“The pissed-off people are the loudest,” said the Girls creator and star today of the reaction and criticism her HBO series has generated since its 2012 debut. “I do care deeply about politics and things that are happening the United States right now, particularly in regards to women and reproductive rights,” she added of her viewpoints on and off the show that have attracted so much attention in recent years. Dunham’s defiant statements drew big applause at the nearly full Dolby Theatre on International Women’s Day.
“If our show can in any way contribute to that, that’s an amazing thing,” she said of raising political issues and awareness. Acknowledging she has shifted her views on some issues, Dunham said, “Changing your mind is a very healthy part of human development.”
Dunham’s remarks came at a PaleyFest panel Sunday for the HBO series, which wraps up its fourth season on March 22. Judd Apatow, who is an executive producer on the show, moderated the panel. Cast members Allison Williams, Alex Karpovsky and Andrew Rannells joined Apatow and Dunham. Executive producers Jenni Konner, Bruce Eric Kaplan and Ilene S. Landress also were there.
The latest cycle of Girls debuted January 11 with its lowest-rated premiere to date. Not that it won’t be back. Even with just 680,000 total viewers for its S.4 start, Girls had already been picked up by HBO for Season 5 on January 5. Today’s panel started with a screening of tonight’s episode of the series, with Apatow’s daughter Maude starring.
This isn’t the first time in recent days that Dunham and Apatow have appeared on the same stage. On March 5, they appeared together for An Evening With Judd Apatow at LA’s Largo to benefit the non-profit writing group 826LA. Ray Romano, Kathy Griffiths, Andy Dick, Zach Galifianakis and Whitney Cummings also took part.
Konner actually kicked things off by telling Apatow and the crowd that she first came to PaleyFest years back to see a Freaks & Geeks panel. Later, when taking questions from the crowd, Apatow joked that the panel would take “only 12 questions about Cosby.” The EP has heavily criticized the comedian as repeated allegations of sexual assault have surfaced. Konner noted this is the longest she has known Apatow to go without mention Bill Cosby of late. Apatow also joked that his version of the end of Girls would be “very violent” and “like Breaking Bad.”
Online criticism hasn’t been reserved for Cosby, however, and Dunham said she has stopped reading the comments many make of her there.
“I stopped looking at Twitter,” Dunham said. “It became a little too much.”
She made a point of deleting the social media app from her phone, but the still-Twittering actress now sends her tweets to an unnamed person (castmate Williams joked it was her), who posts them for her and tells her the responses.
“What happens in at PaleyFest stays at Paleyfest,” joked Dunham to those tweeting and texting her comments. “I think it would be dangerous if we got too into what the Internet was saying or the awards,” she said of the reaction the show gets. Until this moment, we don’t believe anyone is actually watching,” the actress added to the audience’s obviously joy.
Speaking of people watching, Dunham wouldn’t reveal any significant elements of her appearance on ABC’s Scandal later this month. All she would say is that she is not in her “underpants” – as she often is on Girls. “Their set is a delight,” is all Dunham would say otherwise of the Shonda Rhimes-produced show, which has its own PaleyFest panel tonight.
However, sex on Girls was a topic that a number of participants did discuss.
“We try to do sex that pushes the characters and is not gratuitous,” Dunham said, noting the response – both positive and negative – that the show’s carnal depictions have received.
“We’re at the point now where masturbating is so boring,” joked Williams to big laughs, talking about a scene with her character that was cut this season.
“There’s a lot of effort and desire to be really truthful in this show,” Kaplan said of his experience on Girls and the show’s intentions, including the sex scenes.
Landress said the attention to detail on Girls reminded her of her work on The Sopranos, for which she was an executive producer. The David Chase series won an Emmy for HBO back in 2007.
“We know what we’re doing,” Apatow said of the characters and their personalities. “We know how annoying they are in the scene.”
Dunham added that she appreciated how “uniquely supportive” the cast and crew are of each other.
And Dunham is busy – Just a few days after her Scandal debut, HBO will showcase another Dunham project on March 23, the documentary It’s Me, Hilary: The Man Who Drew Eloise. The film about illustrator Hilary Knight was EP’d by Dunham and Konner with Matt Wolf directing. In September, Dunham will debut on Fox’s The Simpsons as the voice of Candice. She is also adapting with Konner a feature version of the young-adult novel, Catherine, Called Birdy through their production company A Casual Romance.
Girls airs tonight on HBO at 9 PM.