Playboy: Now that you’re so admired, who’s hitting on you?
Dunham: Sometimes when we’re shooting the show, extras don’t know that I’m the director. They’ll come up and say, “How long have you been working as an extra? Want to walk over to the craft services table?” I’m always flattered when that happens because there are a lot of very beautiful girls around in short skirts, and they chose me. Unless they’re pretending they don’t know who I am. Otherwise, despite all the attention I’m getting lately, I definitely haven’t had any Ryan Goslings saying “I love the way your mind works. Can I take you to dinner?” Maybe it would happen if I looked like a Victoria’s Secret model for one day. Now I understand how I could use that.
Playboy: How did you learn about sex, and who taught you?
Dunham: I think I was five. A girl at school explained it to me. I didn’t believe her because it seemed so barbaric, so I went home and asked my parents if it was true. They sat down together and explained sex to me. My parents were sensitive. They said, “Your dad and I did this so that you could get made.” They gave me the male and female perspective. That was the traumatic part. I remember thinking, I don’t want to learn this, and I definitely don’t want to learn this looking at the faces of both of you. I wish one of them had taken the job and come into my bedroom alone. But I asked. It was because Amanda DiLauro told me, so it was really her fault.
Playboy: Girls is set in Brooklyn. What does the media get wrong about New York’s hippest borough?
Dunham: I don’t live in the same Brooklyn neighborhood as my characters; mine is slightly more old-people-y. But I’m a Brooklyn girl and love it. The first time I watched 2 Broke Girls, another Brooklyn show, I liked it, but there were people in Williamsburg saying, “You can’t go out in that jacket in Brooklyn. You’re going to get robbed!” Many parts of Brooklyn are tony suburbs of Manhattan, but the most interesting thing is the push-pull and the collision of young meets old, historic meets new. Most people don’t look at that. Also, not everyone has a handlebar mustache.
Playboy: In your breakthrough independent feature film, Tiny Furniture, your character, Aura, has hot, clumsy sex in a drainpipe on a construction site at night. Why a drainpipe?
Dunham: New York real estate is rough. When two people who want to have sex don’t have a place to go, what are their options? I was trying to think of both a comedic and a sort of dark place for people to engage. The funny thing is it was such a cheap movie and the pipe was the most expensive part of our entire operation. We needed a place to put the pipe where we could light it properly. We had the pipe built in an iron yard. I had a big sewer pipe in mind, but they built one from a piece of scrap metal that wobbled around. When I noticed that I thought, We’re done for. Everything is ruined because of this stupid wobbling pipe. Cut to: People wound up being amused that the pipe had a certain amount of give and jiggle.
Playboy: What’s the millennial generation’s rule for how many times you can sleep with someone before one party or the other starts to feel it’s no longer casual?
Dunham: What an interesting question. I’m the worst. I could hate somebody and then if I slept with them once, I’d be planning our wedding in my head. Even though I knew they weren’t fit to shine my shoes, I just couldn’t separate those two acts very well. And yet, I know people who have been sleeping with each other for years who aren’t anywhere near dating, and I know people who have had sex with someone once and rent the U-Haul van to move in. Millennial men and women could stand to know that not everyone wants just casual affairs, even though there’s a lot of pressure to have sex and not care—and when you’re a woman it’s supposed to be a triumph when you can do that. I try to never push that methodology on Girls. I believe people want to be connected in an intense human way, but it’s getting lost in the shuffle. So there’s no rule, but most of my girlfriends start to get squirrelly about it and wonder what’s going on 10 dates in.
Playboy: Who do you dream of directing in a nude scene?
Dunham: I don’t want them to date in real life, but I wouldn’t mind putting David Strathairn and Rooney Mara in a room together and seeing what happens when they have sex in a movie context.
Playboy: One of the louder criticisms of Girls is that it takes place in a narrow world of young, urban, middle-class white women and is thus not suitably diverse and representative of your generation.
Dunham: I think that’s a valid criticism, but we can’t let that erase someone’s ability to tell a personal story. While being racist and promoting inequality are crimes that should be punished, the sin of writing two Jewish girl characters and two Waspy characters feels less egregious to me. I’ve tried to be elegant about it and receive the criticism, and I understand what’s hard about it. At the same time I’m like, Really?
Playboy: What’s in your purse that would surprise us?
Dunham: I still keep a paper date planner, which seems pretty old-school. I always have a novel. The stray-vitamin situation is pretty out of hand. But most surprising? A spoon. I’m always dragging one around. It’s a metal spoon. A plastic spoon makes sense. A metal spoon from your house makes it look like you’re going to commit a spoon murder.
Playboy: From which TV character should Hannah take love and relationship advice?
Dunham: Mary Tyler Moore. Even though she’s perpetually single, she has a positive attitude about it and doesn’t psycho out on people. She believes she’s gonna make it after all. She’s a pretty good example of chipper, appropriate single-woman attitude.
Playboy: What’s the one interview question you don’t want to be asked anymore?
Dunham: If I could abolish one question, it would be “Why are you naked on TV so much?” I don’t know. Use your imagination.