So, how would you describe Marnie the character? And the obvious follow up - how similar to her are you?
I understand why it's asked so frequently because in one fell swoop you're learning about the actress and the show.
Well, yes, it's very complicated to understand of course.
(laughs) But no one's fed it back before.
Well, my description of Marnie is very challenged by the difference between her change across the seasons. In season one we find someone who is trying desperately for us to have the illusion that she has it altogether. She has a job. She feels fine about it. She has a boyfriend. Again she's not so passionate about it but she's in this relationship and it's a stabilising force in her life. She lives in this apartment. It's fine. We get the sense that she's not gonna stay there forever. She has this best friend with a friendship that is clearly problematic and it's not great and it's not flourishing but it's there. So, we see someone who is literally just living.
Season two none of those factors are in play; none, not even one of them. She's on the out with Hannah. She doesn't live in that apartment anymore or really any apartment. She does not have a job and she doesn't have that boyfriend. She's completely at sea. By season three she's coming up for air.
Which must be good. It's been hard watching her flail.
But some people apparently find her flailing very satisfying. She'll be able to live a life that's satisfying for her when she figures out what she's passionate about. That is a way into our biggest difference, which is that I have always only wanted one thing which is to be an actress; always, ever, it's the only thing I've ever wanted.
You read English at Uni, not drama?
Yes. I was an English major but I have always known that I wanted to be an actress. My parents demanded that I go to college because they wanted to delay this. So , I said, "alright, well, since I know what I'm gonna do for the rest of my life" and a lot of actors actually recommended that I do this they said, "major in something else because you have four years. You've been given this gift of education by your parents, study as much other stuff as you can".
I was an English major but I took so many other classes. I many have almost been in anthropology. We didn't have minors but I was probably an anthropology minor. I just stuffed my brain with as much as I could. I was a hoarder of classes and stuff while I was in school. I'm so grateful for that. But, acting's all I've ever wanted. Marnie, you get the sense, doesn't really know what she's passionate about - except that she likes to be organised. What a weak thing to have strong feelings about. It's so bizarre.
She's sort of based on another friend of Lena's isn't she?
Yes. She's based entirely, well, initially she's based on Audrey who played Charlie's new girlfriend in season two - which was very funny; to have her in scenes with Marnie was like a buddy comedy with a mirror.
As an actor I had to think about every friend of mine. I'm the only person I knew growing up who knew what I wanted to do. I was the only one I had ever met. Every once in a while I'd encounter another kid who was very clear in their path but it was really rare. By the way it's not a very popular thing to be. It's like, "well, I know what I wanna be when I grow up". But it's unwavering and it's been always the same.
So, all my friends are still in the process of figuring out what they want, who they are. And the who they are is the bigger, the more macro consideration. But what do you wanna do? How do you wanna make your living? Can you make a living doing what you love? These are the questions they're asking themselves right now. So, it was I didn't have to travel far.
So you don't have any of the angst the Girls have?
Of course I go through that, of course. There's no shortcut, you can't bypass that stuff just by seeming like you have done it. You have to actually do it. That's something that I too had to learn. So the self-doubt and the existential crisis and these bigger questions - I've asked myself all of them and I do it on a regular basis. I have the rare pleasure of playing someone exactly my age. I live in the world of our show. As a result when people come up to me and say they're fans of the show there's a good chance that we will have a friend in common or something. I know our fans very well. I feel like all of us are of our fan group as well as being in a show that they like, which is unusual.
Does that make it complicated when the show comes in for dissection and analysis?
Well, I don't see a lot of it. I got the great advice from a lot of actors before the show started to air. They said, "stop googling your name" which I didn't do obsessively but I would have if no one had told me not to and "don't read reviews, good or bad. Read newsworthy ones if enough trustworthy people tell you you should, just to know what they're talking about". And people still don't know the rule and they'll send me things all the time. It happens.
But for the most part I get my direction from Lena and our producers. I get life advice and stuff from my friends and family and other than that, you know, I'm just not part of that conversation. So, in terms of that crossfire I'm not exposed to it.
But, I will say that the reaction to the show has been fantastic. I say that knowing it's not all positive. To be part of something that is worth people's time to dissect and contrast, to take a closer examination is the dream.
I like that we have a, relative to some enormous shows, we have a small but very focused and highly intelligent fan base that likes to really challenge our show. Lena obviously takes most of that credit.
Do you have any contribution to the character or does that all come from the writer?
It's pretty fluid. So, every once in a while we will play off the script and we'll do some improv. Then we'll go back to the script. I have to wait until it airs to see what stays and it's always fascinating to me. In terms of input I trust Lena so fully and the character really is hers. But there have been moments where certain aspects of my life have influenced things that happen to Marnie. I can't give any of them away because a lot of them are spoilers. But things happen that are shades or reality and that's kind of the biggest motif, is that there are things on our show that are shades of reality. It would be completely bizarre if it was just all reality but it's shades of it. That's what we're here to do and that's why it feels so intimate.
For instance, Marnie singing.
It was so fun. I can sing and I can rap. I can rap for a very specific reason - in college I was in an improv comedy group and we did musical improve and I got fairly good at freestyling about the most random shit. Eventually I'd like to do more performing of my own kinds of music.
Shoshanna seems convinced that Marnie is destined to be a pop star. Do you think that could happen?
Oh my God. I don't know. I hear whispers from Lena and [executive producers] Jenni [Konner] and Judd [Apatow], but of course I can't talk about them.
Could you say something about playing Kate Middleton for Funny Or Die…?
So, right after I first got the part of Marnie I was able to secure a bunch of meetings in a lot of places and one of them was Funny or Die. I went into the meeting and they said, "who do people tell you you look like?" I was like, "well, lately all I've been hearing from anyone is that I look like Kate Middleton". They said, "perfect, let's do it". Initially I met for someone at Funny or Die to write the script but I was home one night and I'm very type A - that's one thing Marnie and I share. I was like, "well, I have bunch of ideas so I'll just jot them down or whatever". I went in the next day with essentially a script and the director just said, "why don't we shoot these?" I said, "I'm not a comedy writer. We can't shoot something I write because I'm not a professional writer". He said, "this is funny, let's shoot it". So we did. So, that's the first time.
Are the Girls still a gang? Do you hang out?
Well, there isn't that manic, 'we're cast and we're best friends, we're obsessed with each other and we've spent every second with each other.' You see that all the time. It's very off-putting and you can see straight through it; it's crystal and it could shatter at any second. The way our cast acts is sort of surprising really. I wasn't expecting this.
We're all very independent and we all have a lot going on individually. We have friends outside of the show. We have families and we have our own lives. Yet, whenever we get to spend time together we talk about important things that are happening in our lives. We catch up on a deep level. There is not much shallow conversation happening. There's a deep familiarity that comes from being part of something together and having the uniquely similar experience that the other person has.
So, we cherish the time we get to spend with each other. It's not all the time, especially when we're not filming. We really only get to see each other at this kind of thing. It's lovely. Everyone is so different and so wonderful. I cannot imagine my life without any of these girls and all of the boys that work on the show. The whole crew, we're like a family. Lena sets the tone. She's so kind and she's so generous and she's so intelligent and diligent and she works so hard on this show; she pours herself into it. So, for the rest of us we just get to reap those benefits and to enact it and have a lot of fun putting it to life; but we really get to enjoy time with each other in the process.
Girls season 3 is out on Blu-Ray and DVD now.
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