Girls is not particularly kind to any of its male characters, but no one has it harder than Charlie, Marnie’s puppy-dog ex-boyfriend. His new girlfriend — a headband-loving mustard entrepeneur, played by Audrey Gelman — is as mean as his ex; his band hasn’t played a gig in months; and as the latest episode proves, he’s still in love with Marnie. It’s rough out there for a nice guy. But Christopher Abbott, who plays the beleaguered Charlie, has hope for him yet — and if the Marnie thing doesn’t work out, he has plans for a spinoff. Vulture spoke with Abbott about his revenge plots, the dinner-party debacle, and whether a Charlie–Marnie reconciliation could ever work.
The last time we spoke to you, you told Vulture that you hadn’t read any of the Girls press. Is that still true?
Well, no. It’s obviously gotten more popular, and even just the interviews that I’ve done for it, people have brought it up. So I’m aware of it in that way.
Have you thought about the criticisms at all?
No, I try not to dwell on it. As big as it’s gotten, it’s just one of the jobs that I do.
Your character’s circumstances have changed a lot, but he still seems like kind of a pushover. Do you worry about him?
I don’t really worry about it, because it’s not me. It’s a character. The point of the show as a whole is to put these situations out there. People make mistakes and do stupid things. Unless you do that, and unless you do it honestly, there’s really no point.
Do you think it’s believable that he’d let Marnie sleep in his bed?
Yeah. Even technically speaking, for the sake of a TV show that is only twenty-something minutes, you have to get certain ideas across. There’s also gotta be something to grab onto. Charlie is a catalyst for a lot of things that happen on the show.
Do you also think he’d tell his new girlfriend?
How about this: Do you personally support that decision?
You know, it’s hard. I don’t know. I guess maybe not. Maybe he needs to keep his mouth shut. But again, that’s the fun of it, that you get to live through terrible situations like that.
It’s fun to live through terrible situations?
Well, I consider myself not crazy, so I know it’s not real. You know, that’s one of those situations that if I were to go through it in real life, I would learn from it. So at least I can vicariously do that and not have to do it myself.
Charlie gets yelled at a lot on the show by both women. Do you ever want to stick up for him?
Yeah. If there was another character I could play on the show, which I think is impossible, I think I would. But the show is always evolving, and even in the first season, there were moments when Charlie got to fight back a little bit. He, along with everyone else on the show, is still fairly young and growing. Hopefully there will be some sort of retribution.
Do you have any dream revenge plots for Charlie?
I do, I do, but they will never happen. I would love for Charlie to be some sort of a spy.
I would’ve gone with “date a loving woman,” but go on.
Yours is probably more realistic. Mine’ll take eighteen seasons or so. No, I’m actually just kidding. I do feel like he’s growing, so I agree with you. Maybe he’ll fight back a little more.
He’s in a band, he’s cute, he has success with women. On paper, he’s doing everything right, and still the show seems so brutal to him. Are nice people just not rewarded on this show?
No. I think they are. It’s less thematic and more character-driven in that sense. This thing about Charlie, he kind of has tunnel vision for Marnie. All these good things that he does, they’re happening to him, but he doesn’t see it. He has a smaller perspective in that sense.
Let’s talk about the dinner party. Who was in the wrong there?
I don’t know. I guess it’s bold of Charlie to bring Audrey in a place where Marnie would probably show up.
That sounds like a very Charlie thing to say, actually. Very thoughtful.
But the other side of it is that maybe there’s an overreaction from Marnie. I think everyone’s kind of in the wrong on that one.
Does Charlie even want to be with Audrey anymore?
I think there’s a necessity to it, probably. Whether it’s wrong for him or not, I think it’s important that he’s expanding his world and not just having that tunnel vision for one girl. Whether or not the relationship with Audrey affects the relationship with Marnie, whether they get back together or are good friends or not, it’s important for the growth.
Do you believe that he and Marnie could get back together in a healthy way?
It’s hard to say. I think in some situations, people can learn and grow from them and continue on with them. In other ways, people can learn from them, but they need to learn from it in the time they lived in. So without giving it away, the truth is it absolutely could. Whether it does or not, I don’t know.