Girls just concluded its six-year run on HBO. I reviewed the finale here, and I got to speak with Lena Dunham and her co-showrunner Jenni Konner about the conclusion, why bathrooms were such an important part of the show, why everyone but them hates Marnie, and a lot more, coming up just as soon as I keep a room like in the movie Room…
How did you decide on the way you were going to end the series, and how many other ideas did you have over the years before you landed on this one?
Dunham: Not a lot. I would not say we were swimming in them.
Konner: No. And Lena always wanted to get Hannah knocked up at the end.
Dunham: I was pretty focused on it, and everyone was like, “Okay.”
Why did you want Hannah to be pregnant at the end?
Dunham: Honestly, it was probably from an early reading of The Heidi Chronicles, if I really have to examine it. But it felt to me, always, like there was some kind of maturation that wasn’t going to come necessarily from work or a romantic relationship that was going to find Hannah. It felt like it was part of the grande lineage of a certain kind of writing, once again pointing to The Heidi Chronicles. You have a woman who hasn’t been able to figure out these certain areas of her life, yet still takes on this incredible challenge is something that’s really appealing and it also doesn’t have to be neat and tidy. A pregnancy is only tidy and rom-com-ready if you let it be that way but it’s actually the messiest thing in the world, and so it gave us so much for other characters to respond to and it gave us such a clear insight into her fears and where she situates herself.
Konner: I also think that, there’s been so much of like, are Hannah’s stakes real? How high are they really? The job, the boyfriend, whatever. And all of a sudden, it’s something you can’t take back. You can’t quit that job. And so it’s putting Hannah into her first super grown-up situation.
I like that the show is bookended: the first scene of the series is her with her parents being immature and complaining about them cutting her off, and the last real scene is her telling the girl who she runs into that this is what a parent is supposed to do. After all this time, she understands what the job is.
Dunham: I know. And we really struggled in that last episode with coming up with how you’re gonna show that she learned something in a way that’s not completely clunky and completely like an Afterschool Special. I can’t think of how many drafts we did of whatever version of Hannah’s away from the house encounter she was gonna have.
Konner: There were so many iterations. Like, there were naked hippies in a lake.
Dunham: I remember Judd (Apatow) just wrote back like, “Nudists? Really?” He was just like, “No.”
Konner: Yeah. We were just trying to find the vaguely elegant way to show that transition for her. But in the end, that girl we cast was so great and she was like some weird Paul Thomas Anderson find.
Was there ever a point where the two of you and Judd considered the idea that Hannah and Adam might actually get back together for real?
Dunham: No, we really didn’t. From the second season we were like, “I can’t believe everybody thinks they’re supposed to be together. Is it not clear to everybody else that this is a really, really bad idea?” That these people have mostly caused each other (pain). I mean every relationship that you’re obsessive about has it’s moments, and it’s actually because of that weird mix of bitterness and connection. But the fact is is that they were always hurting each other and we also just never felt that Hannah’s end was like, “I finally got the guy who was my fuck buddy when I was 23!” That doesn’t feel super self-actualized, so it would be funny because the audience would be like, “Hanna and Adam are my one true pair, that’s my platonic ideal of love,” and I would be like, “I want to get together with you and talk this trough with you.”
In that episode, the actual breakup, almost all of it is done in silence. Lena, do you think that’s something you could have pulled off as an actress at the start of the series?
Dunham: Fuck no. I wasn’t sure if I was going to be able to pull that off. Judd wrote that. That was a full Judd. He sat down, he explained it. I remember saying to him, “That’s beautiful, and I have absolutely no idea if I’m capable of it.” And that’s one of the most exciting and scary things that can happen to you when you’re acting, it’s like really until it was happening and until the scene was done, I had no idea whether it was going to happen and whether it was going to read. I just had to trust the process and trust that once I was in the place and once I was looking at Adam, and Adam is such an expressive actor that I have a very emotional reaction to watching him when I’m not in a scene with him, so just trying to tap into that. But I just remember Jenni being very, you know, sensitive and quiet and coming over.
Konner: Everyone, the whole crew that night was so moved. We knew it worked from that moment.
Dunham: And I remember, Jenni, you’d never given me such quiet notes. Not like she can’t control the volume of her voice but, like, these were just really sensitive, quiet notes.
Konner: I’m a big yeller.