Girls Finale: Showrunner Jenni Konner Talks Season 3 and What’s Next

Jenni Konner Photo: Anthony Harvey/2014 Getty Images

Girls’ season three finale sure made it look like Hannah will choose her career over her relationship, which was a real sign of growth when you compare it with last season, which ended with Adam heroically pulling her out of a harmful OCD spiral. But what happens next? Can that growth continue? Is she really moving to Iowa? (Maybe!) And what about the episode’s other explosions? To recap: Marnie went after Desi, Shoshanna found out she wasn’t graduating, and Jessa agreed to help Beadie die, only to have her change her mind at the very last minute. Vulture spoke to Girls showrunner Jenni Konner Monday morning about all things season three — from Hannah and Adam’s durability as a couple to Marnie’s musical ability — and what’s coming up next season. Given all his upcoming movie roles, will Adam Driver even be around?

The University of Iowa’s Writers Workshop is a two-year residency. Anyone watching the show would expect for Hannah to either not enroll, or be enrolled for a very limited amount of time. Was her acceptance in the program — and that last smile after her blowup with Adam — meant to be a cliff-hanger of any kind?
Nope. I don’t think it’s a cliff-hanger. It’s not meant to be that ambiguous. That’s what she wants to be.

So we should assume she’s going to go? She looked pretty excited, and not pining at all for Adam.
I’m not gonna tell you what to assume, but when she clutches that letter, I think she’s saying, “This is what I’m going to be doing. This is my choice.” But you know, you never know with Hannah.

Did you know from the beginning of writing this season that Hannah would get this offer, and then work backwards to show how her life had become more stable professionally and personally, if not creatively fulfilling?
I don’t remember when we came up with it, but one of our writers [Sarah Heyward] went to the Iowa’s Writers Workshop, so we’ve been talking about it for years. I don’t think we knew exactly when we’d do it, but we hinted at it when Hannah tells Shoshanna she’s been applying to grad school every year. We were giving ourselves that option. Because Hannah’s a writer and because Sarah went to Iowa, we’ve been talking about that idea for so long. It was only a matter of time. [Laughs.]

What makes it fertile ground?
We always thought it would be really interesting to see Hannah amongst other writers. We always assumed she was probably admired at Oberlin because she has a lot of confidence as a writer. You assume she had a professor or peers there encouraging her. We just wanted to see her in the context of other writers, and I’ve also always thought graduate school is this rich, academic world where people speak differently and think differently. Their whole job is to create. It just changes who you are when you’re there. 

We saw Hannah around other writers this season, too, albeit ones who had “settled.” Was that an intentional parallel? 
I can’t remember how seriously we tried to do that, but this year was about what would become of her writing. What happens if Hannah gets a real job? Will she become the person who says she’s gonna write on weekends but can’t?

Adam Driver’s movie career is taking off. He’s going to be in the next Martin Scorsese film, Silence, shooting this summer, and also reportedly in the next Star Wars film, which begins filming in May. In the writing of season four, how much are you banking on him being around?
Oh, we bank on him being around. We plan on having him around and I can’t really comment on his movie career because I’m not his agent.

At the beginning of this season, Lena told us that if you are into Adam and Hannah as a couple, you probably have some daddy issues.
That’s funny.

But seriously, what do you think of Hannah and Adam as a couple? Do you think they are built to last?
I actually think they’re a pretty incredible couple because to me the way to be happy in a relationship is to continue to grow, and they both seem willing to do that. They’re really trying to grow for each other and change. We’ve seen so much growth from Adam. In “Role-Play,” it didn’t work out terrifically, but that was Hannah trying to keep things exciting in their relationship, and that was him saying, “Well, that’s not what I need from you.” To me, that’s pretty good communication even though it ended ambiguously. 

Do you see these girls as maturing? Except for Jessa, they all do very selfish things in the finale.
I do feel like they are maturing in some way. I don’t think that maturity definitely means growing out of a self-centeredness, especially at that age. But I think they are growing and changing. In some ways, I think Marnie’s relationship with Ray was really a maturing on her part, allowing herself to be with someone who she never could have seen herself with a couple of years ago.

Shoshanna is kind of growing up, but I feel like she’s the most lost of them.
I think that’s right. She started out the season with the most definitive plan and then, as we all know, God laughs when you make a plan. Commitment and direction and hard work doesn’t mean you will get everything you want.

One thing this season did was to show how the girls have really drifted apart. The stories of Shoshanna and Jessa and even Marnie did not overlap with Hannah’s so much. Shoshanna and Jessa’s stories were much less of a focus this year than in seasons past. Was that by design?
It wasn’t intentional to have people drift apart, but we’ve always said we want to present relationships as they truly are. That includes drifting apart, especially with people who may have been your friends directly after college. But these girls float in and out of each other’s lives all the time, and probably always will.

