If you happened to stroll by Jemima Kirke’s Brooklyn stoop sale in April, one of the items in particular might have caught your eye. Among the piles of vintage clothing and the other knickknacks one typically finds at these de-sheddings, was a stack of unopened copies of Girls DVDs, the show she starred on for six seasons. “People were actually buying them, and nobody realized I was the one selling them,” Kirke tells Playboy. Now, maybe she was just doing some spring-cleaning—because stars, they’re just like us—or maybe it was something more.
It’s been over a year since Kirke officially said goodbye to Jessa, and the actress seems ready for the next phase of her career. Starting Friday, Kirke makes her small-screen return in Netflix’s kaleidoscopic new drama, Maniac. Directed by Cary Fukunaga (True Detective), the series stars Jonah Hill and Emma Stone as patients in a psych ward who undergo a radical pharmaceutical test that launches them into a fever-dream journey through space and time. Kirke plays Hill’s soon-to-be sister-in-law, who appears sporadically over the course of the 10 episodes. While the role itself is small, it offers her the opportunity to flex the acting skills that she’s acquired over the course of her budding career. It was also her first taste of shooting something that has the size and scope of a major Hollywood blockbuster.
“I’m definitely aware when I’m being typecast,” she says. “There’s definitely an archetypal person that I get a lot. It’s the tough, cool girl who’s actually really soft and sad on the inside. Her sister died, so that’s why she’s so aggressive and mean, but then she meets this guy, and she gets vulnerable, and then she has to cry because she’s vulnerable.” Despite Kirke’s name recognition, audiences still mostly know her best for one key role, which means she’s found herself in an audition room perhaps a little more often than she'd like. That’s usually when the reality of her unique situation sinks in. “I’ve run into moments where I don’t even know that that’s what the casting director was looking for—where I read this character, and I saw her as one thing, and I go in, and I read for it, and it doesn’t work out because they wanted me to be Jessa, and I’m like, ‘Oh. I didn’t read it that way,’” she explains. “They won’t say, ‘Read it like Jessa,’ but I’ll just say, ‘Oh, I see.’”
It doesn’t work out because they wanted me to be Jessa, and I’m like, ‘Oh. I didn’t read it that way.’ They won’t say, ‘Read it like Jessa,’ but I’ll just say, ‘Oh, I see.’
Does that mean Kirke would be opposed to taking a meeting with Marvel if the opportunity ever arose? “It’s not like I would say no, but those kinds of things aren’t going to realistically happen to me, and it’s not something I would necessarily want to happen to me because when you do those kinds of things, that’s your whole life. Besides, they’d probably ask me to play an Avenger like if Jessa was an Avenger."