Serving as an executive producer, writer, and Lena Dunham’s co-showrunner, Jenni Konner has been with HBO’s Girls since the beginning, playing an integral role in the series. Konner started her career as a writer on Girls EP Judd Apatow’s Fox sitcom Undeclared and created a couple short-lived network shows of her own before she started working as a script doctor in the movie world and eventually transitioned back to Girls when it was brand new. Now in its third season, Girls is still full of the same honesty we’ve seen in the past. Before this season’s premiere even aired, HBO ordered a fourth season and their faith in the show is completely justified: Girls gets a ton of nominations, awards, and critical acclaim, and to put it simply, is just really great.
I recently had the chance to talk to Konner about revealing different sides of characters, the writing process of Girls, and the rewards of working on the show.
What was your mindset going into Season 3 of Girls?
Okay, let me get my head back into Season 3 of Girls. We had to scramble a bit because we lost Chris Abbott suddenly, but we just rallied and in the end made a great season.
How does Season 3 compare to the prior seasons?
I really like it. I think I like it the best. I think it’s kind of the biggest season we had. Like, we left; we went outside more. We went outside of Brooklyn more – kind of expanded. More parties and stuff like that – maybe not more parties, but it just felt like a bigger season production-wise. There’s a lot more to see.
This season just introduced Adam’s sister, Caroline. What has that character added to the show?
I think with Adam — with anything we do with any of the characters in terms of introducing members of their family — we’re always trying to just show different sides of the characters. And I think with this one in particular, we see Adam at the beginning of the season so far really taking care of Hannah, and he sort of rescued her in some ways last year. And it’s not a color we’ve seen on Adam before. So, I think it helps us to explain how you build an Adam, like how that guy gets to be who he is and still have this nurturing side and his relationship to mental illness.
Is there anything you can tell us about what’s to come this season?
Not unless you want HBO to murder me!
I absolutely do not want that!
In episode 7, which is one of my favorites, we go to a beach house and there’s a dance routine.
Will you know where the season is going as a whole before writing the episodes?
Yes, we do. It usually starts with me and Judd [Apatow] and Lena [Dunham] just sitting around trying to figure out the stories we want to tell for the season. Which, you know, obviously changes when we write some scripts, but we always knew we were reaching towards the OCD story. We had to set it up in a specific way. And this year we had somewhere we were going that’s sort of a different surprise, and we had to set it up too.
What goes into balancing the darker elements with the comedic ones?
You know, we are not actually trying to be balanced. I think it’s just sort of organic in the storytelling. Like we never had a conversation like, “Well this is a little dark, so let’s do something lighter here.” I don’t think we are very concerned with balance. Or if we are it’s just in the organic nature of the storytelling. It’s not something we’re aware of.
What’s your dynamic working with Lena Dunham like?
We’re unbelievably close as friends and as writers, and we just have a very deep trust with each other. And with Judd too. It makes it all very easy and not very dramatic interpersonally.
How did you get started writing television shows?
I was doing features. I had a writing partner, and really the first show we did that was an actual TV show, not an animated show, was Undeclared. So that was the first thing we did.
How does working on Girls compare to shows you’ve previously worked on?
I was lucky enough to work on Undeclared, and so that was a fairly similar experience. But compared to the other shows, even the ones I’ve ran, they weren’t as rewarding as Girls, and it’s just such a pleasure to work with HBO.
What makes Girls so rewarding?
Just creating this show that people seem to understand, and it can be divisive, but at least people are talking about it. It’s touching something real in people and making them emotional.
What shows are you a fan of currently?
I love Scandal, I love The Americans. I really like Mindy, I like Brooklyn Nine-Nine. What else do I love? I just started The Return, the French show. That’s really good. I loved Top of the Lake last year. Really it’s Scandal and The Americans for me at this moment.
Congrats on the early renewal for Season 4! Have you been working on that season now?
Yeah, we’re working on that season now. We start planning out the year — even when we’re making Season 3 — we start talking about what Season 4 and 5 could look like if we are lucky enough to get to make them.
Yeah, I imagine you’re always thinking about how the show can move forward.
Yeah, exactly. And we’ll see different actors together we didn’t see. And be like, “Oh, we need to spend more time with them together.” Things like that.
You’re also working on another show with Lena Dunham based on All Dressed Up and Everywhere To Go. How’s that been going?
That’s really fun actually! We’re working on the script right now. It’s based on this 87-year-old woman, Betty Halbreich, who we worship who gets to work every day of her life at Bergdorf’s and has a very refreshing point of view about the world. And she’s an inspiration to us.
I’m sure that while that show will be very different from Girls, it will still have the same spirit from your writing.
Yeah, I mean I hope so. I think there’s a specific tone and feel of it that, yes, again, while it’ll be really different, it still will have this same basic trust.
Girls airs Sundays at 10 PM on HBO.
Jessye McGarry is a writer living in New York.