“Oh, you will be more successful than I am,” says her mother. “Really, believe me.”
If you knew how much time I spend trying to look at my ass the way other people might see it, you’d be SHOCKED I have ever achieved anything
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It’s a sunny day in Long Island City and the extras are primping. Dunham looks elegant in a silk dress with splashy orange flowers and a skinny green belt, a thick gold ring on her middle finger. During today’s all-day shoot, she’ll direct a party scene, a complex sequence that includes numerous two-shots and dancing scenes. “Hello,” she says, then gives me a hug and dances away to get her face powdered.
Over the next few hours, it seems like Dunham is everywhere at once. Sometimes she’s in front of the camera as Hannah. Between takes, she gives notes to the actor playing against her. Other times, she’s having glitter stroked on her eyelids or answering e-mails. In between, Dunham retreats to the nest of cameras, where she slumps next to Konner, as the two whisper and consult. Dunham shoves her headphones on, stares into the monitors, and gives her okay to her director of photography, Jody Lee Lipes. She watches Zosia Mamet play a moment of humiliation, then claws at her own chest in empathy.
During a break, I glance at Dunham’s Twitter feed. Somehow, she’s managed to post a photo of herself embracing Allison Williams. The caption reads, “We’re not best friends but we play them on TV. #girls #yesbestfriends.” Williams is beaming. Dunham has a sweet smile, but her eyes are weary.
Hours into filming, Jemima Kirke delivers a monologue. With each take, Dunham throws out fresh phrases, which Kirke picks up like a pro.
“You dropped ‘Everyone settle down,’ but I liked it,” Lena shouts over to her. “So I didn’t remind you.”
The scene tilts with each take. Kirke’s initial reads are satirical, frothy. But gradually, under Dunham’s direction, they become more somber. Then, a little later, Dunham doesn’t respond to a production question—something involving a reaction shot—and a crew member throws her a dirty look. Dunham’s brows pull together; she looks downcast and very tired. She and Konner turn to stare at each other.
“You were just somewhere else for two seconds!” Konner says to Dunham in a low, urgent whisper, giving reassurance. “Because you’re directing everyone around you! You’re doing a million things.”
But other than that flash of tension, the mood is warm, and slightly punchy, with the cast excited as they approach the upcoming wrap party at Radegast in Williamsburg. During a break, Allison Williams banters with Chris O’Dowd from Bridesmaids, who plays a role in the series, the two one-upping each other with punch lines.
“Do you have any tattoos?” asks Williams.
“Just your face,” O’Dowd says. “On my back.”
Dunham wanders over and the group begins discussing ridiculous music videos, including one by the pale, redheaded British pop star Nicola Roberts.
“You know what Nicola Roberts just did?” says O’Dowd. “Brought out a specialized makeup for very pale girls. Embalming lip balm.”
Dunham gazes at him soberly, her head tilted. “That’s a really good joke. That’s a perfect and very thoughtful joke,” she says. She turns to me. “He’s been practicing his Nicola Roberts bit.”
Someone pulls out an iPad, and the five of us huddle around it to watch the video for the song that plays during the dance scene. It’s an uncensored version of “Yankin,” by the rapper Lady. Big-bootied women in thongs gyrate, then gather at a glass table covered in bags of candy. The singer grips leashes that lead to two nearly naked studs on their knees. Everybody hoots—it’s insane.
“Oh, money! There’s that money I ordered,” says O’Dowd, as stacks of dollars appear on the screen.
“On a paper plate,” notes Dunham.
“Wait,” says Williams, looking startled. “Did she just say, ‘I’m so good I want to eat myself’?”
Every time someone texts “you in LA?” I think a funny answer would be “why, you wanna fuck?”
I just unfollowed Nietzsche
When her scene ends, I trail Jemima Kirke back to her trailer. Around the set, I’ve heard chatter about Kirke (i.e., “Oh, she’s really something”), but she surprises me with how deeply she’s thought about the role she plays, Jessa, a narcissistic glamour girl who’s back in New York after traveling the world. Like Charlotte, the character she played in Tiny Furniture, Kirke tells me, Jessa “has her own agenda, lives by her own rules—some people might even say a free spirit, but I hate that term.” Most free spirits aren’t free at all, she adds: “They’re quite the opposite.”