Thursday morning was the best morning of Lena Dunham’s life. Well, almost. The day her sister was born is high on the list, too. But it definitely trumped Christmas morning when she was six years old. Yes, definitely, she shares.
These random asides are what one gets when chatting with Dunham, the pleasantly honest, uncommonly candid, and now Emmy-nominated star of HBO’s Girls. And today, after her show walked away with three big Emmy nominations — for Best Comedy, Best Actress in a Comedy, and Best Comedy Writing — EW thought it was a prime opportunity for a chat. Read on — and try to keep up.
ENTERTAINMENT WEEKLY: Tell me about your morning.
LENA DUNHAM: I woke up and acted like I wasn’t nervous. When I went to sleep, I was listening to the Ellie Goulding single “Lights” over and over again. “I’m just a free young person. I don’t care what happens with the Emmys.” And then I set my alarm for 9 (ET) because I thought it would be really cool of me to sleep past when everyone knows — and of course I woke up at 7:30! Then my very close friend called me at 8:35 and the shrieking that ensued was legendary. I ran around my house down my hallway with no pants on, ran back into my house, called Jenni Konner — the other executive producer, screamed, called my mom, screamed, called my friend in Japan, screamed. It was a really shrieky morning. Then I found out that the director who was doing the current episode of our show had a spider bite and I had to direct for one day. So I had to mentally prepare myself for these scenes that I hadn’t really thought about how to shoot. Now I find myself talking to you.
So on top of an exciting morning, you’re directing?
I am! I just did one scenes and I’m about to do my second.
No rest for the wicked!
No rest for the wicked, but I was actually so happy that I got to celebrate and douchily say ‘Guys, guys, let me do my thing. I’m an Emmy-nominated director.’ I did it once. Not sure it was funny. Not gonna try it again.
What were your expectations going into this — because the show had a lot of praise.
My expectations going into award season were zero. I think that I felt like — I’m willing to indulge everybody that this was a possibility. But I didn’t see a world in which [it would happen]. Even a show like Louie, which I think is the best thing that’s ever been on TV, wasn’t even recognized until its second season. It’s totally surreal.
You were recognized on so many different levels — acting, writing, the show as a whole — I know it’s like picking a favorite child, but does one mean more?
I mean, it’s all crazy. At any different moment, it would all be meaningful. But I have to tell you that when I told my dad about the [nominations] he was like, “You’re nominated for acting?!” I don’t think he ever thought of that as something I do. So to be in a category with these female performers I respect and admire is unbelievable.
Have you talked with the other cast members yet today?
I did. I saw Allison Williams on set and we hugged like crazy people. Adam Driver called me this morning and said, “Dunham, good job.” And I told him I loved him, which I do. Jemima texted me and said “Congratulations, dufus.” So I think we’re all pretty much in touch.
For you, looking back on the season, that made this happen and helped you stand out. Was it the voice of the show? Or any particular episode that you feel clicked?
I think, you know, it’s hard for me to know, but I think the honest story from a female perspective is not something that’s constant in our industry. People responded to that. We’re also really committed to a certain independent style of filmmaking that doesn’t really scream television. So I hope that’s what people responded to. There’s a level of honesty — both in the sexuality and emotionality of the show — that’s my hope. Either that or the fact that I showed my boobs so much that they had to nominated me.
[Laughs] “They are award-worthy.”
Yes. “We don’t know what else to say about these except to just offer you a bunch of trophies because of what’s happening in your boob area.”
Last, the show was also the target of some pretty harsh criticism and commentary at times. Do you feel a little vindicated? I would.
I mean, I try not to think in that revenge sort of way. But I do have to admit that it is a nice feeling, when you have been the victim of criticism, to have this validation is very satisfying. I wish I didn’t have so many visions of, like, myself talking to Joan Rivers or making someone who didn’t want to hook up with me in college cry. But that’s the darkest part of me that I try not to indulge. And that’s the reason I love Taylor Swift songs.