So it turns out there sometimes are word limits even on the internet, and a 9000-word interview with “Girls” producers Lena Dunham and Jenni Konner was too much to try to squeeze into a single post. So you can read the first half here, and after the jump, the two women continue to talk about the first season – including more on James Franco, and how fellow producer Judd Apatow predicted every stage of the show’s public and critical reaction – coming up just as soon as I drink some expired Milanta…
PART FOUR: WHEN YOUR HEROINES ARE WRONG ABOUT THEMSELVES – AND EACH OTHER
The Kathryn Hahn scene is one of a bunch, like the ones with her parents in 106, or Adam at the warehouse party, where you start getting outsider perspective on what’s going on and you”re realizing that things aren’t quite what you think they are and Hannah and Marnie are really these unreliable narrators. Was seen that the intention that you were going for, because you”ve talked before about how this is their point of view and their point of view was just sometimes just wrong.
Lena Dunham: Yeah.
Jenni Konner: Yeah. I mean, I think we”ve always thought that, that they were not reliable narrators. I mean, she calls herself the voice of a generation, like that’s the most extreme.
Lena Dunham: I also like the idea that, in some way, they deserve each other, like they”re both constantly pointing to the other as an example of somebody who has like an incorrect, skewed perception of the world. But it”s almost like if you had half a Hannah and half a Marnie, they would make the most perfectly emotional yet logical woman, yet they can’t sort of see [that] they could actually gain so much from each other but they”re not able to do that right now.
Jenni Konner: They’re the romantic comedy. They”re really sort of that story is the biggest romance in season one.
And they have the big break up scene in 109. Was that planned all along as well, like that they’re going to end the season apart?
Lena Dunham: The big break up was very planned.
Jenni Konner: We knew that that’s what we were heading towards because it was their arc was the most fleshed out of anything when we were plotting out the season.
Lena Dunham: That was really intense to shoot.
Jenni Konner: That was something you came to the party with, I think.You always knew that they were going to break up before we even knew what the show was.
Lena Dunham: We talked about it as being a show that was in many ways about that friend who you wonder – it”s sort of like the end of a marriage where you”re like, “Are we just together because we”ve been together since high school or were we really in love?” And they have to separate to be able to understand what their needs from each other are. And that was an intense day. We shot that scene for almost 17 hours. And it was like 27 setups, which we never do, because Richard Shepard was really determined, which I loved, to give this sort of like epic, relentless, like what I loved that he kept directing us. He wanted it to be where I”d come into the room where she was and she”d be like, “You again? I just want to rest,” like one of those fights that just never ends. But it was really tough to track the-we shot in order even though it wasn’t the easiest thing for the crew because of how hard it was to track where we were at emotionally.
And it was the time I ever cried on set. I went into the fake bathroom and I was so exhausted and I was like-and Jenni came in and she was like, she was comforting me and I both liked it so much it was like I recognized that this is the way that I talk to really exhausted actors and I don’t like it at all. But it was she was being so lovely.
And I was actually rewatching that on the train ride in and you never realize that word “wound” is funny unless it”s said 17 times in 30 seconds.
Jenni Konner: That was Bruce (Eric Kaplan), and he says it in real life and then brought it into the script and we thought it was hysterical.
Lena Dunham: We were losing our minds. He”s always like “that’s his wound.” It”s a very therapized way of speaking.
But that’s another great example where one of them is convinced that they are completely right and the other one is wrong and, you know, “you”re the selfish one.” “No, you”re the selfish one.”
Lena Dunham: Totally.
Jenni Konner: Yes. And we have more of that coming up and they are two people who might not even be that judgmental of other people in their lives but of each other they can almost do no right, even though they love each other unconditionally.
Lena Dunham: Yeah, it”s true.
Is there either an episode or even a scene in an episode that you would point to from these 10 to say this what we were going for, this is exactly what we want the show to be, it’s realized and executed exactly what we want, this is “Girls”?
Jenni Konner: My personal one is either that fight, which I think is incredible just to show two girls fighting for that long and that epically is really-
Lena Dunham: And not about stealing each other”s shoes or over a guy.
Jenni Konner: A guy. Yeah, like it”s really about their friendship and the way they treat each other. And then, the other one is the final Adam scene at the wedding, when he calls her out and she”s fighting him and he”s finally stepping up and she can’t. And I thought, really, to me that scene was moving when I was watching her film it, because we were so exhausted. She had written, directed and starred in everything. And then, when she was directing this, it was like our biggest thing we”d ever done, by a landslide.
