen hours a day with people. So it’s really nice when you intrinsically and deeply understand each other’s work life.”

Asked to explain the appeal of fantasy football, which seems to consume at least 90% of The League characters’ lives, Duplass says that is a “five-hour conversation minimum, I think. But for me it’s a way to feel like a golden god of sports without being in shape.”

Duplass says he was a “huge NFL fan” growing up so knew the sport “very well” but had yet to succumb to the world of fantasy football when he was cast on The League. That situation, however, has changed, with the cast now participating in a league of their own.

“I’m kind of a type-A workaholic and I wanted to guard my time, and I always felt that if I started playing fantasy football that I would get addicted like everybody else,” he says. “But once I found out I was on the show, I wanted to start playing so I could basically know what I was talking about. And I ended up staring pretty deeply into the well, unfortunately.”

While Duplass’s acting career continues to take off (he has a role in director Kathryn Bigelow’s upcoming Osama Bin Laden film Zero Dark Thirty), the New Orleans native is perhaps best known as a writer-director team with his older brother Jay, making low-budget but acclaimed indie comedies like Cyrus (2010), Jeff, Who Lives at Home (2011), and The Puffy Chair (2005) which critics have termed “mumblecore.” The brothers are currently adapting the Tony D’Souza novel Mule for The Hangover director Todd Phillips’ company and have “just started digging into” work on a remake of the Alan Alda-Ellen Burstyn comedy Same Time, Next Year (1978) for producer Scott Rudin which they may or may not direct themselves. The variety of projects suits Duplass’s temperament.

“I love the blend,” he says. “It keeps you from getting complacent in where you are and it also keeps me from being fussy. I think to be doing the same thing over and over again you start to get caught in it. And so jumping from a $45-million to a $45,000 movie keeps my head in the right place.”

On that note, I finish by asking Duplass if, as he has been quoted as saying in other interviews, desperation is still a powerful force in getting his films made.

“Absolutely,” he says. “In my opinion – and this is just my wiring so I can only speak to that – but this desire to do better, this desire to be as good as all the movies you have seen before, being hard on yourself and feeling like you are not good enough, these are all things that can be stressful and might be things you want to go to therapy for, but you can also whip those things around into a powerful driving force to get s**t done. So I don’t choose that force; it just happens to reside inside of me. So I use it for good instead of evil.”

The League: The Complete Season Three debuts on DVD/Blu-ray Tuesday, October 9, through 20th Century Fox Home Entertainment. Season Four of The League debuts Thursday, October 11, at 10:30pm ET/7:30pm PT on FX Canada.