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Girls: Alex Karpovsky talks Love Stories & Jenny Slate's return

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Craig Blankenhorn/HBO

You know Alex Karpovsky as the curmudgeonly Ray Ploshansky on Girls, but he’s also a film director, having made 2012’s Red Flag and Rubberneck. Now Karpovsky is set to make his television directorial debut in “Love Stories” (Sunday, 10 p.m. ET, HBO), the first of two episodes closing Girls‘ fifth season. Ahead of the finale, EW caught up with Karpovsky to find out what’s in store for Hannah Horvath (Lena Dunham) and what brings Jenny Slate back as Tally Schifrin.

ENTERTAINMENT WEEKLY: What can you tell us about the episode you directed?

ALEX KARPOVSKY: The episode focuses on a character from the past who is played by Jenny Slate. We haven’t seen her since season 1, I believe, and it’s been a few years. When Hannah first crossed paths with this character, she was an up-and-coming writer and had just released her first big book, or had her first big hit anyway, and Hannah had a lot of mixed feelings about this person. There was jealousy. There was resentment. There was a whole host of thoughts toward this person we didn’t know that well. Now four or five years have passed and we see where this character played by Jenny Slate is now. Then, Hannah and this character kind of go off on a girl adventure together. They spend the whole afternoon catching up, opening up and kind of forming what may or may not be a friendship. So it’s basically this girl escapade between Hannah and this character.

What was it like directing your first TV episode?

Well, it was really fun. I couldn’t have asked for a better context to get into episodic stuff because I’ve been in this world for five years and I know these characters pretty well and I also know the production team surrounding our show really well. So, it felt familiar and not scary, which I think it would’ve been otherwise.

It was really fun to see the show I had been working on for five years from a completely different angle; all of the meetings that take place, all of the preparation, all of the stuff you just don’t really see as an actor. That was really run and illuminating. And going back as an actor later on, you have a completely wider perspective on the whole endeavor.

How was it decided that you would direct this episode?

I actually don’t know the answer to that. It was during a break of shooting one of our wedding episodes. Lena [Dunham], Jenni [Konner], and Illene [S. Landress] asked me if I wanted to direct. Of course, I said yes. But I don’t know how they decided on this particular episode. I think it had something to do with the fact that it’s a relatively contained episode, not a tremendous amount of locations.

What made this different from the movies that you’ve directed? 

It was a much bigger scale than anything I’ve done in the past. I’ve never had this many people and toys to kind of play with. But at the end of the day, I’m not really a big spectacle director. My interest and my talents, if I have any talents, lie specifically in trying to get relationship-driven stories that are fun and intriguing and moving to work on character. That’s really a matter of tone more than anything else.

What was the best part of working on this episode?

In the past, we’ve had a few that we called capsule episodes, which are episodes that really focus on one or two people who go off into their own little world. We don’t worry about advancing the stories for the characters that much. This episode is sort of like that. We do see a few other characters, but for the most part we focus on this adventure between these two girls. Those to me, in the past, have been some of my favorite episodes of the show and where we’ve been able to drill down into the psyche of those specific characters. That’s what I’m most excited about and I hope other people are too.

After directing this episode, would you rank it as one of your favorite episodes of the show?

I feel it would be arrogant of me to say one of the episodes I directed is one of my favorites on the show. So, for that reason alone, I should say no. But, I’m really happy about the way it came together. Jenny did an amazing job on the show. You see this Hannah character who we’ve seen over 50 or 60 episodes and we feel like we may have seen almost all the sides that she’s willing to show to the world. Then, Jenny comes along and she finds a way to bring out more stuff, more hidden stuff, more stuff she hadn’t been willing to share [with] anyone else, stuff that she could only vocalize to someone that she doesn’t know very well, yet someone she respects and knows can offer her advice and opinion.

So, having the ability to bring in a character that can specifically draw out those types of the things is, to me, fun and wonderful and illuminating — revelatory. The fact that it has a chance of showing sides of the main protagonist of the show in a way we haven’t seen in four or five years is something, I think, is pretty neat.  

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