Lena Dunham: There was a car accident, so-
Jenni Konner: Yeah and I just thought, oh, well, she can’t surprise me anymore. Not in a bad way, just I”ve seen her work and that scene, when I was watching it, I was so moved and so excited and thought, oh, now we are really doing it.
Lena Dunham: I would concur with Jenni. There was another moment. I think that end of 207 with the Adam turn, like the Adam turn and then they”re all mashed in the cab together. It”s such a chatty show, but to have that sort of unspoken moment where three people’s emotional realities are sort of like contrasted and their smashed under a fixed gear bicycle just felt like it was the frame that I”d want, like when I was 60 and I had like a print up in my office to remind me, it”s what I”d want to be looking at it.
Jenni Konner: And the dancing, too, in the same one.
Lena Dunham: Yeah. It”s really fun when we get a chance, because we end on so many sort of down, depleted notes, it”s really nice when we get a chance to have those glimmers of hope that keep you going when everything is so sort of degrading.
I remember talking to all the other critics who had seen the first three like me, and the agreement was it was the scene where Marnie and Hannah are dancing to the Robyn song, like, “Okay, now we”re in.”
Jenni Konner: Yeah. She scripted that. That came out of nowhere. I remember thinking like that’s so sweet. But, when we shot it, I was literally crying on stage. I cry every time I see it.
Lena Dunham: I”m so embarrassed.
Jenni Konner: I could not have anticipated how emotional and great it would be. And Lena knew the whole time, and I just trusted and she was right. I mean, we heard that Robyn got downloaded a billion times or something after that, and we were so happy.
Lena Dunham: We were really happy, big supporters.
Now, the flipside is were there any things you did over the course of the season that you feel either didn’t quite work or in hindsight with what the show became over 10 episodes, you”re like, “Okay, that’s not really what we are anymore and we probably wouldn’t do something like that again”?
Lena Dunham: I would say, if you”re comfortable with me pointing to something.
Jenni Konner: Yeah, totally.
Lena Dunham: I would say that in 205, the storyline with Jessa and her ex-boyfriend.
Jenni Konner: Yeah, totally.
Lena Dunham: Where she sort of has that sex with that guy for revenge reasons, it felt too much like he pops in, she fucks like a man and he goes. It just wasn’t honest and also we”ve been really careful about not having men sort of pop in and out. Something I loved about “Sex in the City” was that there was a different guy every week and it was like a buffet and that had never been before, but that’s not what we are going for. And it just didn’t feel like the most shaded version of her, and it didn’t feel like an accurate depiction of what her-totally to me an accurate depiction of what her internal life would feel like.
Jenni Konner: Yeah. I think that the reason we did that, if I remember correctly, and you can completely correct, but I feel like we were thinking, God, we hear Jessa talk about all of these insane things that happen to her, but we never see that.
Lena Dunham: That’s exactly why we did it.
Jenni Konner: And so I think we were trying to just show something.
She”s not all talk.
Jenni Konner: She”s not all talk. It”s really fun. I mean, they did a great job. Jessie did a great job shooting it.
Lena Dunham: There were storylines that felt different. Like, for example, our James LeGros-Jessa storyline, I think it was written differently than it came out, but it came out better than it was written. I think we wrote it as a little bit more of a threatening, real sexual interaction and what it became was really more like a lesson to Jessa about why not to throw her power around. And also in the fact that people, even if someone’s a father, they don’t always have your best interests at heart and they can be weak, even if they”re older. And that wasn’t exactly on the page, but I was so much happier with what it became.
You don’t want to just bring in these random guys. One of the many points of television critic James Franco that was echoed by others is just sort of-
Jenni Konner: That they were all losers.
Yeah. And I would get that a lot, especially early on, in comments before certain people just gave up on the show, they’d post, “I don’t want to watch a show where all the guys suck.” I don’t feel like that’s the way it turned out by the end, especially with Adam.
Jenni Konner: No, I don’t think so. I think our ladies are far more flawed in the end than our men.
Lena Dunham: I think so, too, because some things that the men are able to pinpoint what they want and ask for it and the girls are not.
