Ten Minutes With Lena Dunham
The creator and star of “Girls”
Lena Dunham is creator, writer, director, and star of the HBO series “Girls,” for which she has received seven Emmy Awards and two Golden Globes. She lives in Brooklyn; Cornwall, where her parents live, is her second home. At the Cornwall Library, where she signed her new book, Not That Kind of Girl, she talked about what she loves about Litchfield County, her thoughts on Hillary Clinton, and taking her clothes off on national TV.
Your parents, photographer Laurie Simmons and artist Carroll Dunham, live in Cornwall. What is your earliest memory here?
We started coming here in 1994. My earliest memory was when we came up to look at a house on Twin Lakes, and I had just read Anne of Green Gables. The house was dusty and old, but glamorous. I was almost crying with excitement because I thought this is as close as I’m going to get to Anne of Green Gables. Some of my best times have been spent here.
So what’s your favorite book?
Madame Bovary. I know it was written by a dude, but it had a huge impact on me as a teenager. It was the first time I read about female ennui that wasn’t about something terrible that happened to the character—like her kid got hit by a train. It was about the constraints of being female and what it does to a person.
You’re also considered to be an activist, for women’s rights especially. How did that happen?
I didn’t consider myself a very political person until I got to Hollywood and realized how many people won’t express an opinion. I was raised in a way that having an opinion wasn’t even an option. It was the reality. That’s what started it.
You’re a big supporter of Hillary Clinton. Do you have advice for her?
I think she’s doing pretty great. I’m excited to go on the road with her to stump for her, and I’m excited to talk with young women about how they can get out the vote.
You’ve become a sort-of poster woman for plus-size women. How do you feel about that?
It wasn’t the job I set out to do. I am no longer alone in it. I’m good friends with Mindy Kaling and Amy Schumer. Admittedly, they haven’t all been as naked as me on television. But there’s a whole army of us saying this isn’t what the female body looks like for so many of us. I can tell you a lot of women we admire are put together with spare parts. You have to be rich, you have to be white, you have to have killer health insurance, and you have to take a few weeks off to let your stomach settle after you’ve removed your saddlebags.
So how do you feel about being nude on national television?
It isn’t an area that was ever scary or self-conscious for me. But honestly, sometimes I get to work and I’m tired and I’m cold, and I think, I just don’t feel like taking my shirt off.
So what’s your take on Cornwall?
I love Cornwall—it’s the greatest place in the world. It has so much amazing history, and haunted and not haunted places, and the Wandering Moose and the post office. The Cornwall Library was kind enough to allow me to film portions of Tiny Furniture here. I wrote part of my book here.