Ben Affleck might be on the cover of our Entertainers of the Year issue, but 2012 wasn’t so bad for Lena Dunham, either. Not only did she make our list of the year’s biggest talents in pop culture — earning a heartfelt tribute from Jon Hamm, who wrote it himself — she also scored an Emmy nomination for her new HBO comedy Girls, nabbed a role in Judd Apatow’s This is 40, signed a $3.5 million book deal, accepted an invitation to the Met Ball, and got the chance to interview her idol Nora Ephron about Ephron’s first movie, This is My Life, at the Brooklyn Academy of Music. (Pause and take a deep breath to quell any feelings of jealousy.) We spoke with Dunham about what she called “the best year I’ve ever had as a human being.” Here are a few excerpts from that conversation.
ENTERTAINMENT WEEKLY: Can you talk about the night you interviewed Nora Ephron at BAM? Did she tell you what she thought of Girls?
LENA DUNHAM: She actually watched it early, before it came out, and was awesomely encouraging. But that night at BAM was amazing because she was so insanely generous with her knowledge about the industry, about being a female in the industry, about trying to balance the fact of having children, and being a writer of prose, and being a wife, with the fact that she needed to make movies. For her to talk so openly about that to an audience of young women — I don’t even think she could’ve known what a gift that was. But I have a sense she had an inkling.
What did she like most about Girls?
I was really happy that she responded to the Hannah/Adam story, and the idea of a character who was initially loathsome having a transformation. She also really responded to the career struggles in the show, which are less publicly analyzed than the sex. For her, the big headline was not: Someone’s Naked on Screen. It was the idea of trying to self-actualize. When people are scandalized by seeing your rear end, it’s easy to forget what the show is really about. She helped me stay in touch with that.
I’ve seen a bit of the new season, and I’m excited that you’re dealing with Hannah’s career, even when it’s not going so well.
That’s the goal: to write something that has those cringe-worthy moments, but also the more subtle moments that are just as important to a person’s development.
Can you tease the next season for our readers?
What I keep saying to people is that we took it further. If you loved what we were doing last season, then we’re speaking right to you. And if you hated it, then I’m afraid things aren’t going to change for you, because we’re just going to continue to come at you as hard as we did before. My goal was never to have the show fall into a sedentary sitcom thing where one episode, the girls go to the park, and one episode, they go to the spa. We’re really trying to push these characters forward and look at the differences between being 24 years old and 25 years old. We’ve definitely pushed the friendship dynamics further and watched some relationships fall apart. Doing the show for a long time, you get in touch with what your comedic voice is and what works — even, like, how everybody’s hair ought to be done. We’re all just better at our jobs.
Your characters talked pretty frankly about abortion and STDs last season. Are there any big issues you’re getting into this season?
I never go into it thinking, “I’m going to address these political or social issues.” I just write what’s important to me, and I’m always shocked when conservatives react or people are offended, because it feels so close to me. We continue to look at young female sexuality and the culture and class dynamics of being that age. I won’t spoil anything too much except to say that we’ll continue to address the issues that we addressed in the first season, with even more intensity.
Judd Apatow is telling people that Girls has been confirmed for a third season. Can you confirm that?
[Laughs] I’m gonna go with the HBO publicist reaction, which is that season 2 comes out on Jan. 13 and we hope there’s some good news shortly thereafter!
What else are you looking forward to next year?
I’m excited to keep up with Girls and I’m very excitedly working on my book for Random House. If anyone read my piece “First Love” in The New Yorker, it definitely gives a sense of what the book tackles, which is the formative experiences in the young life of a woman that mortify her, but also possibly solidify her, too. It’s so audacious for me to write a personal memoir, because of my age, but I’ve got a lot of sh– I have to work through.
You’re one of our Entertainers of the Year. Who was your favorite entertainer this year?
The Katy Perry movie was hugely important to me — I thought it was funny and generous and sexy and I went with an 8-year-old and was more worked up than she was. I’m obsessed with women of pop, and think Katy is one of the smartest and boldest. From exposing her process to campaigning for Barack Obama, she’s just an unusually delightful specimen.