The Girls Writers Room on Putting Words in the Mouths of Hannah and Her Friends

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As the story goes, the Frasier writers room was deafeningly quiet: If and when you spoke, you’d better have been damned sure you had a good joke to share. One couldn’t find a better counterpoint than the unruly, generous writers’ room for Girls, the HBO series created by Lena Dunham that begins airing its final season tonight. Led by Dunham, executive producer Judd Apatow, and showrunner Jenni Konner, they liken it more to therapy than writers’ room. Hailing from rooms as varied as Undeclared, Six Feet Under, American Dad, Broad City, and the Iowa Writers’ Workshop, the show’s writers — Sarah Heyward, Bruce Eric Kaplan, Yassir Lester, Murray Miller, Jason Kim, Tami Sagher, and Max Brockman — have a common refrain: that emotional truth is where the most unexpected humor lives. If watching Girls can feel painfully raw, it’s because the writers have mined their lives for moments that, as Sagher put it, “I’m scared of even writing in my journal.” In between shoots on the HBO series’ sixth and final season, the people behind Hannah, Marnie, Shoshanna, and Jessa gathered to reflect on writing one of the most controversial shows on TV. They were quick to finish each other’s sentences as they called up memories: the CD of angry songs an ex sent to Dunham that inspired Adam’s “You destroyed my heart” ode to Hannah, crying in the room, and Apatow’s first note on set: “Lena looks too attractive — we’re trying to make an underdog here!”

What does the Girls writers’ room feel like? The Frasier writers’ room was famously quiet and judgmental — nobody wanted to say anything unless they had the perfect idea.

Jenni Konner:
That’s just the way we run it.

Lena Dunham:
Frasier was a huge model for us. [Laughs.]

Konner:
When we first started, it was closer to therapy than writers’ room, and this is something that happened when I worked with Judd Apatow on Undeclared, too. My first job at Undeclared was to fill out this insanely lengthy questionnaire Judd would take out, and it always is a great jumping-off point. It’s a very Judd way to do things: You start by telling personal stories.

I had read, Sarah, that you talked about losing your virginity in the room.

Sarah Heyward:
Oh, god, that one is going to haunt me forever. Now my mom is asking me about this. For Shoshanna, that plotline was heavily influenced by my story. I remember a scene in season one when Shoshanna was supposed to be asking Ray to take her virginity. It was the first scene I ever wrote for Girls, and after Jenni read my first draft, she said, “Great. Now can you rewrite it without ever mentioning sex?” My mind was blown.

Dunham:
Even if they aren’t actually that similar, Sarah’s always had a feel for whatever Shoshanna was going through.

Heyward:
I’m a Shoshanna advocate. She’s one of my causes.

In what ways are you like her?

Heyward:
In the beginning, it was more when we were giving her a lot of her particular pop-culture references. I make a lot of lists, and I have a lot of favorites in my head that I can rattle off. She has this speech about her favorite utensil. That’s directly something I talk about, my love of spoons.

Tami Sagher:
Sarah has a lot of lists you’ve never made in your life, like favorite utensils or men who she would be happy marrying or having be your father.

Heyward:
That’s the polite title for that.

Dunham:
Everyone here at this point has been a part of the room for a while, but the only people who are present with us now who have been in the room since the beginning are Jenni, Judd, Bruce, and Sarah. I had no experience with a room and didn’t understand how to do anything but probably be inappropriately intimate and emotional. That set the tone for what was to come. It was never a room where it was like, “Who can get in here and pitch the funniest joke, and you’re going to be shamed if you don’t.”

Judd Apatow:
Also, at the very beginning, you were in the middle of more messy relationships.

Dunham:
The night before our first writers’ room started, I literally got in a fight with someone who I had been vaguely dating because he wouldn’t have sex with me. Left his home at one in the morning. Had to jump his fence and thought that was an okay way to prepare myself for my first day of professional work.

Konner:
It turns out it was a perfect way.

Apatow:
Was that the season when he sent you all of the songs?

Konner:
That guy she picked up at the first-season wrap party.

Dunham:
That guy sent me a CD of angry, slightly violent songs, which inspired a lot of season-two action.

