In Lena Dunham’s first book, “Not That Kind of Girl,” which debuted at number two on the bestseller list last October, she describes her sister, Grace, coming out so nonchalantly that Lena began to sob. “Not because I didn’t want her to be gay—in truth, it worked perfectly with my embarrassing image of myself as
the quirkiest girl on the block,” she writes. “No, I was crying because I was suddenly
flooded with an understanding of how little I really knew about her… inner life.” Dunham’s still the quirkiest girl on television’s block, but her quest for understanding now features sidelines of various shapes and sizes. After four seasons as the series’ driving force, Lena Dunham’s creative universe reaches far beyond HBO’s “Girls.”
The headline-making polymath, who came to prominence with her precise, unsparing depiction of post-college life, “Tiny Furniture,” is unafraid of the splashy gig or the passion project, sometimes both at once: “Not That Kind of Girl” received mostly positive notices from critics after landing Dunham an eye-popping $3.7 million advance, and then provoked the kind of controversy that seems to have followed the actor, writer, and director throughout her career.
The first photos of Dunham’s upcoming (March 19) guest appearance on Shonda Rhimes’ sudsy “Scandal” made waves yesterday, mostly as observers on Twitter and Facebook cracked wise about her wig. Nevertheless, the episode, in which Olivia Pope (Kerry Washington) confronts a woman (likely Dunham) threatening to expose the sex secrets of D.C. power brokers, sounds juicy indeed. Also coming down the pike (March 23) is HBO’s “It’s Me, Hilary: The Man Who Drew Eloise,” a documentary portrait of “Eloise” illustrator Hilary Knight, executive produced by Dunham and collaborator Jenni Konner. (Watch the trailer below.) Dunham is also attached to HBO Sports’ “7 Days in Hell,” a mockumentary about the epic tennis match between John Isner and Nicolas Mahut at Wimbledon in 2004.
Dunham’s current slate may represent an increase in her influence, particularly within HBO, but she built indie cred (and a network of like-minded creatives) through hard work. In addition to “Tiny Furniture” and “Girls,” Dunham co-wrote “Nobody Walks” (2012) with director Ry Russo-Young, appeared in Daniel Schechter’s “Supporting Characters” (2012) and Joe Swanberg’s “Happy Christmas” (2014), and continued to write and direct short films. Lena’s sidelines have become a cottage industry unto themselves, but they’re poised to position her well for a post-“Girls” career. In any case, that’s not happening anytime soon: HBO has already renewed the series for a fifth season, to air in 2016.