She may be the queen of “Girls,” but Lena Dunham was all grown up when she joined Soledad O’Brien on stage at Fortune’s Most Powerful Women Summit this week to talk about her HBO comedy and her experiences in the industry. Highlights from the conversation are below — the full transcript is online here.
“Girls” is a platform for the type of roles she wanted to play and likely wouldn’t otherwise be cast in. “It didn’t necessarily feel like there was going to be a place for someone who looked and acted like me to play anyone besides someone’s sort of like sassy best friend who can’t stay away from the buffet, and because I loved writing and directing, it seemed like, why would I not just hire the person who looks right and knows how to do this job? But I always wanted to act, and I would always get a horrible part in the play, like as the bouncing ball. I was always being asked to play a man, which was really stressful.”
She finds the fact that the characters feel they have something important to say heroic. “I feel like the men on the show are constantly shutting them down. I feel like my character, Hannah, is constantly being told by every boss, by every boyfriend, ‘You don’t know what you’re talking about, enter the real world, get your head on straight.’ And even though some of those may be valid criticisms, her refusal to listen makes me love playing her and makes me love writing for her, and makes me think that despite what a mess she is she has some kind of lesson to teach.”
She’s adding more diversity to the show, but not because of media pressure. “In the second season there are a multitude of new characters who enter. Some are people of color, some are not, some are Caucasian, because I went to the actors who I wanted to work with and told the stories that seemed vital and exciting. I don’t care about satisfying the critics, but I care about satisfying my viewers. And I know I have viewers who are women of color who want to see themselves reflected on screen. So, that’s what matters to me. It doesn’t matter to me to satiate people who are looking to kind of put destructive energy onto the world — not to sound like a hippie.”
In other Dunham news, Deadline reports that bidding for the writer-director-actress-producer’s proposed memoir/advice book “Not That Kind Of Girl” reached $3.6 million last night. Powerful indeed! The second season of “Girls” is set to return to air in January.