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James Franco talks playing twins in and directing episodes of the new HBO series “The Deuce”

James Franco is on the latest cover of Out Magazine to promote his HBO series The Deuce which premieres on September 10.

The film is about New York’s emerging porn industry in the 1970s and Franco plays two very different brothers—frequently in the same scene—and Maggie Gyllenhaal as a sex worker transitioning into adult films. Franco signed on to the series on the condition that he also get to direct three episodes.

Here are some excerpts from his Q&A with legendary author and longtime New York resident Edmund White:

Franco: I play twin brothers: Vincent and Frankie. I like to say I play the Harvey Keitel character in Mean Streets and I also play the Robert De Niro character in Mean Streets. One is the responsible brother and the other is the guy who can’t get it together. The real Vincent had this really interesting dilemma where he fell in love with this woman, Abby, who is intelligent, very smart. He comes from the streets. He’s street-smart, but she’s book-smart, and as he gets pulled deeper and deeper into the massage parlors, really just as a front man, she becomes more and more involved in feminism and eventually trying to help women get off the street. So he’s got this whole secret life that he has to keep from her, because he loves her so much but she is so against women being involved in the sex trade. Here’s the thing: In David Simon’s shows the bad guys also have a little goodness and the good guys are also bad, and so my guy Vincent, he’s a good guy at heart, but because he’s so good at what he does, he gets pulled deep into this whole underworld.

EW: Have you directed many movies or TV shows?

JF: Yeah, I directed a bunch of small artsy movies. I did Faulkner adaptations—As I Lay Dying, The Sound and the Fury. I did movies that most people don’t want to see but that were very important to me. Then when I did The Deuce, when I finally talked to David, I said, “All right, I’m in, but I want to direct.” And he’s like, “OK, OK, you can direct.” And I said, “I want to direct at least three episodes of the season.” Ironically, the first episode I directed is the most twin-heavy of the entire season. Every scene is the twins acting opposite each other, so it was a full-on schizophrenic personality shift for me, from director mode to Vincent mode to Frankie mode.

EW: So are we going to lose you as an actor now?

JF: I’ve got to say, of all the things that I’ve done, and I’ve done a lot, the actual process of directing is the most fun, because you’re in the middle of all these different creative people. But no, I will not stop acting. Most actors come to a point in their lives where they have to reassess what they’re doing and why they’re doing it, and for me, after going back to school and trying to do all these other things, this new chapter, with surfing and dancing, is really about slowing down and trying to focus on fewer things but in a deeper, more quality-filled way.

FILE UNDER: Actors/Actresses

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