Between now and June 28, the deadline for Emmy voters to submit nomination ballots, EW.com will feature interviews with some of the actors and actresses whose names we hope to hear when nominations are announced on July 18.
Even if you’ve never seen Girls, you’ve probably heard about Adam Driver — or, at least, something his character, also named Adam, did on the show. Alongside Lena Dunham, Driver was responsible for the buzzy moments that kept people watching, talking and tweeting throughout the HBO comedy’s dark second season. Fans’ thoughts about Adam can (and did) change moment to moment, and nowhere was that more on display than in the second episode of this past season, “I Get Ideas,” when Adam wrote and sang an intense breakup song to Hannah, texted her and then showed up at her apartment for a declaration of love, maybe committed some “space rape” and was subsequently arrested after an ill-timed 911 call.
“There are so many twists and turns that he does all throughout the season but also scene to scene,” Driver explained on the phone with EW. In addition to a feelings explosion in Hannah’s kitchen, this season also showed his character in AA and as a participant in one very unforgettable sex scene. Watch Dunham talk through Hannah and Adam’s powerful episode 2 fight below (which she directed), and then read on for Driver’s recollections about what it takes to play the guy people just can’t help but cheer for (sometimes).
ENTERTAINMENT WEEKLY: What do you remember about shooting that scene in the kitchen with Lena Dunham?
ADAM DRIVER: I just remember it was our first time back and I’d never been a series regular on a TV show. Even on your hiatus you feel like you need to keep the character in the back of your brain. So I remember that was the first time back and I had no kind of preconceived notions about how it was going to go. Me and Lena talked here and there but it wasn’t until a few weeks before when we got the scripts did I see where it was going and all seem to make sense, although at the same time it was unexpected for me. … I remember there’s a huge trajectory of emotions that happens in that scene in particular, where I think he comes in with all these expectations that if he gets in front of her and says how he feels, things will be fine, and he’ll leave her with that and let her think on it. So I just remember thinking when I was acting in it that it was key to know the script back to front, so that you can forget it as soon as possible. All of his expectations get subverted within a short amount of time, and that’s fun to play.
That scene was a really nice parallel to the end of the season when Adam rushes to her apartment once again. Did you know how the season ended when you were filming?
I’m only working a little bit ahead. We’re in the middle of the third season right now and I think they have a general outline of where it’s going, but they certainly don’t tell me and I don’t ask. I find it’s kind of a fun challenge — I over-analyze things anyway; in part, [my] not watching the show is a way not to get into my own head about it, especially with [a character] who doesn’t … he’s there to a certain extent, but he follows his emotions and sometimes doesn’t have the foresight that in my daily life I feel too much of. I like to plan things before they even happen. So for that character in particular, I’m not sure how much everyone else in the cast needs to know, but I like to remain kind of pleasantly aloof of where things are going, even scene by scene. It’s fun to work that way, so I don’t try to plan anything.
What kind of changes take place in your relationship with Lena when she’s directing a scene with the two of you, versus one where you’re just co-actors?
As far as us working on the story of it, the conversations are pretty much the same: Trying to figure out what the story is. … I feel like she’s really good at compartmentalizing her attention and giving you what you need as an actor. I feel like it’s kind of like a huddle in football: We all get together and do the scene and break. And then everyone breaks up into their own little things. When she’s directing she’ll go and plot [something else] out and then everyone gets a game plan and then the whistle blows and everyone gets back together in the huddle and tries to figure out what we’re doing next. It’s very much like that, I’d say: constant huddle and breaking away. As an actor, it’s not that much different.
Did you have any qualms about the intensity of your scenes with Shiri Appleby [who played Adam’s girlfriend Natalia]?
No, never. In terms of like, “I don’t think I want to do that”?
Yeah, I’m just wondering about your opinion on some of the twists this season, as the show, especially Adam’s part, ended a lot darker than it started, particularly with some of the sex stuff.
I think we all attack the sex scenes just as much as we do scenes that aren’t sexual, and hopefully that’s what people are responding to: that there is storytelling happening in the sex, and sometimes it’s good to take risks where the lines are blurry. I know a lot of people just didn’t know how to swallow it, and there’s so much dialogue about, “What is the story we’re trying to tell?” that we don’t need to answer for ourselves. Hopefully we leave to the viewer to debate. I don’t think anyone is trying to do anything for the purpose of offending. … To answer your question, there is just as much dialogue about those scenes as there is about scenes of me and Natalia walking down the street.
Especially with your character, there’s a ton of talk after the episodes on social media. Does any of that inform your later performances?
No, I try to stay aloof. Lena will say things to me here and there like, “People responded to this” or “People liked that,” but not often enough that I can really say that happens on a regular basis. I try to stay out of it and kind of disconnect from it, if possible. Again, back to the thing about over-analyzing and planning things years before they happen, I feel like if I was too involved, it wouldn’t really be helpful. There’s nothing I can control, nor do I even want to or try to interpret anything. I feel like there’s always an expectation that people expect answers or want to know A to B why this happened or what the story actually is and just want things to be explained. I’m not such a big fan of having a linear answer to things.
What can you tease about Hannah and Adam’s relationship? I know you guys are in the middle of filming the new season.
Again about not knowing much, I had the last week off and I feel like the scripts are changing even as we get it. I’m not playing coy in saying I’m not sure where it goes, but I do think [Hannah and Adam] are trying to make a go of it. If I know Lena, I’m sure there will be conflict. [Laughs] I don’t know how that manifests itself, but they start this season in the best place they’ve been.