Apatow:
What I thought was funny was he sent all these songs that were so emotional and hostile, and then you wanted to use one of them on the show. I thought we would write a fake version of it, but without asking anyone, you called him and asked …

Dunham:
And he was like, “Did I not make it clear to you in the songs that I fucking hate you?”

Apatow:
It’s funny that Lena’s the kind of person who doesn’t realize it would hurt his feelings to say, “I’d like to mock your songs on the show.”

Dunham:
It’s so true. That, literally just pointed out to me — I only understand it right now.

The characters on Girls have this obliviousness that’s hilarious to watch. How do you approach writing characters who don’t quite know what they’re saying?

Dunham:
Now it’s so ingrained in the instinct of how we write the show. It almost would be the surprising choice for one of us to give Marnie a line that made total emotional sense. We’ll be like, Maybe she should actually be right this time. One of the funniest things in the world is people who don’t see themselves the way the rest of the world sees them. That is a big aspect of who these characters are. One of the only characters on the show whose sense of themselves and other people’s sense of them is aligned is probably Ray, and that’s one of the reasons he ends up being a voice of reason so much.

Konner:
Also because Judd’s obsessed with him.

Dunham:
Judd’s obsessed. He was going to come on for one episode right at the beginning just because he was my pal. And then Judd kept being like, that Ray guy is really the heart and soul of this show.

Konner:
Judd had this idea that really crystallized his character, which is having one of these hipster people defending McDonald’s. That was the moment we were like, Oh, that’s who Ray is, the guy who defends McDonald’s.

Apatow:
We were always aware that the characters had this sense of self-entitlement, and we thought it was funny that they thought the world owed them something and they were going to do amazing things. Then when critics wouldn’t get that we got that — that it was funny that they were behaving so horribly — we always thought Ray was the guy who would call that out.

Dunham:
It is funny that people see things we write as an endorsement. After season five, someone was like, do you think Hannah flashing her vagina at her boss was the right thing to do? And I was like, in what universe would any logical person be supporting that choice? This show is not a how-to guide in any way.

Konner:
That’s how we got Girls picked up.

Dunham:
Just like, open my legs, and suddenly, it was six seasons.

Who here comes from a pure comedy-writing background?

Murray Miller:
I come from the opposite of this. I was on Fox cartoons, which is the exact opposite of Girls, where literally, if you say something emotional, you’ll be fired.

Dunham:
Murray came to the meeting with Jenni and me, and you could just feel there was this super-emotional person waiting to bust out. He’s the fucking funniest person in the world, but getting to see him talk about his feelings is actually very moving.

Konner:
And we already had Bruce, who talked about his feelings constantly.

Dunham:
You there, Bruce, Mr. Feelings? [Bruce is on the phone.]

Bruce Kaplan:
I’m here thinking about my feelings.

Dunham:
Bruce wrote on Six Feet Under, on Seinfeld, on Cybill. So he had done and experienced it all.

Kaplan:
Well, Cybill wasn’t a training ground at all.

Miller:
Make sure to print that.

Dunham:
Jason is a playwright and had written very emotional work, and Yassir is this straight-up stand-up comedian. So it’s interesting, that balance of sensibilities.

How does that work in the writers’ room in terms of, is there a division between people who are writing the funnier elements of the show versus the more dramatic ones?

Miller:
Yeah, for sure, and we all know it. [Laughter.]

Dunham:
I think everybody’s talking about everything, and then, also, a lot of times, everyone will take the script and punch it up and just give joke pitches.

Konner:
Tami’s a really good example of the perfect hybrid, though, because she’s from Broad City, but also all her story ideas have very emotional pitches. So she’s very well-rounded.

Sagher:
I’m not afraid of crying in the room.

Dunham:
Literally, I was about to say, “And she cries a lot,” and then I was like, That’s not supportive, and now you said it first.

Sagher:
Lena was sick earlier. She missed a day where I cried, and she was so sad. She was literally like, “I’m so sorry I missed you crying,” kind of hoping that I’d cry again.