On Marc Maron’s “WTF” podcast, Lena said she feels like she has more in common with old people than young — “I feel 75 inside myself,” she said. Hannah’s not wanting to compromise feels very young, whereas people who have been in a career for a while know you can’t be so precious. One has bills to pay! Do you and Lena see that idea of “compromising” differently? What do you think of that attitude now versus when you were in your 20s?
We have to remember this is Hannah, so it’s different than Lena. Hannah doesn’t have a mortgage; she doesn’t have a family. I think she should be trying to stick to her principles. She’s 25 — why should she have to work in advertorial at GQ if she doesn’t want to? If she feels like it’s killing her soul? I mean, she’s not on the street making those choices, but that is a great time to try and make those choices and really stick to your guns about what it is you wanna do and who you want to be.

Why did Hannah walk in on Ray? Did she recognize Marnie’s voice, or was she just being the nosiest? 
I think she heard moaning and recognized it as Marnie. She was next door to Marnie having sex with Charlie enough times. It sounded familiar. The thing about Marnie is that she smells like vanilla and you can smell her a million miles away. We had a couple of references to that. She smelled a hint of Marnie as well.

Do you think Marnie is a good singer? Or is she someone who should not be indulged beyond karaoke nights?
I think Marnie has a beautiful, beautiful voice and can really sing and occasionally makes really poor choices about what she should be singing. When she sings “Stronger,” it wasn’t a joke. It wasn’t a jokey version. But sometimes her earnestness with her singing can hurt her in the long run. But I definitely think that Marnie has a great voice. The show’s point of view is that Marnie can sing.

How did Louise Lasser come up as someone the writers wanted on the show? And was the character of Beadie based on anyone?
We wanted Louise for that role always. She’s someone Lena and I have admired forever. Both of us have really strong connections to Mary Hartman, Mary Hartman, so when we had this idea for Beadie, we were in our third season and were like, “What’s our dream?” And we got it. There are not very many people who affect Jessa. It’s hard to get to her. It’s easy to provoke her but it’s not that easy to have her admire you, or trust you. So the idea was to create a character like that. We wanted to keep it in the art world because we wanted to have it be someone Jessa would admire and it felt natural to have it be a visual artist who had had her moment already. 

She had that line quoted everywhere after last week’s episode: “I hate watching television because all the old women are shells, and it just hurts to be a shell.” Was that provoked by anything specific the writers saw recently?
That came from Louise. We did a couple of rehearsals with her and a couple of meetings with her. She didn’t say it necessarily like that — I can’t remember exactly if she was talking about herself or if she was pitching ideas for Beadie. But when she said it, Lena and I were both horrified and amazed in the way only writers can be — it was the worst thing we’d ever heard and also the best dialogue we’d ever heard.

The older female guest stars this season were uniformly excellent — Lasser, but also in “Flo,” June Squibb, Becky Ann Baker, Amy Morton, and Deirdre Lovejoy. Can you talk about wanting to feature older generations?
That was born out of Lena’s life at that moment. Her grandmother was sick and she had spent some time with her aunts and her mother. I would say in general we love the idea. We’re always trying to push the ball forward for women, and that age group — 50s, 60s, 70s — is the most underutilized age group and the most mind-blowingly talented group of people. The list of actresses who were available who could have done it — we got our top choices, but, oh my God, every other choice was incredible too. There are a lot of really, really good actors at that age not working enough. 

Andrew Rannells’s Elijah is such a source of comedy as a recurring guest star on the show. The reveal of his suit shorts …
Those were written into the script! If it’s an outfit that that’s specific, you’ll find it’s often in the stage directions. There are very detailed descriptions of people’s outfits. 

How are things going to change for that character now that Andrew is a series regular? Are things going to get more dramatic for him?
We’re just starting on the fourth season, but our intention when we got him as a regular was, Okay, now we get to really use Andrew in the way we want to with no reservations and no limitations.

Adam was not happy that Hannah kicked Caroline (Gaby Hoffmann) out of the apartment. Now she’s back, she’s pregnant, and she’s even living in the same building with Laird. Why did she resurface now and in this way? Will she be back next season?
The idea was we’re going to show you the craziest person we’ve seen all season and she’s going to be doing better than you. [Laughs.] Whether or not she will be back, that has a lot to do with scheduling. Gaby’s in Transparent now. But there’s no bigger dream than working with Gaby and Jon Glaser, so fingers crossed.

Girls Showrunner Jenni Konner Talks Season 3