In this week’s episode of Girls, Loreen Horvath responded to news of her daughter’s pregnancy by eating too many cannabis gummy worms, and telling Hannah that looking at her baby will remind her of her own death.
That’s probably not the way most women react when they’re told they’re going to be a grandmother. But Loreen Horvath, played by Becky Ann Baker, has never done what’s typical.
During a lunch break from rehearsals of Eugene O’Neill’s The Hairy Ape, a production that will soon debut at the Park Avenue Armory in New York, Baker took some time to reflect on “Gummies,” Sunday’s episode of Girls. She also spoke about her experience as Loreen, a character she’s so close to that she refers to her in the first person; motherhood; Freaks and Geeks, another Judd Apatow-produced series on which she played a mom; and what it’s like to eat that many (non-pot) gummies in a day.
When did you personally find out that Hannah’s pregnancy would be written into the show, and what was your reaction?
I didn’t know anything about it until I received that script [for “Gummies”]. It wasn’t like they gave us a heads-up or anything. But it was great because it was a surprise, and I feel like I took it like Loreen would have taken it, which is like: oh my God, what is this going to mean? What kind of mother is she going to be, you know? As a grandmother, it was a really nice surprise as well. I mean, not that I’m a grandmother yet, but to think of [Loreen] as a grandmother I felt like I was adding family instead of being left, as I have been by my husband.
When you got the script for this week’s episode, did you just start licking your chops? There’s some great, meaty stuff in there for you.
Oh, yeah. I couldn’t wait to do the whole getting high with the gummy worms. The only thing was you shoot over and over again, and I was eating a lot of gummy worms. So I asked for them to be the sugar-free [kind], not knowing that a lot of the sugar-free candy works as a laxative. There’s a property in it that I forgot, or I never knew [about]. So that was an interesting experience, because we had been shooting all day eating those worms.
How many gummy worms do you estimate that you ate?
Oh my God. A lot because we’re doing the whole laundry scene, and you’re shooting it — you’re doing close-ups, you’re doing long shots. So in the course of the scene, I probably only ate three. But per shot, I probably, by the end of the day, had had a full-on bag of them. I mean, like a good-sized bag of them, which I didn’t know until a little later was not that good for you.
In that laundromat scene, Loreen has this monologue about how she loved being pregnant with Hannah, but feels really alone now that her husband is in this relationship and Hannah’s grown up. In terms of how to play that, did you try to come at it from different angles in each take?
Yeah, I think you always learn from the take before, and you’re always kind of growing with it. I also think Loreen — I had found myself in a position I had never thought I’d be in. I was very comfortable with my life and my marriage, and things kind of explode. There’s a really interesting point to almost this whole season, in a way: that things don’t always work out the way you think. This episode in particular is where I really come to terms with that.
I mean, I don’t do it in a very healthy way. That’s what I’m fighting with with the gummy worms and exploring Weight Watchers, and I think now, what’s my future going to be? I’ve got to lose weight so that I’m at least attractive to someone else possibly in my life. It’s just a really tough spot for someone — and it doesn’t even have to be with a woman or a man my age whose spouse has left them. I think a large number of people find themselves in this position at a certain age, that their life has just not turned out the way they thought it was going to. So I thought it was a really interesting life lesson to explore. Really wonderful writing. I can never say enough about the writers. I just think it’s some of the best writing in television.
There’s almost a button on that scene, where Hannah keeps saying, “Well, you’ll meet someone,” and you get right up in her face and say, “Stop fucking saying that.” It’s a little scary the way that comes out of her mouth.
I agree. I think what’s happened in that scene, in the back of my mind — I’m speaking as Loreen — of course, I’m hoping I’ll meet someone in the way that Tad has, that my life won’t be just this empty, huge vacuum. But I think that anger comes from [the fact that] there is a lot of doubt that that ever will happen for me. I think that’s a horrifying thought: that I’m going to spend the rest of my life alone. In my mind, that’s a lot of time. I feel like I’m pretty young and healthy for my age, and now what? I have no idea what’s ahead. I think it’s just terrifying for people to reach that point.
It’s also particularly condescending to hear it from your daughter.
Right. Exactly. And I’m supposed to take advice from her? When all along I have not seen the kind of adult growth that I thought I would from my child?
The other thing I found really truthful about that scene is that Loreen confirms that Hannah’s kind of naive in that, like a lot of women, she thinks the pregnancy part is going to be so hard. But the really hard stuff is what comes after.