Dunham:
Then I tried to push, like, What were you guys talking about when you cried? And you know, Sarah was Jenni’s assistant on the pilot, and it became very clear very quickly that she got it.

Konner:
She was with the Iowa Writers’ Program, which was very helpful, obviously, and one of the reasons we did the Iowa Writers’ Program story line, but we fell in love with her fiction, too. That’s another thing I learned from Judd really early on, which is not everyone has to have some spec script or a huge amount of experience in a room. If they show that they’re good writers, they can learn there. On Undeclared, there was hardly anyone who had writing experience.

Dunham:
I like to brag about Sarah because I say she’s written more memes for the show than anyone else. She’s the meme queen. The first episode she wrote was the one where Hannah and Elijah do cocaine, so “It’s Wednesday night, baby, and I’m alive!” is all Sarah. So when she got to write a script, it was like she’d just been waiting to bust out this perfectly formed thing.

Heyward:
I remember as an assistant, I took notes on a meeting with you three where Judd was like, “Now, if the show gets picked up, I really think you guys should hire nontraditional comedy writers.” Like, get a fiction writer in there. Get a playwright. And I was just like…like, How do I weasel my way into this…

Dunham:
I think the moment you really did it was on the pilot where we suddenly realized I was about to shoot basically a totally naked sex scene and hadn’t gotten a bikini wax, and Sarah had to figure out how to get a bikini waxer into my trailer on 44th Street. When Sarah led this Polish woman into my trailer and was like, “Don’t worry, I looked her up on Yelp, this is going to be fine,” I was like, We need this woman around for the rest of the time.

How do you all collaborate as writers?

Heyward:
We all passed a computer around the other day, and everyone added lines to it when we were rewriting a scene for the final season. It was like, All right, I’m done. Now you can make it better.

Dunham:
Everybody’s so much funnier than everybody else. It’s also fun because we’re in here doing tiny little surgical things and probably overthinking one line, and Judd can come in and explode the entire thing in a really great way. He has the distance of having been in California and not being on set every day, and he can have the big thought that opens it up emotionally.

Konner:
And it’s the same in editing. He hasn’t been there to see anything filmed necessarily, but in the editing, he has a whole fresh perspective.

Apatow:
I get to experience the show in a fun way that nobody else here gets to because I don’t suffer on the set with whatever the drama was to shoot the scene. I only see the scene, and by the time I see it, I’ve usually forgotten everything about the episode. So I have to rewatch the episode somewhat fresh and be able to talk about whether or not it’s working or tracking. It’s really fun to not have to go, “That was the day the paparazzi ruined the shot.”

Konner:
Here’s the first note on set Judd ever gave us. When we were shooting the pilot, it was the first day of shooting, and I get this call. Judd had looked at the dailies, and he was like, “We’ve got a problem. Lena looks too attractive.” He’s like, “Her outfit is too cute, her hair and makeup looks too good. We are making an underdog here. It is not going to work.”

Dunham:
It was the first episode, and I remember exactly, we went in, and I had been wearing Spanx and a little bit of extra hair.

Konner:
And that’s when we added the rule: no extra hair, ever, and no Spanx.

Dunham:
And unless there’s a huge problem, we don’t tailor Hannah’s clothes. After Judd looked at it, I realized that all these actresses in Hollywood have this experience of being on a pilot, and someone’s like, “You’ve got to lose weight. You’ve got to dye your hair.” And I was like, “I’ve been eating everything! I’ve been trying so hard!”

Apatow:
I was furious. I was like, “God damn it, she looks adorable! What is going on on that set, have we forgotten this show?”

Dunham:

The minute they removed the Spanx and the strip of fake hair, I thought Judd was going to be like, “She still looks too great!” And he was like, “It’s fine.”

Apatow:
It was more that you just looked completely different than the pilot.

Dunham:
Totally. It was really that. It’s funny because I feel we can reveal this now. It’s that scene …

Konner:
… where you wound up eating 4,000 cups of frozen yogurt and vomiting.

Image
Dunham wearing extra hair and spanx in season one’s “Vagina Panic.” Photo: HBO

Lena Dunham:
We were eating Tasti-D, and you can see it because I look totally different. I have a different haircut, and a different body, and different makeup than I do for the next scene. We taped on a little belt. That was a big theme first season — they would always tape a belt over my skirt.

