During the third-season finale of HBO’s Girls, Hannah Horvath (Lena Dunham) found out she’d been accepted into the University of Iowa Writers’ Workshop. After expressing concern about leaving her life in New York, and whether writing is something that can be taught, Hannah tells her boyfriend Adam (Adam Driver), just minutes before his Broadway debut, that she’s going to grad school in Iowa. The two have a fight outside the theater after the show with Hannah saying they can work it out and Adam saying he’s sick of trying to work it out. The episode ends with Hannah alone in her apartment holding the acceptance letter and smiling.
Season four, which begins Sunday, opens with Hannah feeling that same mix of happiness and concern. “I think she’s scared about leaving her life behind but she’s excited by the opportunity,” Dunham tells The Hollywood Reporter.
Co-showrunner Jenni Konner agrees. “I think she feels really proud that she got in, and I think it’s a big success story for her, and I think that she has conflict because she’s leaving her life that she knows so well. But I think she has a lot of pride in making that choice,” Konner tells THR.
Hannah ultimately leaves Adam behind, with Dunham teasing in a behind-the-scenes preview video that their separation takes a toll on their relationship. Konner tells THR that Adam might, in some way, also be looking forward to Hannah going to Iowa.
“I’m scared to say this word because I mean it in the lightest touch possible, but I think there’s a slight relief for him,” Konner says. “They had a hard year with each other, and there’s a sense of maybe this will be easier with her gone.”
But as those who have viewed HBO’s previews for the season know, Hannah’s not the only member of the Girls gang who goes to Iowa. Her gay ex-boyfriend Elijah (Andrew Rannells) joins her in the Midwest, with Rannells telling THR that Elijah thinks it would be simpler to follow his old Oberlin classmate on their next post-collegiate adventure.
“I think that he’s feeling equally lost and anchorless and he sort of feels like rather than pursuing his own thing, it would be so much easier to tag along with her,” he says. “She figured out the next step and it seems kind of fun. So he goes with her to Iowa because he can, nothing’s really keeping him in New York. So he just decides to take a long U-turn and go to Iowa.”
Still, the HBO cameras didn’t go to Iowa.
The University of Iowa denied the show’s request to film scenes on its campus in late March, with the school’s vp strategic communication saying that he thought the storyline would portray the school in a negative way, but Konner says the show decided, for practical reasons, to stay in New York.
“Truthfully, it was a financial question because we didn’t want to have to bring our whole crew to Iowa, so we brought them to Staten Island and Poughkeepsie,” Konner says of filming the college scenes in-state.
“It’s a cheaper date: Staten Island and Poughkeepsie,” Dunham adds.
The Girls previews have also revealed that Marnie (Allison Williams) embarks on an affair with her musical partner, Desi, in season four, but Williams says her character doesn’t view the relationship as an illicit romance.
“She would say that she’s in a relationship with someone who hasn’t quite decided about whether he wants to be in a relationship with her. That’s the euphemism that she would use,” Williams tells THR. “She wishes he would just definitively choose her. Of course! It doesn’t feel good to have someone not fully in it with you, and she can’t help that that’s what she wants. But she should know better, maybe, or maybe she knows that this is going to be some great love, who knows?”
Konner also offered a bit of insight into how they figured out what the elder Shapiros would be like. “We just [tried] to think, like, ‘How do you build a Shoshanna? Like, who makes that?’ We always knew that her parents were kind of ugly to each other, we knew that about her character, and it was finding it in the story, but it was also finding it in the casting — and we got so lucky to find those two, and they bring so much to it,” she says.
Konner adds that Edwards’ (best known for NBC’s ER) kind disposition also helped them in crafting his character. “When it’s Anthony Edwards, who’s the sweetest man on Earth, you can get away with him being nasty in a different way than if it had been a guy who wasn’t Anthony Edwards,” she says. “You get away with a lot that way.”
Mamet, meanwhile, tells THR that meeting Shoshanna’s parents helped her understand her character better.
“It suddenly made Shoshanna make a lot more sense to me, the fact that they are so biting toward each other and sort of so specific toward her made her make more sense,” she says.
HBO’s Girls previews have also teased Shoshanna struggling in her post-college job search, and Mamet says those experiences lead to Shoshanna thinking about things she might not have considered before.
“I think she starts to learn what her strengths and weaknesses are,” she says. “And I think she starts to really inspect what it is that she really wants, and I don’t know if she’s ever really done that before.”
Girls‘ fourth season premieres Sunday at 9 p.m. on HBO. Come back to THR‘s The Live Feed after the premiere for more scoops from Konner and the cast on the first episode, “Iowa.”