Lena Dunham and Judd Apatow on why “Girls” is like “This Is 40″

The HBO show's creator and executive producer had a Skype session

Topics: judd apatow, Lena Dunham, Girls, this is 40, Television, Celebrity, Writers, Writers and Writing, Sex,

In an intimate online conversation published in FastCompany, “Girls” creator Lena Dunham and the show’s executive producer, Judd Apatow, revealed details about their working relationship and what they learn from each other. Though littered with interesting asides (“Sometimes I’ll say something profound,” says Apatow of his direction on the show, “like, ‘Maybe we should show Peter Scolari’s penis’”) and observations (Apatow explains: “This type of show is an auteur’s vision. It isn’t collaborative in the same way as other shows. We are probably closer to ‘Curb Your Enthusiasm’ than we are to something like ‘Friends’“), it’s mostly a lovefest between the two comedy stars.

After agreeing that they work well together, Dunham asked if Apatow tries to get input from the cast members in his latest movie, “This Is 40,” a slice of life comedy starring his wife, Leslie Mann, their children and Paul Rudd. The process, he said, starts with “a very intimate conversation over several years about how we feel about our lives, pitching scenes for our characters. What we’re really doing is having a conversation with each other, one that’s easier to have than if we, say, were talking about the characters.”

Dunham sounded less comfortable with mining her personal life for material (!), even though she acknowledges that it’s how she’s always written:

“To my own detriment, everything that happens to me becomes fodder. Sometimes I wonder if I would be a bit happier if I were more in the moment, and less trying to translate the moment into a piece of writing or a piece of film. I have never known another way to express myself, whether it was writing weird confessional poetry in fourth grade or my first play, which was closely based on what I thought the relationship between my mom and her two sisters was. It’s just the way that I think.”

Apatow wouldn’t let Dunham get in the way of his praise for Dunham, saying, “Watching you create the first season of ‘Girls’ had a big impact on me. In some unconscious way, it got me in the right groove to do ‘This Is 40′. It’s weird, but I do feel like ‘Girls’ and ‘This Is 40′ are cousins.”

Dunham gushed back, “I do too. If we were to train this same kind of eye on the ’Girls’ characters in 15 years, we might experience something like ‘This Is 40.’ “

Prachi Gupta

Prachi Gupta is an Assistant News Editor for Salon, focusing on pop culture. Follow her on Twitter at @prachigu or email her at pgupta@salon.com.

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