The final season premiere of Lena Dunham’s Girls Thursday evening at Alice Tully Hall was great fun but also bittersweet. HBO went all out with a lavish celebration for the hit series, which is ending after six seasons.
MORE PHOTOS: “Girls” Red Carpet Premiere
On the red carpet, the stars of Girls – Allison Williams, Jemima Kirke, Zosia Mamet and Dunham – chatted with journalists about their fond memories of past seasons and hinted at how the storylines would wrap up, although they gave away no spoilers.
All the Girls stars looked stunning. Kirke channeled Marilyn Monroe with her new shorter blond hair and long white glam slip dress that hugged her body. Williams had a retro, Audrey Hepburn look in her black off-the-shoulder bodice dress over skinny, shimmering silver pants. Mamet stayed true to her quirky personality in a metallic mini over a dark blouse buttoned up to her neck.
All eyes were on Dunham, who looked striking in a black and silver outfit, her long skirt covered with metallic studs. Her eyes, which were outlined in glittery magenta, had everyone doing a double take. Also head turning was her new hairstyle, a long faux ponytail high on her head that she flipped playfully for photographers
On the red carpet, Dunham and her show runner and executive producer Jenni Konner, answered questions together.
They hinted at the possibility of a movie version of Girls. (Earlier on the red carpet, Becky Ann Baker, who plays Hannah’s mother, told me she had heard the rumors and believed that would happen, but not right away.)
Asked about working with Adam Driver, who has become a big movie star since appearing in Girls, Dunham said, “I love him so much. Every time I had the opportunity to act with Adam Driver, it was such a master class. I didn’t come into this as a trained actor. I came into it as just a person who could kind of say my own lines, and he really was a teacher to me. So every scene I shared with Adam, whether it was a fight scene or a love scene or just sitting around eating food, was an amazing lesson, not to mention the chance to direct him.”
When I asked them what gave them the most satisfaction about the show, Konner replied, “I feel proudest of just being able to push the ball forward for women and creating room for more female show runners and more female writers and more actors and more directors. That’s what I hope our legacy is.”
Also on the red carpet, legendary activist and feminist writer Gloria Steinem hugged Dunham and posed for photographers. It turns out Steinem is a long-time fan of the show. I asked what she thought was the show’s biggest contribution to popular culture.
“Authenticity,” she told me. “Much more than all the television shows, series anyway, that came before.”
In addition to the female stars of Girls, on the red carpet we spotted the show’s executive producer Judd Apatow, and cast members Andrew Rannells, Alex Karpovsky, Ebon Moss-Bachrach, Becky Ann Baker, Rita Wilson and Ethan Phillips.
I asked Rannell what he learned about himself playing Elijah and he shot back, “That I’m glad I’m not in my 20’s anymore.”
Before the screening of the first few episodes of the final season, in introductory remarks from the stage to the packed audience, Judd Apatow thanked and praised Dunham and Konner, who were standing next to him, calling them “the greatest partners you could have in a creative endeavor like this.”
But politics and Donald Trump, who both Apatow and Dunham blasted in interviews and on Twitter, were an undercurrent of the evening.
“But you had a message for the audience first,” Dunham told Apatow immediately after he praised her.
“We’re just very mad at Australia right now,” replied Apatow, adding that he had a special beef with Aussie star Paul Hogan.
Countered Dunham, “And Naomi Watts? She’s outta here.”
“I punched a kangaroo,” added Apatow.
On a serious note, Apatow told the audience, “We are very aware that this is a very strange time to do a big party. But there’s suffering and pain and fear overcoming our country. We want to take a moment to acknowledge that there are a lot of people standing up and fighting for true democracy and equality and justice, and we would like to say that we believe in those ideas.” The audience cheered and hooted.
Dunham added, tearing up, “We had a love child for about seven years, so seven days of terror cannot stop us from celebrating this.”
Apatow also thanked HBO. “They only fought us on one cum shot in six years, and you know what? They were right. And then they did it eight times on ‘Westworld’ this year.”
Although the posters for the final season portray the women looking more serious and possibly beginning to grow up, there’s no evidence of that in the first few episodes. And in case you were worried, there’s still plenty of sex and nudity. Dunham’s comic touches are occasionally lighter and more sophisticated, but she’s just as provocative and outrageous as ever. Her character Hannah shows just as much flesh as ever, and a sunbathing scene where she lifts up her bikini bottom to give her private parts some sun had the audience hooting with laughter.
A special highlight in the first episode is Hannah’s romantic encounter with a surfer dude played by the very hot “The Night Of” star Riz Ahmed, who also gets to show off his rapping talents.
The star-studded swanky after party at Cipriani’s 42d Street attracted plenty of A-listers, including Dunham’s boyfriend rocker Jack Antonoff, Apatow’s actress wife Leslie Mann, Maggie Gyllenhaal and husband Peter Sarsgaard, and director Paul Haggis.
But the biggest attraction at the event was 19-year-old Malia, the lovely daughter of President Barack Obama and Michelle Obama. She’s tall and regal, like her parents, and inspired some admiring stares. The teenager was an intern on Girls and seemed to be having a good time with friends, while partygoers sighed and probably wished her parents were still in the White House.
The Girls final season premieres on HBO on February 12.