After six seasons, HBO’s series about Hannah (Lena Dunham) and her friends, “Girls,” came to an end on Sunday.
Though the show decided to say goodbye to most of the characters by its penultimate episode, the finale found that Hannah still had some battles involving her one remaining friend, Marnie (Allison Williams); her mother, Loreen (Becky Ann Baker); and her new baby, Grover.
The decision to use motherhood as the catalyst for Hannah’s break from her selfish ways and into adulthood wasn’t free from criticism. But the show is pretty used to that, and many credit the creators for not letting the public uproar affect their vision.
“We never did that on purpose,” Jenni Konner, one of the showrunners and writers behind “Girls,” told Business Insider over the phone on Monday. “We just kept making the show we wanted to make. [Executive producer Judd Apatow] is very, very good at helping to shut things out. So we just tried to not let that affect us and the stuff we did. We just tried to move in a more positive direction.”
Jenni Konner, who also directed the finale, talked to Business Insider about the controversy over the episode, some of the criticism thrown at “Girls” during its run, and whether there’s potential for a spin-off or movie.
Jethro Nededog: What’s your response to those who believe the motherhood storyline was too traditional a route for the show?
Jenni Konner: I don’t have any response. Again, I’m just so happy that people are still talking about us. I love the debate. I’ll miss it so much.
Nededog: What were the considerations in casting the baby?
Konner: It’s two babies, it’s twins. They’re our Olsen twins. They are the cutest babies ever. The mother was lovely. I didn’t know this when we wrote it, but the amount of time you have with infants when you’re shooting them is something like 20 minutes a day. And let me tell you, these two were not professional. They would cry all through the shoot. They would want to eat while we were shooting. So what are you going to do? They were so adorable and the look in their eyes. The idea that Hannah could look at them and think, ‘That baby hates me,’ was so funny to us and sad. That baby doesn’t hate anybody, you know?
Nededog: Was there some negotiation around breastfeeding them on-camera?
Konner: Babies don’t have any interest in nursing off prosthetic nipples, so that was never a problem, getting the baby to reject Hannah. And the mom seemed fine with it. She was standing two feet away the entire time. And they were very sweet babies. I held them a ton, too, because I hadn’t had babies for a while.
Nededog: There’s a series of men trying to help Hannah in the finale and she writes them off. But that last policeman wouldn’t take no for an answer. Is that a “Girls” statement on men?
Konner: I think that it helped the character to feel more alienated. You know, her normal doctor was a woman and she was on vacation. And the cop was a man. I think it made her feel even more removed from her own sensibilities when those are the people talking at her. It puts her in a more lonely place.
Nededog: Were other endings considered? And If so, why did this one win out?
Konner: I don’t think we ever had any other actual concrete ideas. We threw around ideas, but I can’t even remember them. This is the one Lena wanted to do from the beginning. So she just fought her heart out and we did it.
Nededog: What was the most challenging scene you directed in the finale?
Konner: The scenes with the babies were pretty challenging. I loved shooting the fight between Becky Ann Baker and Lena. I set up four cameras and just ran it through like it was a play four, five times. And to make sure we had momentum, we rehearsed it a lot. I’m really proud of that scene, because I think it feels incredibly real and heated in a way we couldn’t have gotten if we chopped it up.
Nededog: The show ends with a pretty bleak take on friendships.
Konner: You may call it bleak, I call it truthful.
Nededog: Do you believe the finale may have balanced out that last episode when it came to the last word on friendships?
Konner: Absolutely. I think the two core people, Marnie and her mother, will remain in her life in some form.
Nededog: Looking back on the season, is there anything you would’ve done differently?
Konner: There’s nothing more I would’ve done. I think we did the final season exactly the way we wanted to do it. I feel so fortunate that people seem to be really responding to it positively in a way that’s moderately new for us. We started thinking about it in season four. When we decided we were going to end with season six, with the help of [former HBO programming president] Mike Lombardi and [HBO Chairman and CEO] Richard Plepler being so generous with us and letting us finish it when we wanted to finish it. Judd was like, “Okay, now we pick our end,” and we went straight there. I think that’s also why last season was pretty well-received. We had a straight arrow, this direction we were going in. And it helps with storytelling to know the end.
Nededog: Was there a character or actor who was the hardest to say, that’s a wrap?
Konner: The last day with the girls was very, very heartbreaking obviously. But every time someone left, it was very heartbreaking — when Gaby Hoffman left, when Jon Glaser left. These are all people we spent six years with. And we’re a really sensitive, close family, so it was hard on the crew, hard on everybody. But we all knew it was coming.
Nededog: There was some discussion online of how improbable it was that Hannah would get that college teaching job upstate. How do you feel about the fact-checking of “Girls”?
Konner: I don’t know what to say about that. We’re a television show. If you don’t believe it, then buy it as Hannah’s happy ending. I’ve seen weirder things happen at colleges and weirder people get jobs. I have to tell you at this point to have them still caring, I feel really, really lucky.
Nededog: Lena has said that she based a lot of Hannah on herself. At what point did Hannah split from being Lena?
Konner: It’s always going to be personal stories to Lena, to all in the writers’ room. But certainly when Lena became famous and got into a serious relationship with [musician Jack Antonoff], there were less stories from her life. She didn’t have anymore date stories. She didn’t have anymore terrible sex stories. We had to get them from other places. But she always put a personal spin on it.
Nededog: Since the beginning of “Girls,” you’ve been called the millennial “Sex and the City.” Had that always been in the back of your mind and informing your choices for the show?
Konner: What I always said when people make those comparisons is that the women in “Sex and the City,” they met each other as adults. They didn’t just randomly get assigned someone’s dorm. They met each other as adults with careers and lives behind them. And they chose their chip in a way that our characters didn’t. It’s much more random the way that our characters became friends. It was at such a different time in their lives that their ending made perfect sense for them and our ending makes a lot of sense for us. It’s a very different type of show.
Nededog: There’s certainly some potential for a “Girls” spin-off or movie. Where do you land on that possibility?
Konner: I know! I would do any of them. The thing is I don’t think spin-offs are in HBO’s DNA, really. I mean they haven’t really done it before. I’m down for it. I’m into a movie, too, but no one’s asked. We’re down for it all.
This interview was edited for length and clarity.