Image
Dunham with the extra hair and Spanx removed in the same episode.

Another really good Judd note was when he came to set for the first episode, and I had done so many takes of the sex scene with Adam, and I believe a quote from our AD, Mark, was, “It smells like a men’s locker room in here. Can we stop?” And then Judd came in and was like, “You have to do one more where you don’t look like you’re getting murdered.”

Apatow:
There was a look on your face like you were being murdered mid-sex.

Dunham:
You were like, “Just try to look like you’re enjoying it a little bit,” and Jenni was so protective of me. She’s like, “She’s been going for a long time. She’s chafed! She can’t do it!”

Konner:
A Judd note is emotional.

Sagher:
Even just “pretend you like the sex” is an emotional note. This is a romance. It’s filthy, but it’s a romantic story.

What would you say is a Lena note and a Jenni note?

Dunham:
Jenni flies in with a note and pushes me to read the scene in a way that’s a bit counter to how it’s been scripted. She’s always pushing for the nonobvious read, the read of the joke that pushes it in a different direction.

A very Jenni note will be if my character’s super-upset and I’m yelling, she’ll be like, “Why don’t you try this one where it’s so awful you almost kind of can’t speak.” She does that for all the actors, which is why when she started directing last year, it wasn’t really a shift, because we were all like, “Oh, we’re totally used to Jenni coming in and cracking open our brain with a note.”

Miller:
And Lena is clearly the voice of the show. Script-wise, between Jenni and Lena, you can’t tell. They’re very much of one mind.

Konner:
When we write something together, I almost never know after the fact who wrote it.

When you’re working with the actors, do you ever feel like you learn things from them in terms of what they bring to the role, and how that informs the way you end up writing about them?

Konner:
Yeah, all the time. Allison Williams has informed her character tremendously over the course of this show.

Dunham:
Not because she’s a narcissistic asshole.

Konner:
No, but she’s admittedly a control freak and very type A. It’s the same way I think it happened with Courteney Cox on Friends — they used it to their advantage. Jemima, obviously, has a lot in common with Jessa.

Heyward:
Ebon [Moss-Bachrach, who plays Desi] brings a lot.

Miller:
Ebon essentially created it.

Dunham:
I would say Zosia’s not really like Shoshanna, and Ebon’s not really like Desi, but they both have such a clear perspective on what their character would and wouldn’t do.

Konner:
Ebon brought so much to that character, and Murray brought so much to Desi.

Miller:
Oh, thanks. The greatest creation in the world to me. And I play tennis with Alex Karpovsky, and sometimes he says dumb stuff, and I remember it and try to get it in his mouth on TV. [Laughs.]

Apatow:
It helps that the actors embrace making terrible mistakes and all the awful characteristics that they might have. Allison has just been so insanely funny. My kids always talk about her singing the Kanye West song at the party, which is one of the funniest things you’ve ever seen. She’s just grown so much and surprised us with how riotous she is.

Konner:
And she’s so game for anything. She shows up on set with the best, most positive attitude.

Dunham:
That character was originally written as more of a little intellectual Jewess. Literally, in the description, I was like, “Jewess, buckteeth,” and then we kept reading all these people, and Judd was like, “What is the funny contrast to your character’s messiness and your look?” We’d read hundreds of girls at this point for the part. Allison comes in, and I remember going into Judd’s office to show him the casting tape, and he literally looked at it for two seconds and was like, “Oh, yeah, yeah, that’s it,” and just goes back to working. He just saw what was funny.

Dunham:
A lot of people reading the script had a certain amount of ironic distance, apathy, and 20-something ennui, and she just came in and gave it energy and passion, and a little bit of that theater-kid energy that she has, and it really needed that.

Heyward:
She was fresh out of college, also. It didn’t feel like she had been acting for five years.

Are there certain characters that you love to write for most, and a certain character who’s the most challenging to write?

