Season 3 of HBO’s “Girls” premiered Sunday night, but what most fans don’t realise is how much hard work goes into putting the 30-minute show together.
The brain behind the broadcast is 27-year-old Lena Dunham, who for the first time ever appears on the upcoming issue of Vogue and talks to Nathan Heller about being — what the magazine dubs — the hardest-working millennial in show business.
But how does Dunham have the time to write, act, direct, edit, and produce “Girls”?
“She writes constantly,” says co-star Allison Williams. “Late at night, early in the morning, constantly” adding that Dunham is an “aggregator of humanity.”
Dunham tells Vogue she writes on planes, at the “Girls” studio, and often in bed.
Jenni Konner, “Girls” executive producer and Dunham’s frequent writing partner, credits her ability to quickly analyse experiences: “Where it takes me 20 years to write about my 20s in a really honest way. It takes her 24 hours to, like, have gone on a bad date, experienced it, had pain about it, gone home, metabolized it, and turned it into art. It’s the fastest system I’ve ever seen.”
Actor Adam Driver, Dunham’s on-screen boyfriend, says, “The fact that she’s able to do it in the moment, as it’s happening, is her unique talent. Maybe it’s just good genes?”
Dunham’s mother is acclaimed artist Laurie Simmons, while her father, Carroll Dunham, is a painter “celebrated for his figures with phalluses for noses,” notes Vogue.
Needless to say, it made for an interesting upbringing.
“She wasn’t nearly as successful in the world of kids as she was in the world of adults,” her mother recalls. “And because she wasn’t interested in a lot of other kids, she had, really, a lot of time to make stuff.”
Dunham reveals, “I had really bad OCD. I was really lonely at school. I felt a lot of shame. Seeing what I thought was people lightening their own load, or lifting their own burdens, by writing about them or singing about them just made the world seem more open.”
Dunham has since “made the world seem more open” with the numerous naked scenes in “Girls.” She explains why it was important for her to show real bodies and more realistic sexual situations on-screen.
“There was a sense that I and many women I knew had been led astray by Hollywood and television depictions of sexuality,” she says. “Seeing somebody who looks like you having sex on television is a less comfortable experience than seeing somebody who looks like nobody you’ve ever met.”
Despite revealing more than most on her HBO show, Dunham insists she is still a fiercely private person.
“No one would describe me as a private person, but I actually really am,” she explains. “It’s important for me to have a lot of time alone, and to have a lot of time in my house by myself. My entire life sort of takes place between me and my dog, my books, and my boyfriend, and my private world. To me, privacy isn’t necessarily equated with secret-keeping. What’s private is my relationship with myself.”
But in addition to her heavy “Girls” workload, Dunham has made it out of the house enough to work on a new documentary film, write essays for The New Yorker, a sort-of memoir, and is currently developing a second HBO series.
Despite all of her success, Dunham insists she is still part of the awkward “Hannah” character she portrays on “Girls.”
“I still go to a party and say something embarrassing to someone, and then write them a weird e-mail about it the next day, and then write them a text because I think they didn’t get the e-mail,” she tells the magazine. “No matter what happens with your level of success, you still have to deal with all the baggage that is yourself.”
“Girls” executive producer and Dunham pal, Judd Apatow, commends her resilience: “The praise hasn’t thrown her, and the criticism hasn’t thrown her, which is remarkable. I would be naked and crying under my pillow.”
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