'Camping' Boss Defends Jennifer Garner Character's "Sympathetic Journey"

Co-creator Jenni Konner talks about what's next for the characters in the HBO limited series, which wrapped up Sunday night, and Konner and former producing partner Lena Dunham reveal what's next for them and talk about the possibility of more episodes.
Anne Marie Fox/HBO

[This story contains spoilers from the entire limited series of HBO's Camping, including the finale, "Birthday Party (Part 2)."]

In the finale of HBO's limited series Camping, which ended its eight-episode run Sunday night, the couples who embarked on a birthday weekend outdoors all take drugs, leading to a final evening of wild activities and harsh truths being revealed. And by the morning, some of the show's central relationships are dissolved and rearranged.

Still, near the end of the final episode, Juliette Lewis' Jandice suggested a reunion trip next year. But according to co-creators Jenni Konner and Lena Dunham, who split as producing partners after filming Camping but before the series aired, it's unlikely that there will be more episodes with the obsessively organized and aggressively controlling Kathryn (Jennifer Garner) and her family and friends.

"I think we've really told the story," Dunham told The Hollywood Reporter ahead of Camping's debut, with Konner separately adding that the show "had a targeted ending that we were going for."

Dunham said she "wouldn't mind seeing [Kathryn] go to Europe," and Konner said she'd be "open" to the possibility of more episodes — hopefully "in a hotel or on a yacht; anywhere but a campground," if HBO wanted to make them. But before the show, which was poorly received by critics, launched, Konner indicated that she and Dunham hadn't planned to do more seasons.

"We literally just finished mixing two weeks ago," Konner said in October, "So I'm a little like, I don't know if we have a story left to tell. But of course I would always be open to it. These people are so wonderful to work with. They're so professional; they're so talented, like who could walk away from it. I will say when we started making it there was definitely no intention of doing another [season]."

Beyond that, it's unclear how a second season would work since Dunham and Konner are now committed to forging their own, separate paths.

"I think both of us are ready to be alone and figure out what we want to do, and I feel like we want to do different kinds of things," Konner said. "It would be funny if we said that and then we wind up doing really similar shows, but I just think it's a really exciting time for both of us. You need some independence."

For her part, Dunham wants to write, direct and act, telling stories on the screen, the stage, in print and through podcasts. But most important, she wants to do so through her own voice.

"I want to tell stories in the most honest way I can," she said. "I think especially in this moment in history, the most important thing artists can do is hang on tightly to their own voice. I've sort of had it with trying to be anyone else's voice — I tried that and it was complicated and it didn't necessarily work and it caused a lot of pain, so the only thing I can really do is be my voice and I'm stoked to be my voice."

Konner spoke to THR about more of what's next for her and Camping's various couples, after the events of the finale, as well as the challenges of making the limited series and the initial criticism of the show and Garner's character.

Why does Kathryn agree to take drugs from Jandice twice? She takes an Ambien that ends up being Adderall in episode four and then MDMA in the two-part finale; it seems very unlike her.

I think at that point Kathryn has completely given in. There's no way she can save this weekend. And so she just thinks, "You know what Jandice? It's all on you now. Fine." She's been broken.

And the tattoo, why does Kathryn feel like that's something that she wants to do?

That was the drugs talking.

They all take drugs and they all seem affected by them and say some things that they might regret. How much of what transpires over that night is the drugs talking and how much are those events and conversations going to result in real changes?

I think the drugs brought out the truth. And I think Kathryn getting a tattoo, I think that's more Jandice suggests an idea to make Walt (David Tennant) not angry. It's the drugs talking of her listening to Jandice's advice.

With respect to Kathryn and Jandice, there's a story with the two of them for the whole series and certainly in the last episode they have that big confrontation, but it seemed like when they went to search for Carleen (Ione Skye) in episode six, they were getting along. Kathryn opened up to her and then was dead set on despising her. Even before the events of the finale, why do you think they couldn't be friends?

I think that they're the opposite kind of people and sometimes that works, which is what happens in the Carleen episode, which is that Kathryn softens herself and lets Jandice in a little bit so that they could get along and find their common ground. But in general, Kathryn is really not willing to accept someone who she doesn't understand, and Jandice is not willing to bend at all. They're both committed to being exactly who they are with zero flexibility that it's like two magnets hitting against each other.

When Jandice has that moment with Walt, is she doing that in part to provoke Kathryn or get back at her?

I think there is an element of that yes. But I think she also truly has a lot of compassion for Walt, as does everyone on the show — sort of, "this poor guy" — and Jandice is the type of person that thinks this is a really generous type of thing to do and it will help him.

What's next for Walt and Kathryn? Does that moment in the car indicate that they're willing to work it out?

I think that's what it is. I think it's that we're broken but we can fix this. It's a moment that we took from Julia [Davis'] [British version of the] series and I always thought it was sort of the best moment of the whole series because it's grounded in reality. All of these insane things happened, but we can get through it and we both knew this wasn't working. You have one way of dealing with it, and I have another way of dealing with it. So I'd like to think that they worked it out.

What about the other couples: George (Brett Gelman) and Nina-Joy (Janicza Bravo)? Joe (Chris Sullivan) and Carleen?

I think George and Nina-Joy are truly done. I think they can't get through what they had to get through, but I think they'll be happier now and maybe they'll have a friendship someday. And probably the sad part is that Joe will probably go into rehab and come out and be grateful for a while and then probably get loaded again. So hopefully Carleen won't stick around for all of it.

Looking back on the series as a whole, now that it's all out there, from your perspective, having worked on this after Girls, what was the biggest challenge or difference in putting this show together compared to Girls?

Julia gave us a lot of content and freedom so that was really lucky. Also, we never had to plot a Girls season that like took place over four days for the whole season, so that sort of broke our brains, trying to figure out how to track everyone all of that time. We were in New York City making Girls; we were in the woods making Camping — some people like that, like Jennifer Garner, and some people hated that, like me.

I talked earlier with the stars and Lena about the criticism of Jen's character and some of the others as "unlikable," but I feel like Kathryn develops and evolves and I found her sympathetic by the end. Do you feel like people who were critical of the show misjudged the character or what you were trying to do?

I always say that it's not important to be likable, but it's important to be relatable, and I do think she has a very sympathetic journey. And I think that's one thing you can really do with limited is grow someone in one season. And I think a lot of that criticism came early; I haven't heard it as much now. It's hard to tell — no one watches anything when it's on; I can't figure it out.

What sort of feedback have you gotten to the show anecdotally?

Anecdotally, I've gotten great feedback on Instagram and stuff like that, and I never read reviews really. Everything is just like secondhand to me. It seems like right now people are just starting to watch it. Like when I'm on Instagram, people are commenting about how they like it, but it's not like they're waiting for the finale.

What would you say to people who are making a snap judgment after previews or the first episode?

I would say, "Give it a shot and if it's not for you, watch Room 104."

What's next for you? What are you working on? Would you like to stay in television and on the comedy side?

Right now, I'm exploring it all. I'm working on some things. We have some things in development — feature stuff and television stuff — I have a great team and we're trying to figure out exactly what we want to do and meet everyone in the world and hit the ground running.