Miller:
Desi I love writing for, but every character is a joy to write. It was a little bit heartbreaking knowing this was the last season because I’ve been on maybe a dozen shows, and sometimes it’s a frustrating experience to go up on script, and this is nothing but a delight. The scripts are so fun to write because the characters are so clear, and each one has their own perfect idiosyncrasies.

Dunham:
I will say that we forced Jason to offer insight into the theater world as well as the world of young, stylish homosexuals.

Jason Kim:
That’s true. My two specialties.

Dunham:
And you’ve got a lot of other specialties, but we’ll always just be like, “Jason, you need to make this sound not like Lena watched a bunch of Will & Grace and then wrote this one line.”

Kim:
I feel like Lena is super plugged into the gay world.

Do you bring a lot to Elijah?

Kim:
I love writing for Elijah because I think Andrew is just so phenomenally talented. I think he could do anything.

I loved his plotline last season.

Kim:
Oh, and he and Corey Stoll just have so much charisma together. It’s like a gay man’s fantasy.

Their sex scene was the hottest sex scene I’ve ever seen on Girls.

Dunham:
It was, 100 percent. Jesse Peretz, the director, came up to me after the scene and was like, “How do you feel about that? Do you feel like we got it?” And I said, “I have to recuse myself because I’m too horny.” You did a beautiful pass on that scene, Jason. You wrote some lines that were just so specific, and you really understood what Elijah’s been looking for versus what he was actually getting.

Are there certain specialties you have as writers? Subject areas you’re called in as experts on?

Dunham:
Pretty much any time Colin Quinn’s in the scene, Max [Brockman] is called into action. Anytime there’s some good old New York history or complaining about gentrification, we summon Max. Max is the youngest person on our writing staff with the soul of a 108-year-old.

And Tami did the episode “Queen for Two Days” where Loreen and Hannah go to the women’s retreat, and Tami just tapped into the energy of divorced 60-year-olds. I was like, “I don’t know where this came from.”

Sagher:
But Jenni wrote my favorite speech in that. She wrote the speech for Loreen where she decides to stay with Tad.

Konner:
I have no memory of that at all.

Jason, you were memorably in the Iowa Writers’ Workshop episodes of Girls. Has anyone else here made a guest appearance on the show?

Max Brockman:
My voice was in.

Dunham:
We’ve got to get your face in the final season. Everybody else here was on Girls, except Judd and Jenni, because they refuse.

Heyward:
Wait. Was Bruce?

Kaplan:
No.

Dunham:
Bruce, is it something you would consider, or are you not open to it?

Kaplan:
I’ve been in paintings that got cut from the episode, I believe. [Laughs.]

Dunham:
Jason, it was funny because we were trying to figure out who to cast in the Iowa episode, and Judd came in and was like, “Someone like that guy Jason who’s writing on the show. We should get him.” We were like, What are we going to do if Jason comes in and bombs his audition? But he just came in and was so natural and 100 percent the standout of all that Iowa stuff. I forget the line where you’re like, “I wrote a story about a robot horse, and I would really like to get back to it.” Also the thing where I said you were a hideously trendy gaysian and you made up the line “Thank you.”

Kim:
When you guys came in and you said, “We’re having a hard time casting this part, we’re going to cast Jason,” I 100 percent thought that you meant Jason Statham. [Laughter.]

Miller:
That’s the main Jason.

Sagher:
That’s incredible.

Kim:
I was like, I think he’s too old for this. I don’t know.

Are there TV shows you all watch and talk about and are influenced by?

Dunham:
Yeah, Lemonade.

Heyward:
Scandal had a season where it dominated our conversations.

Sagher:
Empire.

Konner:
We talk about Broad City. We talk about Amy Schumer’s show in terms of comedies.

Apatow:
The Americans, we love The Americans.

Dunham:
Mary Tyler Moore’s huge. My So-Called Life we talk about a lot. In the first season of the show, Jenni introduced me to Grey’s Anatomy. I had never seen it even though it was in its sixth season at that point, and I watched two seasons real fast and then started writing in this really crazy voice-over and basically had to be put on a moratorium.

Apatow:
I always think about Todd Solondz’s movies, like Happiness.

How has your comedic sensibility changed over the years, Judd?

