PASADENA, Calif. — Actress-filmmaker-writer Lena Dunham admits she was a lazy little girl growing up in New York.
“I asked a lot of questions, did a lot of talking, but I was physically lazy. And I always read a lot, and spent a lot of time with my parents and with adults and was really sort of interested in telling stories and more focused on grown-ups than on kids my own age. I would say that was an accurate assessment,” she says, her black patent high heels tucked under her in a hotel room here.
It turned out that all the questions and the storytelling paid off for Dunham, who is starring in and writing HBO’s new comic series, “Girls.”
While her lead character may be another twentysomething hurled into the real world of the big city, she’s no Carrie Bradshaw. This girl hasn’t a clue. “She doesn’t know who the good and bad guys are, and it takes a little while for her instincts to kick in,” says Dunham, who sports a tattoo of Ferdinand the Bull on her shoulder.
“And she doesn’t always understand immediately what people’s intentions are or how kind they are going to be to her. Which is something that I relate to — it takes a minute to know who has your best interest at heart,” she says.
Dunham, who’s known for her independent film, “Tiny Furniture,” grew up in a family of artists. Her dad is a painter and her mom a photographer. “I come from a very creative family where we were really encouraged to express ourselves that way,” she says.
“My parents were always — both their studios were in our home, so the room where my sister and I used to play was called ‘the office’ — it was the place you go to do your work ... If anyone was ever bored we were encouraged, ‘Draw.’ ‘Here is a typewriter,’ ‘Here is a note pad.’ There was really no excuse not to be making stuff. I remember being young and saying to my parents, ‘Would you still love me if I ran a gas station?” ‘Yes.’ Because you HAVE to say that.”
Even as a kid she was attracted to storytelling and to movies. “About five years ago, I learned that those things could really become one, that it was a real job you could do.”
That job was “Tiny Furniture.” But she didn’t harbor great expectation for her fledgling movie. “My fantasy was that it would have a DVD release, or at most a week of theatrical play. When people saw it, I was shocked, and when it resonated with them, I was even more shocked, because it was so personal to me,” she says.
“That gave me the realization that the personal is actually very universal — the more personal you make something, the more possible it is to hit home with an audience, which had never occurred to me before.”
So her misfit Hannah and her ambivalent friends from “Girls” followed suit. Dunham insists that Hannah isn’t really her alter-ego.
“The difference between her and me is that I always had a really clear idea of what I wanted to do and was taking steps to get there,” says Dunham, who’s wearing a tight-fitting black-and-beige sheath.
“You don’t make a movie accidentally. So that was something that I knew I wanted to do, and that I was working at, but I did experience a lot of that aimlessness in my personal life and a lot of fear — fears I still have that my professional life isn’t going to pan out,” she sighs, leaning her chin on her hand.
“As long as you are doing anything in life — but it is most noticeable in a creative person — there is an uncertainty to your future that you just have to get comfortable with. And so I think that I still struggle with some of the same anxieties that Hannah does, it’s just not as visible because I’m doing what I want to do professionally. “
Hannah’s problems often involve the opposite sex. Dunham, 25, says she understands that dilemma. “I mean, it really goes back and forth; I’m still figuring it out. I wish that, because I wrote it, it meant I understood it and had put that chapter behind me. But you never really know who’s grungy until you try them out for a little while.”
Carrie Bradshaw and her “Sex and the City” BFFs were an inspiration, admits Dunham. “I never had any doubt that when you got older there would be caravans of men waiting to date you and glamorous parties to go to ... so yeah, I guess I did sorta think it was real.”
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It’s hard to believe, but the Fox Network will be 25 years old on Sunday and some of its greatest alums will be on hand to commemorate the anniversary. The hilarious Wayans Brothers, who introduced a new kind of comedy with “In Living Color,” will be there along with the dysfunctional gang from “Married ... With Children.” Keifer Sutherland from the great “24,” and now “Touch,” will celebrate the date. Calista Flockhart will recall the bony but brave “Ally McBeal” and the wry Patrick Warburton — who may be great on CBS’ “Rules of Engagement,” but was more brilliant on Fox’s “The Tick” — will be there. We’ll see Gabrielle Carteris, Jason Priestley and Ian Ziering from “Beverly Hills, 90210” and, of course, Fox’s current claim to fame, “American Idol’s” Randy Jackson, Jennifer Lopez, Ryan Seacrest and Steven Tyler.
Jennifer Love Hewitt has certainly grown up with her new role as the Texas housewife with a lucrative sideline on Lifetime’s “The Client List.” And though she performed through most of her teenage years, she says her start in show business wasn’t exactly impressive. “When I was 3 years old we went on a family vacation ... I got tired of sitting in the sun so I wandered off to a piano bar and I was doing a cabaret act. My parents were doing a frantic search for me and I was singing at the piano. I also performed at a livestock show when I was 6, a very glamorous start.”
Production is under way on the TV Guide Network’s “Standup in Stilettos,” a comedy series to be hosted by Kate Flannery of “The Office.” Premiere is set for June 10 ... “The Artist,” the silent film that captured five Academy Awards, will be released on DVD and Blu-ray June 26. The disc will include a blooper reel, two featurettes, four mini-featurettes, and a Q&A with the filmmakers and cast.
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