'Girls' Star Alex Karpovsky on Season 2, How the Cast Handles Reviews and Why It's Fun to Play a Jerk
The actor and indie filmmaker talks about dealing with blogs, working with Lena Dunham and Judd Apatow, and how he puts together his own movies.
A familiar face to those in the New York City indie film scene, Alex Karpovsky's profile is on the rise.
He's had a very busy 2012; he wrote, directed and starred in two films -- Red Flag and Rubberneck -- and had a supporting role in his friend Lena Dunham's monster hit HBO series, Girls. He and Dunham, both New York City residents, go way back; he co-starred in her 2010 breakout film Tiny Furniture.
With several other films on his plate, including a role in Joel and Ethan Coen's Inside Llewyn Davis, he's going to have more exposure than ever. Karpovsky spoke with The Hollywood Reporter at the IFP Gotham Independent Film Awards.
The Hollywood Reporter: You just wrapped on season two of Girls. How'd it go?
Alex Karpovsky: It was great. We wrapped like two weeks ago, and I think there are a lot of fun surprises in store.
THR: It’s got to be so different shooting this season than shooting last season, not being sure what would happen, how people would react to it.
Karpovsky: It’s nice to know that it’s caught on with a certain sect of the population. I don’t think anyone knew how it was going to do, of course. We didn’t know if it was going to be too weird or too niche-y or only watched in Brooklyn or what. So it definitely gave us confidence, and that definitely helps morale.
THR: When people were debating what the series meant and symbolized, what was your take on all the interpretations?
Karpovsky: I honestly didn’t read too much about it. Obviously it gets trickled down to you. We talked about it during lunch and stuff. But I don’t read the blogs. I read reviews of everything I do as an actor, but everything I’ve done as an actor up until Girls had been in film, and there’s a safety there because once you read the reviews, you’re done with that character. No one makes sequels in the independent world. So there’s a wall there. With Girls, I’m nervous or anxious about reading reviews because I have to go back to that character and I don’t want it to affect me. So I don’t read the blogs, I don’t read the reviews. Things trickle down to me, but I try not to read too much.
THR: You worked a lot with Judd Apatow; how did that help shape your writing and acting?
Karpovsky: He’s got such an incredible ear for dialogue, for authenticity, for humor. And he’s pitching stuff and shaping stuff for the show all the time. So it’s great. All those people on the show -- Lena, Judd, Jenni Konner, Bruce Kaplan, Murray Miller -- all those guys are so smart and so experienced, and all of it was a huge education for me.
THR: Apatow has a whole group of frequent collaborators. I saw an episode of Undeclared last weekend and noticed it was written by Jenni Konner.
Karpovsky: And Judd’s very loyal. I think that’s one of the many things you can say about the guy, that he keeps people close to him that he’s been comfortable and familiar with in the past.
THR: Have you seen This Is 40?
Karpovsky: Yes, and I loved it. I thought it was great. … Not only is it really funny -- you kind of expect that from Judd -- but there’s also so much emotional depth, so much dramatic resonance, so much really raw and natural and perceptive character development and character arcs. I think it comes together in a way that’s really true and moving. It’s just really honest. I loved it. It was kind of a home run for me.
THR: In your movie Rubberneck, and in Girls, not all the characters are likable. Do you enjoy trying to have those kinds of protagonists?
Karpovsky: For whatever reason, the past number of roles I’ve been asked to do, they’ve been unlikable people. I don’t know why that is; I think maybe I just do a better job being a jerk than I do being a nice guy.
THR: At the end of the first season of Girls, people were confused and found Hannah hard to sympathize with. Is that more fun?
Karpovsky: It is. I think there’s just a lot more variety and texture. There’s a lot more diversity you can lend to a jerk than you can lend to a straight man. I think a straight man, there are only two or three shades of gray there to lend to it. For the most part, I’m generalizing. Whereas a jerk, you can really go wild. You can be an asshole in so many different ways. I think the diversity is appealing.
THR: You make indie films; how have you found the fundraising process to be?
Karpovsky: I’ve done a few films, and I’ve never gone through a fundraising process because the films are so low budget. So it’s only a few thousand dollars here and there; through savings and Kickstarter, through a few donations from friends, through money that I’ve borrowed, I’ve just been able to make my movies. So it’s never been that hard, but I’ve never tried to make a movie with a big budget. So I don’t have those war stories.
THR: Do you enjoy that low budget, DIY process?
Karpovsky: I don’t know any other way. I enjoy it, but I also can’t compare it to anything else.
THR: Do you plan on doing more acting or directing?
Karpovsky: I want to do everything. I think one gets boring if you just do it. If I just directed, I think the narcissistic element, the vain part of me would not get enough attention. And I feel that if I was just acting, then the creative part of me would not be getting enough satisfaction.