Apatow:
Well, when I first started, comedy was much more high-concept. We were still coming out of the era of Spies Like Us and movies with big ideas behind them. Slowly, it’s become more about people. In a way, to me, it all goes back to Diner. I can’t ever think of anything that really captured just friends, human behavior, and the small things in life being very important.

Dunham:
There were some movies that Jenni and I assigned right at the beginning to everybody. A couple of them were Walking and Talking, the Nicole Holofcener film, and Girlfriends, this pivotal Claudia Weill film from the late ’70s. We shot the pilot of Girls, and we’d never seen Girlfriends, and then Jenni and I went to a screening of it between the pilot and the show, and we were like, “Oh, this is the exact same show.” It’s about three friends in Soho trying to figure it out and the complexities and darkness of their relationship. Eli Wallach is a sexy rabbi. Claudia ended up directing an episode of season two.

Apatow:
Slums of Beverly Hills is another one.

Dunham:
We gave out the books The Best of Everything by Rona Jaffe, and Minor Characters, the Joyce Johnson book about the girlfriends of the Beat Generation.

Konner:
And what’s the writing book you always give out, Judd?

Apatow:
Well, there’s a few of them. If You Want to Write, by Brenda Ueland; Bird by Bird, by Anne Lamott; and The Art of Dramatic Writing, by Lajos Egri.

Sagher:
I have to say, because I didn’t come on as a writer until last year, watching Girls, I was like, “Oh, I can write that.” I remember it was the sex scene with Lena and Adam, and I was just like, “Oh, I’m scared of even writing that in my journal.” And it was just like, okay, this is really funny.

Which scene was it?

Sagher:
It was in the pilot, when he was on the couch with Hannah.

Dunham:
The greatest moment of my life was when Barbara Walters was like, “It was an anal scene,” and I was like, “Yeah, from behind,” and she was like, “Yeah, anal,” and Barbara Walters and I had a five-minute discourse. I was like, Guess I can retire now. Life has done what it needed to do.

I was rewatching some of the first season, and there were little character threads I had forgotten were there. For example, Jessa makes a comment about Adam and how he would probably masturbate in front of anyone in season one, and then in season five, they mutually masturbate.

Dunham:
Oh my God, that’s so funny, she does say he would jerk off in front of anyone.

How much of those types of things end up being intentional versus it becoming natural to the characters?

Konner:
Well, I definitely at that point don’t think we were mapping out Adam and Jessa. That would’ve been, like, Machiavellian.

Dunham:
I do think we’ll often go back and find a reference that somehow puts something into place, and it’s just because maybe we had an instinct about a character.

Konner:
There’s a lot of sort of buildup to the OCD story.

Dunham:
We didn’t know we were going to put in Hannah’s OCD, but we looked back at the first season, and Marnie’s like, “You have to masturbate eight times to make sure you don’t get diseases,” and I was like, Oh, thank god we put that in.

What have you all learned as writers working on Girls?

Yassir Lester:
I came from stand-up. The stuff that I’ve written was very much formulaic. It’d be like someone buying a piece of bread and then someone going, “You’re toast!” [Laughter.] But Girls is about taking chances. Like, in the season-three finale, where Laird is rambling for a minute and a half, and then Adam just goes, “Shut the fuck up.” I paused because I was crying so hard. I was laughing so hard. The idea that someone would be crazy enough to film that and then put it in the show was so amazing.

Sagher:
I’ve learned that if I write my emotional experience, and just go deeper instead of go broader, other people will watch it and connect to it.

Heyward:
When the show was first announced, I had a lot of friends who were jealous, like, “Why is this girl getting this?” I was just like, live one day working as hard as she does, and then we can talk, but no one I know does work that hard. One thing I’ve learned is that Girls is funny even though we don’t write traditional jokes on the show. There are things on Girls that make me crack up so hard, just as much as a joke on a traditional show.

Miller:
I remember jokes from this show more than hard-comedy jokes, for sure.

Do you think of them as jokes when you’re writing them?

Miller:
Yeah, definitely. It’s not formulaic. I started on multicamera comedies, and I was even handed a form that was like, “Here’s how the scenes break down.”

