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2 YEARS

'Girls' Star Allison Williams Can Never Think of Duncan Sheik the Same Way Again

The actress talks to THR about her enduring love for "Barely Breathing," trying to out-weird "MacGruber" and what kind of storyline could reunite her with Adam Driver.

Alison Williams Girls Season 2 Episodic - H 2013
Jessica Miglio/HBO

The sophomore season of Girls has hardly been kind to Allison Williams' character. Marnie is unemployed, newly single, on the outs with her best friend -- and recently locked in a closet of televisions, listening to Duncan Sheik's "Barely Breathing" on loop.

Fortunately for Williams, the unfortunate fictional turn has allowed for some of the season's more bizarre exchanges. The Hollywood Reporter recently caught up with the actress, and she sounded off on Marnie's sometimes frustrating fall from grace, acting alongside her character's real-life inspiration and trying to out-weird MacGruber sex scenes with the film's writer-director.

The Hollywood Reporter: How much time did you spend shooting inside that closet of televisions?
Allison Williams:
We actually filmed the segment of me inside the booth about two months after we filmed the part of me outside the booth. We built the interior TV booth torture chamber on our sound stage like months after we shot the exterior shots. I’d say I spent probably a total of only an hour inside that booth. I’m just really lucky I don’t have any issues with claustrophobia.

THR: Or sensory overload.
Williams: When you're little you noticed that TVs emit this weird sort of static-y sound, but when you’re surrounded by about 50 of them it’s an almost deafening. I just thought it was so perfectly done in terms of Booth’s [Jorma Taccone] character.

THR: And Duncan Sheik probably wasn't on repeat while actually filming?
Williams: He wasn’t, but I obviously love that song. To hear it in that scene, I’ll just never think of it the same way.

THR: Having Taccone back as Booth definitely affords Marnie some stranger scenes this season.
Williams: I cannot say enough nice things about him. He is so sweet and so un-Booth Jonathan -- but this character and this role have given him this hilarious dual persona in public. People come up to him and are expecting him to be like Booth. He’s very professional because he’s used to being on the other side of the camera. It's such a pleasure.

THR: And you get to hang out with the guy that made MacGruber.
Williams:
I love MacGruber! It’s such a good movie. To me, it just highlights his creativity. And while we were shooting that sex scene, we talked a lot about the sex scene in MacGruber that takes place in the graveyard. We wanted to make ours even weirder, and he was like, "I honestly don’t know if that’s possible." I think the doll helped.

THR: Seeing Marnie with a guy like Booth is funny, but also a little sad.
Allison: The character of Booth is just such an asshole that it’s very, very hard for me to take what he’s throwing at Marnie in a lot of these scenes. I often find myself getting almost frustrated on her behalf that she isn’t sticking up for herself more -- or that she’s saying that she thinks he’s brilliant even though I think she knows, deep down, that he’s not good. The whole dynamic is so frustrating, and yet I know that’s it’s so real, too.

THR: The awkward dinner party in "It's a Shame About Ray" seems to typify Marnie's arc this season. How has it been seeing her on the other side of everyone's judgment?
Williams: Fundamentally, it’s sort of difficult because everything about her -- in terms of her characteristic properties, to use a chemistry analogy -- is completely different. All that remains are basically the little fibers of her being, the things that make her who she is. Which, at this point, because she’s kind of unwilling to do any sort of soul searching, basically just constitutes what she looks like and even that has hardened since she’s been stressed out. She’s really going through the ringer. But I keep in mind that sometimes she earns the attack and sometimes she doesn’t.

THR: Do you think she earned the attack when she admitted to Hannah (Lena Dunham) that she's a bad friend?
Williams: I’m not sure Marnie is sold on that either, that she’s the bad friend. It took us a long time to figure out where Marnie’s emotions should live in that moment. It’s not a full commitment. We did some takes where I was like bawling crying. We did some where I was completely stone-faced and delivered the line sarcastically, like, "Yeah I’m the bad friend. OK, fine." And they picked, as they often do, a sort of ambiguous reading. It’s definitely complicated.

THR: Marie also seems way less concerned being polite in front of Charlie's (Christopher Abbott) new girlfriend (Audrey Gelman).
Williams:
I know, but she’s so great. And she’s the real Marnie, Lena’s friend Audrey Gelman is who Marnie is based on. Clearly Marnie must have morphed from her original form into something new, because she can be in a scene with her old self.

THR: Will we see more of Rita Wilson playing Marnie's mother?
Williams: I think it offered a huge insight, and hopefully she’ll come back. I had so much fun shooting that scene. I am lucky enough to know her in real life. She’s a little bit like a second mom to me -- and she’s a much more emotionally healthy person [laughs]. Marnie's mom is so needy herself that she wants her daughter to treat her like her friend rather than her mom. It’s the saddest thing. I really appreciated that Lena and the writers thought it was worth taking a scene to investigate what Marnie’s life is like with her family. And that’ll happen with all of the girls throughout the season.

THR: Can they also write some scenes with you and Adam Driver?
Williams: I wish that there would be a power outage, maybe a storm of some sort hits New York, and Adam and Marnie are stuck in an elevator together and have to talk about the world. I really can’t think of anything that would be more enjoyable.

THR: There's a spinoff in there somewhere.
Williams: Can you imagine? We should pitch it.

Email: Michael.OConnell@THR.com; Twitter: @MikeyLikesTV