Absolutely. It’s interesting because I have a daughter who’s turning 24 this month, so I’ve always had this great example to work with on the show, with a daughter who’s reasonably the same age. When they’re born, in many ways, that’s the easy part. You can dress them and shape them and do all these wonderful things. But then they grow up; and they have opinions; and they have other hormonal and chemistry shifts — things that there’s no book on. You can’t just pick up What to Expect When You’re Expecting and find out what to do.
Certainly, thinking of Hannah being pregnant is a mixed blessing. To be honest, I don’t know what kind of mother she’s going to be. I think that’s a pretty big point, for Loreen and everybody.
Although Loreen doesn’t ever say that to her. She makes a point of not saying it. It’s Elijah who says that.
Right. I think we’ll all wait and see. Let’s hope she grows with this pregnancy and this baby. It’s interesting because my niece — well, a couple of my nieces have had babies recently — but one I’m very close to and lives here in New York City, it’s so interesting to have gone from knowing her as a baby and now watching her as a good mother. She’s such a nurturer. It’s fascinating to watch these kids that you watched grow up then become parents and keep going forward.
Do your nieces and your daughter watch Girls?
They do. My daughter was in college for a lot of the first seasons. She said that when she watched the shower scene in season one, she didn’t just turn it off when she saw me naked, which I had warned her about. She literally fled the room. She said: “Mom, I just ran.” You don’t think of these things when you’re doing it as an actor, but, yeah. There were a lot of surprises for her along the way.
I mentioned Elijah before — I love every time you have a scene with Andrew Rannells.
I agree. We have so much fun together, I can’t tell you.
Is that something that you just discovered, that you had this fun chemistry in scenes, and they started writing to that?
Andrew’s just so gifted. He popped up in a scene or two where I was back visiting Hannah, and it just all seemed to work out that way. So, yeah, I think chemistry was built along the way. We’re both New York City theater actors, and I’ve gone to see him in several things, and he’s the greatest guy. I think a lot of that shows up with it.
In addition to eating all those gummy worms, you also get to vomit in this episode.
Yes! So much fun. We got that in one take, I’m happy to say.
What was the vomit, if I may ask?
It was a combination of oatmeal, and then they put a lot of coloring in it. It doesn’t taste as disgusting as it looks. It’s just a combination of oatmeal and things that — I have no idea, but literally we did it in one take, and we never had to do it again, so you fill up to get that one good take in there.
Right after you have that devastating line, “Every time I look at your baby, I’ll see my own death,” the way you spit up it’s almost the way a baby spits up, right down the front of your shirt.
Oh, that’s a great point. I never thought of that. In my mind, it was about just how many drugs I had taken that day. And those gummy worms.
So you’ve shot your last scene of Girls at this point.
Oh, yeah. They had the whole fall to put it all together, so we wrapped in — I think the last thing we shot was in early September.
What was it like doing your final scene for the show?
Oh, it was devastating. It really was. Because the crew has stuck together so well. We’ve had six seasons with mostly the same crew, the same cameramen and sound people and AVs. It was the kind of job here in New York where no one wanted to ever leave that job. We would put things aside, no matter what we had to do, to make sure we got back on that crew. It was the cast, but it was everybody — our producers — that made it especially tough. I have to say, I can’t even imagine a better job on television. Definitely my best job on television ever.
I loved doing Freak and Geeks, and I love other things I’ve done, but this was really unique.
What made it unique?
I think the fact that the writing was so good and so smart and so ahead of its time, sending up an entire generation, and liking what it is about that generation that’s so unique. You know, just a great group of people, great producers and Lena — I can’t say enough about Lena. I just think it was every element. Nothing was ever overlooked or shoddy. It was a very well cared for show.
On Freaks and Geeks and this show, you play a mom. And a lot of times, people stereotype the mom characters, as if there isn’t going to be anything interesting about this woman because she’s a mom. But I think both of those moms are really interesting.
And so different from each other. One was that kind of classic mom who’d grown up in the ’50s and was, you know, just the perfect nurturing mom. And then poor Loreen, who was just very self-involved as well. In many ways, she’s as self-involved as the millennials. I told Judd he has to come up with one more. Good things come in threes.
If Jean Weir and Loreen Horvath got together to, let’s say, have dumplings, would they have anything to talk about?
I can’t imagine what they’d have in common. Maybe a love of good books or something. But really, I just can’t imagine those two women in the same room. One’s baking cookies, and one is definitely not. It’s a funny idea, actually.