Do you have to get a certain number of jokes in on a show like that?

Miller:
They would say three jokes a page is about right. It was remarkable to learn that—“Oh, there are no rules.” You remember that there are no rules to writing. Something as basic as that, the show reminded me.

Dunham:
I used to believe jokes were somehow pandering, but Judd and Jenni helped me realize comedy is a universal language. There’s a reason we giggle at inappropriate times, use humor to survive, and there’s no shame in just making a fucking joke and seeing if it works.

Kaplan:
My favorite scenes have been ones where the characters were aching to express themselves: the Hannah-Marnie fight from the first season, the Jessa-Katherine scene from the same episode. The thing I am aware of constantly learning and relearning is getting out of the way of the characters.

Brockman:
I was 23 when I started [on Girls], and I wasn’t a writer on the show. I was an assistant. This seems obvious to me now, but I was so young that I don’t think I quite understood it then: The notion that the funniest idea is always the one that is the truest to the characters you’ve created.

Konner:
For the entire plotline where Hannah’s dad comes out — and the dinner party where their marriage falls apart — I had to tap into a different part of my brain that wasn’t trying to be seen as a 20-­something, but was trying to disappear, to forget, to just be erased by time. It’s weirdly personal despite being totally outside my experience.

Apatow:
The thing that I am almost most delighted by is that Lena loves when people have a good idea. Most people, when you have a good idea, seem kind of bummed that they didn’t think of a better idea before you pitched them the right idea. Lena really seems delighted to be the recipient of a great thought from anybody, and it sounds kind of obvious, but most creativity leads to a lot of battles about “What would this character do, and how do we fill this story hole?” I can’t think of any other place where I’ve worked where that’s the positive part of the show. I know a lot of people, when they hear ideas, they have a filter, and the filter is, Oh my God, I have to pick the idea. If I’m wrong, the episode will suck, and I will realize I’m not good at this, and I’ll hate myself. So as they listen to things, you can see in their eyes, they’re like, Am I about to ruin the show? And there’s all this bad energy in the creative process, and for that to be completely absent for Lena and Jenni, it makes you so excited to come up with ideas.

Heyward:
Definitely. And you can tell when someone’s delighted or not. She has no reason to fake it.

Apatow:
Also, to me the most amazing part to Lena getting famous, and having to deal with every weird aspect of fame and culture — being praised, being attacked — that through all of that, her work got stronger, she just got nicer, and she didn’t shut down emotionally. She didn’t get callous. She didn’t get bitter, the show got stronger, and people appreciate the show more and more as it lasts. That we’re actually finishing it, and the full story will be told, just seems like a miracle.

There was a lot of blowback to Girls, especially during the first season. Have you felt a difference in the public reaction throughout the course of the show?

Miller:
We don’t talk about what people write. I don’t know why.

Apatow:
It’s never affected their choices. They haven’t changed anything about what they do or what they think about the show from the criticism, which I find really impressive. Because it does climb in your head, but usually most of the criticism comes from people who aren’t getting the primary joke of the show, and I think as the characters evolve, some people jump back onboard when they see Lena’s grand plan of, Well, here’s how they’re evolving. She’s telling a story about being immature and how you change in your 20s.

The pilot’s so simple. It’s just “Give me money so I can do whatever I want,” and the parents say no. Then she does drugs, has sex with her boyfriend, and then says to her parents at the end, “Seriously, give me money so I can do whatever I want.” They say no again. End of pilot. That was the joke of the show about what’s going to happen to this person.

How does it feel for this to be the last season, when it’s been such a definitive part of your life?

Apatow:
It’s going to be awful for everyone because it’s such a very positive thing that you return to all the time in your life. It’s all good. There’s no downside to it. So to have it removed from your daily existence is going to be brutal. [Laughter.]

Miller:
We’ve worked for two Oprahs. We really have. I don’t know what Oprah’s like in real life, but my impression of what Oprah would be like is what they’re like.

Sagher:
We’ve all gotten to be Gayle, which seems like the best life.

This conversation has been edited and condensed.

The Girls Writers Room on Angry Exes, Landing a Sex Scene