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Gaby Hoffmann on Getting Two Emmy Nominations, Her Obsession With Childbirth, and Why She Finds Awards Shows Uncomfortable

Photo: Jenna Blake/Corbis

As the 2015 Emmy Awards approach (September 20), Vulture reached out to some of the nominees to talk about the episodes they submitted for consideration. Today, two-time nominee Gaby Hoffmann talks about her entries for Transparent and Girls, for which she was nominated for Outstanding Supporting Actress in a Comedy and Outstanding Guest Actress in a Comedy, respectively. Hoffmann spoke about her two entries — “Rollin,” for Transparent; and “Home Birth,” for Girls — her obsession with childbirth, and her discomfort with awards shows.

How did you pick “Rollin”? As Ali, you had so many great choices.
Oh God. I think I asked somebody else to choose it. The whole Emmys thing leaves me somewhat paralyzed. I find it all very bizarre. I’m not quite comfortable with this idea of picking an episode to try to sell yourself so that people can vote for you. I don’t quite believe in the competitive aspect of it. It’s really wonderful that the show is getting recognized and celebrated, and it’s truly flattering that my peers are making their statements, but I don’t quite do well in the realm of self-promotion. It’s a little bit weird to be asked to choose work so that in some weird version of the world I try to win an award. I wish we could all get together and celebrate together and toast and dance. I wish there didn’t have to be a competition and all this strange stuff that goes along with it.

What do you remember about filming that episode? What did you want bring to your performance?
It was such a fun episode. And I love that scene with Tigran [Jack Topalian] in the car. It’s beautifully edited and nicely done. Filming the car ride was so much fun. Jill [Soloway] was in the trunk, like, huddled in the back of the SUV, calling out lines and ideas. The whole thing was more or less improvised between her and me in the moment. We drove around West Hollywood for what felt like hours. I felt under the influence. And time just seemed to slow down, and we were all just giggling. It was truly fun. It felt like guerrilla filmmaking. It was very intimate and very collaborative — like it always is on our set.

It’s been a huge year for the LGBT community. Do you think Transparent was perfectly timed, or did it serve as a catalyst for change?
I think it’s one of those Zeitgeist-y things. There’s a paradigm shift happening, and we are not the cause of it or a product of it. We’re just a part of it. Everything is informing everything else. In my experience, that’s just how things happen in the world. There’s a superconsciousness I believe in, and things come in concert and harmony when the world is ready for it. Jill, because of her own personal narrative, happened to be tapping into something herself in her own life, and creatively. But the world was also ready to come to it. I certainly think Transparent has been instrumental in this incredible new wave of awareness, but, certainly, it had already begun.

As for your Girls episode, it was a very memorable one. You were really pregnant and naked in that bathtub.
That was really, really fun for me. I have been obsessed with birth for years. I was eight months pregnant, so I was about to give birth myself. I had a home birth in my real life. My whole story arc with Girls is a funny life-imitating-art-imitating-life-imitating-art [thing] because I got pregnant on the show before I was pregnant in real life. Then I am pregnant in real life, and I’m having a home birth on the show just before I have a home birth in real life.

I was so excited about giving birth. I had been looking forward to it for a decade. I’ve been to many births. I was so excited about the dry run of giving birth on Girls that my boyfriend was actually concerned that I was going to get so into it that I was going to bring on early labor. I had been shooting Transparent all summer and hiding my belly. I was hugely pregnant shooting the first season, and constantly having to sit differently, hunch my shoulders, walk funny, and wear big sweaters.

How did you find out about your two nominations?
We were in bed in the morning, playing with our daughter, and my phone was in the other room, and it just kept going off, and going off, and going off, and I thought, Shit, maybe they need me to come into work today. I better go see what that is.

I opened it up, and there was a text from a number I didn’t know, because I had just gotten a new phone, saying, “Congratulations.” I thought, I don’t know who this person is, but I guess they just found out that I had a baby. And then I thought, How weird, there’s, like, 100 other texts. What the hell is going on? Then my phone rang and it was my manager, saying, “I told you so!” And I still had no idea. I was truly not clued in.

And I thought, I need to get a cup of coffee before I can even contemplate what this means. It’s hard to talk about this without sounding like a jerk because, of course, I am very, very, very grateful to have such amazing jobs and play these incredible parts and get celebrated for it. I’m very grateful. It’s just the status stuff about the Emmys — that’s where my response is coming from. It’s so arbitrary. There are so many amazing performances that aren’t even in the ballpark of getting recognized. For whatever reason, it’s me. And there’s something about it to me that undermines the very nature of what we’re trying to do, which is to make art and be collaborative and open each other’s hearts.

Gaby Hoffmann on Her Two Emmy Nominations