Jenni Konner: Yeah. I also think it”s funny that he called them losers. It just made me laugh, because I was like, well, yeah, because you”re like a cool star who host the Oscars and you have all these amazing things.
Lena Dunham: Yeah, he”s like these are the saddest group of losers I know.
Jenni Konner: Yeah, he is a carpenter.
Lena Dunham: I know.
Jenni Konner: But I think, also, he is-
Lena Dunham: I”m sorry all our first girlfriends couldn’t be “The Practice”s Marla Sokoloff.
Jenni Konner: Exactly. But I think, also, that we, just like all of our characters, show them to be incredibly flawed and then show them to evolve or not.
Lena Dunham: By the way, big James Franco fan over here.
Jenni Konner: Oh yeah. Totally. I got why he thought their were losers, because he”s James Franco.
And if you watch those early episodes, by far I think the most sympathetic character is Charlie.
Lena Dunham: Yeah. He”s not perfect but girls finding him repugnant is much more a reflection on their complicated –.
Jenni Konner: I mean, I think in the beginning we painted him, kind of we wanted people to feel that she wasn”t just an asshole, that feeling of someone liking you and you wish you could like them back but you can’t. We wanted that to feel true and so part of that is making him kind of annoyingly catering to her.
Lena Dunham: Yeah. And it is the kind of guy where it”s like it”s nice in theory, when you’re in the middle of a relationship with somebody who treats you abominably to imagine someone who”s like that in touch with your needs, but in reality it”s like having a nurse trying to like constantly change your bandage. It”s just the worst.
Now, you”ve said before you”ve tried to avoid reading things when you could, but this show was everywhere, before it even premiered-
Lena Dunham: And if you don’t want read something, don’t worry. Your relatives will forward it to you.
Jenni Konner: Oh yeah, your mom will forward plenty of things to you.
PART FIVE: THEY LOVE US! THEY HATE US!
So before the show begins, it’s “Lena Dunham, greatest thing in the world” and “‘Girls,’ greatest thing ever,” then afterwards there is fan reaction. Some people did love it. Some people just hated it. What was that like reading the two extremes, and were there any things that actually were difficult for you to see?
Lena Dunham: If I”m being totally honest, I would say that I”ve done a pretty good job of avoiding a lot of it because of the fact that I”m always here in this incredibly supportive environment or at spin class, where it”s just like nice girls who are like, “love the show!” I”ve sort of placed myself in situations where I don’t court the bad feedback. But, at the same time, I think I couldn’t help it,because it was kind of an essential debate that was being had in a lot of news sources that I know and love. I couldn’t avoid the racial backlash. And I”ve spoken extensively on it and given my current answer. But just as a liberal person and somebody who”s tried live a sensitive, thoughtful life, that was hard stuff for me to hear.
Was there anything for you, Jenni, that felt out of bounds in terms of what people were writing or saying?
Jenni Konner: No. I mean, I think anyone can say anything. I don’t really believe in out of bounds.
Lena Dunham: And we appreciate anybody having a reaction.
Jenni Konner: Yeah. And I also thought it was hard to see and I think it”s good and it informed us this season and, again, we”re lucky enough to have time to hear people.
Lena Dunham: And, also, I think that it”s a debate that needs to happen and a conversation that needs to happen. And if our show needs to take one for the team and start that dialogue, I”m totally comfortable with that.
“Tiny Furniture” was a movie that got some attention but it didn’t have the kind of marketing blitz that HBO can put behind it.
Lena Dunham: Certainly not.
So you’re suddenly on a much higher pedestal than you were before, for both positive and negative.
Jenni Konner: But I would say, also, luckily Judd literally predicted every single step of this journey.
Lena Dunham: It”s true.
Jenni Konner: It”s unbelievable. Like if you need a psychic reading, you should call him because he called everything and spent a lot of time talking to us about it.
Lena Dunham: Yeah. I also think that between Judd and Jenni and the cast and my family, I”m surrounded by really supportive people but who also don’t sort of buy in to whatever hype is going on, so I never had a feeling like my life”s exploding and I also never had a feeling like my life”s falling apart. I got really lucky with who I was surrounded by. And I think that Jenni and I always like this joke where it”s like sometimes we”re both crazy but we”re never crazy at the same time, like we switch days. Well, neither of us is that crazy. We”re pretty sane.
