Lena Dunham doesn’t have too much time to discuss the Emmy acclaim being showered on the first season of her HBO series “Girls”–she’s in the midst of filming new episodes of the show.
“Girls,” the comedy-drama created by and starring Dunham, was nominated this morning for five Emmy awards, including Outstanding Comedy Series. Dunham herself is up for Outstanding Lead Actress In A Comedy Series, Outstanding Directing For A Comedy Series, and Outstanding Writing For A Comedy Series. A pretty nice sweep for the first Emmy nominations of her career.
Dunham called Speakeasy from the Brooklyn set of “Girls” where she was directing a second-season episode–sometimes as we were talking.
How do you feel about all the Emmy nominations that “Girls” landed?
I can only make these screechy sounds that wouldn’t sound like English to you and would maybe make sense to a girl gremlin in “Gremlins.” I’m so excited!
Did you expect that when you wrote this show, which has such an interesting comic sensibility, that so many fans and critics would get it?
No. I thought this is a crazy thing, HBO is going to air this for one season, and then they’re going to realize that I actually belong in a weird gender studies women’s university and they’re going to send me away and I would have had this really cool life experience. No, I never expected it. And my brain is completely blown.
Do you feel…
I’m so sorry Chris—I’m directing on set right now and I want to make sure something is going as it should. I’m not just doing this for show. [Turns from phone] Do you know which our first setup is? What we’re on? Can you get that for me, and I’ll be right over there? Thank you!
I feel like I’m part of your directing now!
You’re part of it all!
Is it tough to get thrown into writing and directing the second season of the show right after you’ve come off this wave of acclaim for the first season?
You know, I feel like we’ve been very lucky to find a receptive audience that connects to what we’re doing and the second season stays true to the thing that they’ve come to love, if they’ve come to love it, with sort of some added additions. With artistic maturation and more ambitious storytelling and filmmaking. I feel very proud of what we’re doing and I hope that it keeps our audience satisfied and feeling like they’re on the road, on a journey with them.
Will we see more of an exploration of things that happened in the finale, like Jessa’s unexpected wedding?
For sure. All of the issues that were raised in the season finale are picked up again in the first episode in a very intense way.
The show also generated discussion about diversity on TV. Have you added some new cast members to the show this time around? How did you take some of that discussion?
We’ve added some new cast members, not really because of critical responses of any kind but it’s what we wanted to do. There were actors we wanted to work with. We were already well on our way into doing the second season when the first season came out. I will say that because the show is growing and changing, so is our cast and I’m really proud of the new characters, some of whom are persons of color and some of whom are not. I will say about the dialogue, my reaction to that is, although it’s hard to hear terms like—anything that implies racism it’s hard to hear it thrown around something that you love, especially if you’re a liberal person. That being said, I do feel that a kind of dialogue about diversity on television was opened up, [and] that we’ve all needed to have it for a long time.
You’re nominated for best comedy actress and you’re up against Zooey Deschanel, Melissa McCarthy, Edie Falco, Tina Fey, Amy Poehler, and Julia Louis-Dreyfus. How do you feel about being in that company?
Those are the women who are my biggest comedy influences. Literally you could only make it more surreal if Gilda Radner came back to earth and she’s nominated too. It’s the most amazing thing. To be able to be mentioned in the same breath as those girls. There’s no good quip I can come up with. It’s just amazing. Zooey is so sweet, she already emailed me this morning. I love Amy a lot, she’s a friend of mind and also obviously a huge role model….I’m also pretty proud that it’s a seven-person category because that means that women are really kicking ass this year.
“Girls” became so hot so quickly, and a lot of women seemed to see themselves in the show. Did you feel any representational burden when you know people are going to hold the program up to represent a generation of women?
You do have to put it out of your mind to a certain extent and just trust that the personal is universal and that people will connect to what you’re doing if you tell an honest story about yourself. It’s actually been heartening to me to find out how many women around the country and the world are having these experiences. I love to get a message from a girl in Kansas City or Germany saying that it resonates with her. You can’t get better than that.