A year ago, you’d have been hard-pressed to find anyone who had ever heard of Lena Dunham. Now, of course, the 26-year-old New Yorker’s name is one of the household variety. Her Judd Apatow-produced HBO series, Girls, didn’t just earn its creator-writer-director-leading lady rave reviews, the pop-culture phenom also sparked discussions of nepotism and race (since she and two of her co-stars come from distinguished families, and there’s not a person of color among the cast). And, come Emmy night, it’s quite possible you’ll hear her name again, following the words “And the winner is… ”
TVLINE | Congratulations on the nominations we think you’re going to get.
Thank you! That’s something I still can’t wrap my brain around.
TVLINE | No? C’mon. Would you say you have a healthy interest in a nod, a mild obsession, or would you rather I hadn’t jinxed you by bringing it up?
The Jew in me wants to go with the third. [Luckily] I’m so focused on shooting Season 2 that it’s hard for me to [worry about it]. That being said, it’s always nice to have the fantasy of the dress and getting to tell your parents how much you love them in a context that really matters — all those things [you] imagine when you’re standing in the shower.
TVLINE | Is it a relief to just concentrate on work?
It’s the best. If I wasn’t working, I can just imagine myself under my covers, hiding from people, reading every obscure blog entry possible.
TVLINE | Would it be more meaningful for you to be nominated as an actor, director or writer?
I’ve never thought of myself as an actor, so somebody recognizing me for that would be a real shock.
TVLINE | Is that because the parts that you’ve played so far, in Girls and your breakthrough indie Tiny Furniture, have been versions of you?
Yeah. I always say that I can play sort of six variations on one girl, all of whom are a variation on me. Maybe I’ll think of myself as an actor if, like, I do a corset drama.
TVLINE | Compared to a lot of the people who’d be in your Emmy categories, you’re relatively inexperienced. Is that actually an asset in your work?
I think so. I’ve been really encouraged… to stay in my own bubble. [No one’s ever] given me a lecture on how TV works, so it’s been a huge gift to just [create] without any limitations to the form. That’s [meant], like, ‘It’s OK to cast your friend from camp … it’s OK to write a 30-minute episode with a 15-minute scene.’
TVLINE | Does Lena the actress ever frustrate Lena the director?
Definitely. Even more, I frustrate myself as a writer. There are certain things that I’ll think, “Well, that would be really fun to play … if somebody else was playing this character.”
TVLINE | Do you worry that, now that you’ve ‘made it,’ you’ll stop having the kind of misadventures that inspire your writing?
That was my fear. [I harbored] an illusion: Nailing down what you want to do professionally would save you from certain interpersonal anxieties, and [now] I don’t think that’s true. Maybe the opposite is.
TVLINE | With all the praise that’s been heaped on the show, there’s also been some backlash. You seem to be bearing up well.
Of course, it’s challenging when people are attacking your show … especially the ‘race on television’ dialogue. But I was like, ‘Well, there aren’t enough people of color on television, and if my show is the one that gets people talking about it, I’m willing to take that one for the team.’ As for the well-known parents thing, we laughed about that in my house. People were like, ‘She’s Laurie Simmons’ daughter!’ I wanted to [respond], ‘I’d like you to give me an explanation in two sentences of who Laurie Simmons is and see if you can even do that.’ I do get it, though. It might seem like a crazy coincidence that we’ve got a [playwright] David Mamet child and we’ve got [NBC Nightly News anchor] Brian Williams’ child, but I think, once people watch the show, they forget who their parents might be.
TVLINE | Yeah, if you’re watching Allison and thinking of Brian Williams…
… then you have your own special Brian Williams obsession that needs to be treated!
TVLINE | Is there anyone you’re afraid you’ll forget from your potential acceptance speech that you’d like to thank now to be safe?
My grandmother would be very angry at me for even allowing myself to believe that this could happen. But you can’t give any exciting speech without misremembering things. I gave a graduation speech in high school where I thanked, like, every single person except the school principal who was retiring that year. It definitely felt like about as low as I could sink in the ‘forgetting people’s names’ category, so I think I’ve already nailed this one!
This story first appeared in the pages of TVLine’s print sibling Awards|Line. The specialty Awards|Line editions canvass various facets of the Emmy and motion pictures awards season including deep coverage, analysis and interviews with the leading contenders and industry players.