Jenni Konner: It”s funny because I also have been trying really to avoid the backlash, and I think it”s just because I”ve been avoiding it a lot, I feel like it hasn’t been that bad.
Lena Dunham: That’s how I feel, too.
Jenni Konner: People keep saying to me like is that crazy and I”m like, what? People are positive, and maybe I”m wrong.
Lena Dunham: I did one interview with a woman who was like how do you feel about all the women who hate you and think your show is anti-feminist. And I was like who are they, where are they? I”ve never heard of them.
For the most part, what I”ve encountered is more men being obnoxious about it than anything else.
Jenni Konner: Right.
Lena Dunham: It”s interesting. I didn’t believe when Judd was like, “You should avoid this,” like I almost didn’t believe it was possible and it immediately became so possible. Immediately, my interest in — I mean this in what I think is a healthy way, not a spoiled way — seeing my own name in print dissipated really, really fast.
Jenni Konner: Well, the good news is that she has been literally the busiest person in the entire world – I mean, yes, you can find time to look on the Internet — but the truth is, she”s been doing press and post since the show, then we were writing because they ordered scripts and now we”re shooting, and, I mean, I can guarantee you that she has about 14 seconds a day to herself and that’s used for spinning.
Lena Dunham: Yeah.
Spinning”s good. You”re looking good.
Lena Dunham: Oh, thank you so much. Thank you.
Jenni Konner: But not too good.
Lena Dunham: Not too good.
But was that in any way born out of, okay, now I”m watching myself on camera all the time?
Jenni Konner: No.
Lena Dunham: No, it was born out of the fact that actually I was doing a lot of just like, “This episode I don’t know if we got the shot,” like I was just doing artistic spinning, and Jenni was like, “You should find some form of cardio, it lets your brain go.” And I really did kind of just get addicted to the experience of going in somewhere for 45 minutes and I”d get so many ideas while I”m doing it.
Jenni Konner: No. If anything, we”re like, “don’t work too hard. Don’t change your body.”
Yeah. Hannah”s body is an important part of the character and it”s different than it used to be.
Lena Dunham: I guarantee you when you see-it is. I was just looking at some footage of me with clothes off and I was like, I”m still not approaching a standard television form. I was like it”s literally like going from just like weird to like a little less weird.
Yeah. I just remember. I don’t know if you ever watched the show “Men of Certain Age,” but Andre Braugher was-
Lena Dunham: I”ve heard it”s really great.
Jenni Konner: I love that show.
So Andre Braugher plays this character where among his defining characteristics is that he used to be thin and now he”s overweight. And he starts going on a diet and Andre Braugher is going on a diet in real life, and I asked Mike Royce, the creator, “What are you going to do if Andre gets skinny again?” He says, “I”d be happy if Andre gets skinny again. We”ll deal with it.”
Lena Dunham: Yeah, totally. No, I mean, I think it”s just it”s interesting. A lot of women, especially women in interviews asking about the body thing and saying, “Don’t let your body change.” If anything, it”s just that like, when I started working, I was 23 years old, I still had college eating habits, so it”s like just me. I mean, I”m not saying I have the most exhausting job in the world, but it”s really insane pace and I”ve had to really figure out like how to take care of myself in a way that makes it sustainable.
Jenni Konner: It”s true. If you”re eating crap, you could not. It”s a marathon.
Lena Dunham: No. I remember last year once like crouching behind a dumpster eating like six cupcakes in a row and then coming back out like not remembering shooting a take and I was like, “something I don’t want to repeat.”
But Hannah is still eating cupcakes in the bathroom on the show?
Lena Dunham: Yes, Hannah still. She”s moved on now.
Jenni Konner: She”s also still eating them in real life.
Lena Dunham: Yeah, I don’t think you have to worry. She”s also still eating. Yesterday, the other day, Hannah ate like an entire thing of Cool Whip.
Jenni Konner: No, I would say it”s like a bigger-it”s gone from six cupcakes to one cupcake.
Lena Dunham: Yeah, totally.
Jenni Konner: And 45 minutes of exercise a day from no exercise a day. So I would say that it is the least extreme –.
Lena Dunham: Totally. It”s not an extreme makeover.
Jenni Konner: But also, all young women and their bodies are just going to change and we”re just accepting that.
Alan Sepinwall may be reached at email@example.com