the vulture transcript

Girls’ Jemima Kirke on Her Abortion Episode, Her Mismatched Breasts, and the Race Thing

Jemima Kirke. Photo: Stephen Lovekin/Getty Images

On Sunday’s Girls, Hannah wondered what happens to the stuff that gets up “around the side of condoms,” Marnie continued to have bad sex with wimpy Charlie, Shoshanna was still a virgin and acting like one, and all three characters eventually wound up at an abortion clinic, waiting for Jessa to show up for her “procedure.” Only Jessa never showed, because her period arrived while she was hooking up with a guy at a bar, and who needs an abortion when you’ve got menstruation? Vulture spoke with Jemima Kirke, who plays the group’s bad girl, about the story line, her mismatched breasts, and why, unlike her character, she settled down young. 

So you had a baby just before you started shooting Girls.
No, I didn’ t … Oh, yes, I did. Six weeks before we started, I think.

It must feel so far away at this point.
Having the baby? Yeah. For some reason, everything feels far away. [Laughs.] It does. In both directions. Um, yeah, I had the baby six weeks before and she came to set with me every day for the pilot.

In the New York article you said, “My vagina still hurts.”
[Laughs.] Yeah, exactly. It did! And my tits were so big and my waist! There was no waistline yet. And I just was so unhappy getting into those clothes. That was not fun. Because most women who just had a baby don’t have to … are allowed to wear their leggings for another three months. You know, I wasn’t.

I can’t imagine you’re the type who would start working out like a maniac right after having a baby, either.
No. I haven’t done that … yet. [laughs] I mean, I have worked out. I’ve always worked out a little, you know, when I felt it was, like … time. [Laughs.] Just to get on an elliptical. But, no, I don’t. I mean, I’ve considered it. Obviously I’ve been like, “Maybe? I’m on TV. Allison Williams is looking really skinny and Lena’s, like, lost a ton of weight, and Zosia’s always, like, tiny. Maybe I should.” And then I’m just like, [groans] “I love eating with my family and I love eating Reese’s at night and watching American Idol. I can’t.” That’s actually more important to me than the show, eating with my family. [Laughs.]

Has Lena lost a ton of weight?
I think so. I think just because she’s been working really hard. I don’t think it’s much of an effort. I’m sure some, just because every girl wants to lose a little when they’re on camera, for their prom, or whatever. And, uh, yeah, she has a little. She looks great.

What most people think is great about the show is that she doesn’t seem to care one way or another.
Yeah, yeah, I think she doesn’t. I think what it is is she probably does have issues with her body, or has in the past had some deep issues with it and, creatively, this is what she’s manifested: This openness about her body. But really, what it was is issues and troubles and then writing about it, you know, and sort of using it creatively. [Laughs.] You know what I mean? So I wouldn’t assume that she’s always been fine with it. I think now, ultimately, she is. But I think she wouldn’t have been able to get to this point of comfortability without, you know, some challenges.

I hear everyone overshares in the pitch meetings. Have you pitched a story line from your life?
No, Lena’s pitched story lines from my own life. [Laughs.]

Like what?
I don’t know. Not anything I want to talk about. [laughs] I mean, I’ve pitched things that I would like to do. You know, like, I always wanted to work at a restaurant and I never did. And I was like, “Lena, can you get me to work at a restaurant?” So there’s things that I wanted to do, you know.

Your character’s going to work at a restaurant?
No. [Laughs.] She’s not at all. Lena’s like [sarcastically], “Yeeaaaaaaah. Sounds amazing. Great idea.”

Why is that a dream of yours?
I don’t know. I guess when you’re an artist — painting, let’s say, because I’m a painter — your schedule is so flexible and you are your own boss, and although that sounds very liberating and fun to make up your own schedule, there’s actually times when I kind of like crave this nine-to-five general accountability and I want to just get there and not be special and do my job. And that’s kind of what appealed to me about doing this show. It’s just like you’re a spoke in the wheel. You’re not that special. You’re coming to work at this time and this time, and that was a turn-on to me. And a restaurant is like the ultimate thing for me. It’s, like, irreplaceable. Kind of show up, do your job, do it well. You know what I mean? It’s like, do fucking service! I mean, get real! Painting, yes, I could make an argument about how I’m doing service to the world, but I’m not, like, serving people food, which I would like to do. [Laughs.]

You had a baby right before your character has a story line about an abortion. Was that on purpose?
I don’t think so.

How did the dichotomy feel?
It felt fine. I mean, I’ve done both. I’ve had a baby. I’ve had an abortion. So, uh, it felt fine. Totally natural. I didn’t have any harsh feelings about it. I was like, “Yeah, this is what happens.” And actually, I didn’t even associate the two. I didn’t even think about it.

The episode also sidesteps the abortion debate because she doesn’t have to have one in the end.
Well, I think what’s important in that episode is not the abortion itself. It’s the feelings and the actions around the abortion, and the different emotions it brings up in people. That’s where Lena excels, the moments before and after, the in-betweens. You know, not the big stuff. And she finds the big stuff in the discussion, not in the act of it.

Have you heard about the anti-abortion movie October Baby that was No. 8 at the box office?
No. No. 8? Really? [Feigning being impressed.]

It’s a gauzy teen anti-abortion tale about a teenager who is a “survivor” of a botched abortion and now has all kinds of medical problems. It’s doing well.
Well, I think there are more people who are anti than for it. I haven’t heard of it.

