Who could forget Gaby Hoffmann’s birthing-in-the-bath scene in Girls? Or the drug-addled moment she invents the name “Moppa” for her transgender parent in Transparent? Both of these roles have snagged Hoffmann Emmy noms this year–a feat Hoffmann describes as “lovely, but very strange to me.”
Once a child actor with roles in Field Of Dreams, Uncle Buck and Sleepless in Seattle, Hoffman grew up partly at the infamous Chelsea Hotel. It was this unusual upbringing among the artists of 1980s New York, she says, that made her “very comfortable with my body. I’m very comfortable with nudity.” Hoffmann has spoken out previously against those who call Dunham’s nudity on the show “brave,” saying that would not be the commentary if she were Angelina Jolie.
“I do stand by what I said about Angelina Jolie and Lena Dunham,” Hoffman says. “People respond to me in the same way they respond to Lena, because I am also not your typically, whatever, sexy woman, or I’m not seen that way.”
The notion of nudity as bravery is something of an insult for Hoffmann. “When I hear people say that about Lena I cringe, because I find it predicated on the notion that she somehow wouldn’t feel comfortable with her body. That the bravery is coming from a place that she’s doing it in spite of something.”
Hoffman also appears nude on Girls and says, “I grew up in a sort of naked world, naked household. When people tell me that I’m brave that doesn’t resonate with me. I think it’s brave to do something that you’re uncomfortable with or that you’re afraid of, but that you want to do. So, for other women I think it is brave. I’m not uncomfortable or afraid of it, so, to me it’s just easy. Certainly I don’t think that anybody should be expected to do anything that they don’t want to do. I don’t think being nude onscreen is necessarily good or bad. I think it’s to each her own.”
Given that her attitude seems in concert with that of her Girls character, Caroline Sackler, it’s not surprising Dunham wrote the role with Hoffmann in mind. “I’ve known Lena forever,” she says. “She called me up and said, ‘I’ve written this part that I want you to play.’ So, I think she had me in mind when she was writing it, and she had some idea of who I am and she applied that in some way. It was such a well-drawn character with me in mind. It was a perfect fit immediately.”
The role of Ali Pfefferman in Transparent also seems well-tailored to Hoffmann.
“Jill (Soloway, Creator of Transparent) and I met at Sundance the year before we shot the pilot, and she pitched me this idea and we started playing around with it before she even had a pilot written so, you know, we were getting to know one another as she was writing, and now there’s just this remarkable group of people that are writing the show. We’ve all spent a lot of time together as friends and of course, they are intimate now with my work on the show and me as an actress and so the conversation is ongoing. They’re writing with us in mind. We’re responding. It’s a highly, highly collaborative scenario, and it just gets better and better the more we all get to know each other.”
Jill Soloway recently said if season one of Transparent was ‘transformation’ then season two is ‘where do we go from here.’ Currently mid-way through shooting the second season, Hoffmann says, “when we left my character in season one, she was sort of at the end of a period of what I sort of see as 20-something identity crisis–a sort of paralysis. Maura’s coming out propels her onto this search for something, some clue as to who she is in the world, which is both exciting, of course, and terrifying. So, season two we find her sort of engaging with those questions in a more honest and direct way. If season one was her sort of blindly fumbling into walls, season two is her sort of eyes open taking different paths and seeing where they lead.”
As for Girls, will Hoffman continue into the next season? “I don’t think Caroline is going to be around much,” she says. “The little that I do know I don’t think I can say.”