Lena Dunham on ‘Girls’

Dunham tells about her new HBO series and which actors she would like to write for.

Fred Topelby Fred Topel

Lena Dunham’s film Tiny Furniture, which she wrote, directed and starred in won the SXSW Film Festival in 2010. Her follow-up project is a TV series on HBO called "Girls," which Dunham once again writes and stars in, as well directing some of the episodes.

"Girls" portrays the comic misadventures of four young women who are trying to figure out their romantic relationships and the path of their lives. Dunham promised the Television Critics Association lots of nudity and HBO-friendly language along with the subject matter. While she worked the TCA, we got to ask her a lot of questions about what we’re going to see Sunday nights on HBO.


CraveOnline: I’m trying not to sound condescending to ask what men would like on the show.

Lena Dunham: No, it doesn’t sound condescending at all. It’s a show called “Girls” but the thing about it is as I said, I hoped that title would basically make you basically feel like girls go, “I’m a girl” and guys go, “I like girls.”

The fact is, I didn’t want to be crass, but there’s nude women and nude women who kind of look like your girlfriend and don’t look like models. So it’ll be interesting for me to see if that’s something guys connect to or they think it looks like amateur porn.

CraveOnline: What are you learning about producing and filmmaking from Judd Apatow?

Lena Dunham: I mean, everything. It’s amazing for me to watch from the writing level to casting to watching him just navigate the various personalities, he’s really experienced and he’s also really giving me room to try and fail which is what you need to do to get good at your job.

CraveOnline: How different is asking HBO executives for money versus asking your own family members for Tiny Furniture?

Lena Dunham: It’s actually, I’m going to shock you, easier because when you ask your parents they’re like, “What are you going to use it for?” With HBO it’s clearer. I can’t run off and buy champagne for my friends.

CraveOnline: How does producing a show for HBO compare to making an indie movie?

Lena Dunham: It’s different. It’d decidedly different, but the thing that was amazing was I was expecting to go in and be totally overwhelmed by this new machine and these new collaborators. It actually felt so personal and understanding as making a movie with my mom and my sister. I just didn’t have to buy the pizza.

That was the incredible difference. I always tell the story where the first day I was so scared when we got to set. We were shooting on a big soundstage. I shot in my own bedroom. Now this was a bedroom that had been built to resemble my bedroom. It was all very confusing and Being John Malkovichy.

Then I got into the bed and on the New York soundstage they sound three alarms to let you know that it’s time to shoot, but I didn’t know that so the three bells rang and I was like, “Thank God, there’s a fire drill. I don’t have to do this. I can leave right now.” But then two takes in, it had the same comfort. And Jenni and I kind of run the set together

CraveOnline: Can you imagine writing something that you’re not going to star in?

Lena Dunham: For sure and I think that it will be a really valuable experience when I do. I’ve had ideas before for things that I’m not in but these are what’s come the most naturally. But yes, and I’m still young and learning my craft. So the idea of making a movie that I’m not in will really allow me to focus on that. I love directing scenes that I’m not in because suddenly I really feel like a filmmaker which is a different thing.

CraveOnline: Do you think you’d write something that you can’t play, like something for another actor?

Lena Dunham: I’d love to write something for a male protagonist. That’s sort of the next frontier for me. I think it’d be really amazing to write the kind of parts that I love for women but for a guy. Maybe a guy navigating the women in his life. There are a lot of male actors who inspire me and that’d be great.

CraveOnline: Who?

Lena Dunham: The guys who are on the show. Adam Driver, Chris Abbott, Alex Karpovsky. I am so excited to write for them every single day. I’m really into David Strathairn. He’s my favorite actor.

CraveOnline: He’s well known, but there are a lot of guys we haven’t discovered yet too.

Lena Dunham: Yeah, and I think the guys on the show, to me I love them because I feel like in television, I call it the Brian Krakow/Jordan Catalano Paradigm which is you’ve got the sweet nerd who you’re not going to fall in love with and the guy who’s totally bad for you.

Then it was like Ben and Noel on “Felicity” so we have our Adam and Charlie situation on “Girls” where you’re seeing the polar opposites of the kinds of guys that a 24-year-old girl might be attracted to and these guys play those types really well.

CraveOnline: You were at Sundance this year with Nobody Walks. What has it been like to have multiple films go to festivals?

Lena Dunham: It’s been amazing. The film at Sundance [this year] is really my friend Ry [Russo-Young]’s. I cowrote it with her but it’s truly her voice and her vision and I think when people watch it they’ll understand that it’s a drama. It’s very different than my tone and I just felt lucky to be able to help her make the movie that she was excited about.

CraveOnline: Are you working on more movies?

Lena Dunham: I hope so. Right now my attention is really on bringing the show to the forefront but film is my first love and I want to keep making features forever. The thing that’s amazing is that on HBO you can tell really cinematic stories so right now it’s really satisfying my urges.