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TV interview: Lena Dunham on the new series of Girls on Sky Atlantic

By Gloucestershire Echo  |  Posted: January 22, 2014


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At just 27, writer, director and actress Lena Dunham has an award-winning movie, a smash comedy series and a megabucks book deal under her belt, but the bright New Yorker's too busy having fun to become big headed. As Girls returns for a third series, Keeley Bolger meets its creator and star

Lena Dunham is perched on a chair, stroking the hair of Jenni Konner, who is lying in her lap.

It's a scene reminiscent of Girls, Dunham's award-winning Sky Atlantic series, where the four female leads are refreshingly comfortable with each other, shaving their legs in the bath while the other looks on or snuggling up to watch TV.

The 27-year-old writer, director and actress and Konner, the show's executive producer, who are in the UK promoting the third series which starts this month, are getting to the nitty gritty of the British chat show circuit, it seems.

"We hear you can drink wine on The Graham Norton Show," chirps Dunham, looking fresh-faced despite the jetlag, and cosy in a chic, white fluffy sweater.

After this interview, she's being whisked off to be quizzed by comical presenter Norton, yet another confirmation of her rising profile in the UK.

But despite her status - including multiple Golden Globe and Emmy nominations, support from Bridesmaids producer Judd Apatow (he's also an executive producer on Girls) and a megabucks book deal (some 3.5million dollars), the New York-born 'woman of the moment' is feeling jittery.

"I'm maybe going to drink a glass on wine on The Graham Norton Show and see what'll happen because I'm nervous," she says, smiling. "He's [Norton] amazing, but the question is whether I'll be amazing."

She was, of course. And for anyone who's watched Girls, or taken a cursory glance at Dunham's Twitter profile, there will be little doubt of her ability to engage and hold court.

The eldest daughter of two artists, she was raised in New York and went to St Ann's School in Brooklyn where she met best friend Jemima Kirke, who stars as bohemian Jessa in Girls, alongside Allison Williams (Marnie) and Zosia Mamet (Shoshanna).

Dunham, who's been writing since she was a child and studied creative writing at Oberlin College, has always been fascinated by the "line between real life and fiction", and "mines her real life for material" for Girls.

Yet despite her considerable talent and accolades, the show, and its willingness to be open about life as Dunham and her peers have experienced it, has divided viewers.

Featuring four strong young women making their way in New York, "one mistake at a time", her intention was always to create a world where women don't feel guilty for expressing themselves.

"We always wanted the show to allow women to play the kind of characters that didn't exist elsewhere on TV," explains Dunham. "We want to have the kind of show where you feel you can improvise, and you can see which costumes you're comfortable with."

One of the criticisms levelled at Girls, and in particular Dunham, is the amount of sex and nudity.

But, the young writer explains, every sex scene is there for a reason and it's never done with the 'Guys, look like you're really enjoying each other' sort of style.

A fervent tweeter, Dunham's regularly in touch with her audience - who don't hold back in their opinions about storylines.

"Something I find funny is that people often feel the need to say, 'When I first saw the show, I hated it and I hated you, and now I've watched more and I really love it'," she says, laughing.

"And I'm like, 'Why didn't you just leave out the first part?' It's like a guy coming up to you and saying, 'You're really pretty for a fat girl'. You don't need both sides!"

But there were some suggestions early on in her career - when she wrote, directed and took on the leading role in her first feature film Tiny Furniture, aged 23, that she wisely ignored.

"We were trying to sell Tiny Furniture and gave it to all these agents," she recalls.

"An agent called me and said, 'I've got to be honest with you. I love the movie but I really hate that lead actress, she annoys me so much and I don't know if I can get behind her. I think you're a really talented director, but we need to find another actress'.

"I was like, 'I'll try and see if we can arrange something!' It was crazy, and now I run into him sometimes. Hi Corey!"

At times, Dunham, who's in a relationship with guitarist Jack Antonoff from the band Fun, admits Konner tells her to get away from Twitter, but when she's "properly caffeinated, had a proper night's rest and something to eat", she can "handle anything" on the social media platform.

However, there are some things fans tell Dunham that she finds a little more awkward - especially if she's trying to eat her breakfast in her bathrobe, or has just bumped into people in the hallway.

"We definitely get people who are like, 'You've got to hear my sex story, it's definitely something you can use'," she says.

"I want to put out a warning. If you want to tell me a sex story, that's one thing, but we probably won't use it."

Aside from the "over-sharing" and flack, Dunham, who says she and Konner are determined that the people who join the show "have the most fun ever", seems to be riding high.

"It's funny, you know how people always say high school or college is the time of your life, appreciate it - and you don't believe them?" she begins. "Someone said to me the other day, actually it was James L Brooks [producer of The Simpsons and The Mary Tyler Moore Show] to name-drop, and he said, 'If you're on a successful TV show and continuing to get work, it's the best perpetual single experience of your life', and I believe him. He should know."

And it looks like Dunham should know that too.

Series three of Girls is on Sky Atlantic

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