Your character is the bad girl of the series, but you seem to be the most stable.
The more stable of all the other girls? [Laughs.] Is that what you’re saying? Yeah, I mean I have all the pieces. I’m the one who has all the pieces that you’re supposed to have at the end of your life, which is house, baby, husband, or whatever.

You’re a property owner, too? That’s exciting.
I mean, I live in a house. I have the house. It’s just bigger than their houses, probably, because I have more people to fit. That’s all. Yeah, you know what? I think I did a lot of really stupid stuff really quickly in my twenties and that sort of led me to want to sort of just relax a little bit. Relax a lot. I was just like, “I’m over this shit. That was hell.” So I quickly settled down.

Which of the awkward scenarios in the first three episodes do you relate to most?
Let me think … I don’t know. The scenarios — I can’t think which one I relate to, because I can’t say I’ve been in many of them. But the feelings I can definitely relate to, and the feelings of knowing how to act and you think you’re so fucking cool and you think you have it all figured out, and yet inside you’re like, You are so much better than me and you have no idea, because I’m so good at pretending that I feel differently.

How do you react to the criticism that the show doesn’t have people of color?
[Nods in agreement.] I know.

And that it’s this rarefied white hipster chronicle?
I mean, I kind of get it. I get it. I totally get it. It’s true, this isn’t every girl. This isn’t … the title is misleading because it’s not all girls. This is a very specific demographic. You know, we’re not talking about girls living in projects, which there are millions. We’re not talking about, you know, girls who live on the Upper East Side with, like, loaded parents who have no idea how to leave home. You know? There are all kinds, and we’re just a very specific … We’re not the average. So I get it. I don’t think there’s any sense in getting mad at it; it’s just a show. It’s just a show about this type of girl. And I think when it claims to be something else, it’s a mistake, but that’s what it is.

I noticed reading the New York article that every cast member is the daughter of someone prominent.
I know. It looks really bad. [Laughs.] It looks terrible. Come on! It looks shitty. I don’t think that was on purpose. I think that was a mistake. And let’s face it, Lena’s a daughter of someone who’s connected to kind of a world of celebrity, and so she’s naturally going to have friends who are in similar situations, and that’s who she reached out to. She reached into, you know, people that she knew, people that she understood and that she could relate to, because that’s what she was writing about, people with similar feelings.

There’s something about your parents being successful artists that may be the only way someone like Lena could feel capable of starting her own TV show.
Yeah, exactly. That’s probably true. She probably has some built-in confidence that she got. Her parents probably told her she could do anything.

You went to St. Ann’s high school together. Was it obvious that Lena was going to do something like this?
Not like this. It was obvious that Lena was gonna do something. Like maybe write for Marie Claire or something. [Laughs.] That’s kind of how it seemed.

No, Marie Clarie or kind of, she might write some column like, “Ask Lena Dunham.” I don’t know. [Laughs.] I didn’t think she’d do this [show]. It just didn’t come to mind.

Where do you want Jemima to go? What do you want to see happen to her?
I want lots of kids and I want a garden and I hope to stay married to my husband and I hope to be working in some way that fulfills me.

Um, and what about your character? Where would you like to see her go?
Did you mean to ask that originally? [Laughs.]

Um, yes. [Laughs.] As you were answering, I was like, “Oh, shit. Wrong name.”
[Laughs.] That’s really funny. Where would I like to see her go? I don’t know. Something really traumatic and messy so I can do that. Maybe I’d like to see her at some point just go off to Nigeria, so I can go and do my other stuff. [Laughs]

How long did you live off your parents?
Dude, I’m still living off my parents. I don’t know. I’m still living off my parents.

They haven’t had the talk with you.
No, they’ve had many talks with me. But that was, like, the least of it. [Laughs.] They were like, “Let’s address that when she’s stable enough.” [Laughs.] No, I’m not living off my parents anymore. That’s a joke. I think it took me until … This show! What the fuck am I talking about? Are you kidding me? The best thing about this show for me was I got independence. I’m busy.

Are you going to get naked on the show?
[Shrugs.] Probably. I mean, Lena’s probably gonna write it for me. I think I’d like to, only because my body is, like, is not necessarily … aspirational. You know what I mean? It’s got flaws and it’s also got some nice things about it. It’s average and it’s also not so average and it’s kind of weird. There are weird spots about it and I hope, I would like to see that on TV, like someone with boobs that are just … one’s so different. You know, that would be really nice to see the main part of one show be something that … you know, not someone who’s really fat or really something. But just someone who’s got those things that some girls hate about their bodies.

Like what?
One of my boobs literally looks like it’s from another set of tits. And I love it! I really like it. I used to go topless around the house and I remember there was this guy and he was like, “Your boobs are so different. It’s awesome!” And he was older, too, and I was just like, “Thanks!” And I always remember that. His name was Sam Koppelman. That was awesome.

You want to name him in this article?
I think he’d love that if I gave him a shout-out. He was a friend of my sister’s. I come from a family of all women and one boy, my brother. We’re all women and we’re all precocious and opinionated and like to have fun and we always had friends in the house and we were always, like, half-naked. So, yeah, there was this guy and he said that. I took it as a really big compliment because he said it with such admiration.

Girls’ Jemima Kirke on Her Abortion Episode