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Andrew Rannells of HBO's Girls

HBO’s Girls: The Guys Talk Awkward Sex, Nude Scenes and Snorting Cocaine

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Lena Dunham at the Golden Globes 2013

Lena Dunham at the Golden Globes 2013

Lena Dunham, the creator and star of the Golden Globe-winning “Girls,” said the show will continue to “push the envelope.” She looked terrific on the red carpet of the second-season premiere of the hit HBO series at NYU’s Skirball Center last week.

The glitzy after party was at Capitale in the Meatpacking district, where guests walked across a crossway that was a replica of the Brooklyn Bridge to get into the party.

Dunham’s goal is a difficult proposition, but the second season of “Girls” is even sharper and funnier. The show’s characters – Dunham (Hannah), Zosia Mamet (Shoshanna), Jemima Kirke (Jessa) and Allison Williams (Marnie) – get in hotter water, struggle more with their friendship and their boyfriend relationships and, if you can believe it, have even more raw and awkward sex.

“Girls” won a Golden Globe for Best Comedy or Musical, and Dunham won for Best Actress in a Comedy or Musical. Prior to the awards, she tweeted, “If Golden Globes support garment kills me, I leave my archives to my mother and my ephemera to my 8-year-old friend Coco.”

But she didn’t look as though she needed a support garment for the black-and-white strapless Valentino jumpsuit she wore to the “Girls” Manhattan premiere, although she kept tugging at the top of her outfit, which was tied in back with a bow and showed off her impressive tattoos and normal-sized rounded figure.

She’s chopped off her hair into a sophisticated pixie cut. By her side was her slender rocker boyfriend Jack Antonoff, who heads the group Fun, which is featured on the season two “Girls” soundtrack.

Everyone gets naked sooner or later in “Girls.” Peter Scolari, who plays Dunham’s father, had a hilarious shower sex scene last season with Becky Ann Baker, who played his wife. There are no more sex in the shower scenes for his character, Scolari told me on the red carpet, although his character does gets naked again later in the season. (For more of our interview with Scolari, click through to Showbiz411.com).

A new addition to “Girls” is Andrew Rannells, who was Tony-nominated for “The Book of Mormon” and now stars in Ryan Murphy’s comedy sitcom “The New Normal.” He plays Elijah, Hannah’s gay ex-boyfriend who is now her roommate. “I want to be Wendy Murdock,” his character tells Hannah when he explains his relationship with his much older, rich boyfriend.

He also has a sex scene with Williams in an early episode. I asked the openly gay actor if that was awkward for him.

“It totally made me nervous but once we started it was okay,” he said. “She’s (Williams) done so many awkward sex scenes in the first season” that “she put me at ease. There was no preparation. We just did it. I knew we were going to have to do it, and I was still doing ‘The Book of Mormon’ at the time so I felt like I was in decent shape so, well, I was like, ‘Oh well, just take it off. Let’s do it.’”

I asked him about the scene with Dunham where they are snorting cocaine and running around the city and getting increasingly more and more frazzled. “That was so much fun!” he told me. “Any time I get to do that much with Lena it’s amazing. We got to shoot all over the city and a lot of fake cocaine use and we just had a blast.”

Later on at the after party, Williams and Rannells exchanged long kisses, and he ran his hands all over the sides of her body while the photographers snapped.

HBO's Girls

The Guys on HBO’s Girls: Alex Karpovsky, Christopher Abbott, Adam Driver and Andrew Rannells

Alex Karpovsky plays Ray, the man who deflowers Shoshanna and later develops real feelings for her. He has two movies coming out March 29 that he wrote, directed and acted in: “Rubberneck” and “Red Flag.”  He also just wrapped “Inside Llewyn Davis,” directed by Joel and Ethan Coen. (Adam Driver, who plays Hannah’s sort-of boyfriend, also stars in the Coen brothers’ film.)

So far, Karpovsky’s character Ray has been spared some of the more explicit sex scenes. “You just wait,” he told me. “There is some expression between Ray and Shoshanna (Zosia Mamet)” that is coming up.

I asked how comfortable he is about disrobing. “That’s the question that’s been asked most tonight,” Karpovsky cracked. “I wonder why’s it’s such a source of curiosity.”

“I have no problems at all with it,” he added. “I’ve shown everything in independent films before, and I feel once you’ve done it once or twice it’s no big deal. Also, Lena goes out of her way to create a really comfortable atmosphere for actors, not only in terms of taking risks and improvising, but also just physically to make sure we’re not doing anything we don’t want to do or feel uncomfortable doing. So between my experience and Lena’s way of holding a set, I was never uncomfortable.”

His character develops in the show; he goes from being smarmy to being sensitive and very loving, I noted.

“One of the things I’m really proud of in regards to the show is how it’s anchored in authenticity and how the characters are multi-dimensional and well-rounded, and sometimes it takes a while for us to get there. But ultimately, all the characters are really complicated and maybe initially you thought of them as a jerk or as a coward or this or that, but slowly as you get to know them, you see that they’re believable,” Karpovsky told me.

“They’re like a lot of us are. They’re textured and complicated and contradictory, and I think in Episode 7 of Season 1, Ray does something where he chases after Shoshanna after she smokes crack that’s very compassionate and it opens up a door to another side of him. And then in Season 2 we go deeper down that door and open up many others.”

There’s a scene coming up that’s painful to witness, where his character admits he’s a loser. I asked him how difficult that scene was to shoot.

“I never really look at myself as sort of a method actor or anything like that, but I feel there are certain types of scenes, and that was one of them that you’re describing that I feel it will really help if I remember stuff in my past and do some emotional memory stuff. Which, again, I don’t always do and don’t usually do in comedies. I kind of went into a place where it made me easier to relate to what Ray was going through. I really did feel like a loser, and I spent a lot of time in my life in that place, especially in high school.”

He added, “There’s a lot of places to draw from. It does make me sad even when the camera says cut, there’s still an emotional residual inertia.”

Season two of “Girls” started Sun., Jan. 13 at 9 p.m. on HBO. If you missed the first episode, catch up with the replays on Jan. 14, 15, 18 or 19.

Paula Schwartz

Paula Schwartz is a veteran journalist based in New York who is passionate about the movies. Her idea of heaven is watching three movies in a row. She’s written for various outlets, including the New York Times, Showbiz411.com, More.com and MovieMaker Magazine. For five seasons, she contributed to the New York Times seasonal movie blog, Carpetbaggers, where she covered major awards events and interviewed stars like Angelina Jolie, Brad Pitt, Gary Oldman and Helen Mirren.

Paula Schwartz has written posts on Reel Life With Jane.


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3 comments

  1. Melanie Votaw

    How is Andrew Rannells doing all this? Does he sleep?

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