Kate Carraway Interviews Lesley Arfin About Girls
You will already know Lesley Arfin from an earlier era of VICE and probably from her book, Dear Diary, which rules. Now she is a staff writer for HBO’s objectively near-perfect show Girls (see “Girl News: Girls and Girls” here), which will debut Sunday night, several months after the collective consciousness decided that Girls was all we would talk about and everything we would like this year. VICE talked to her about all of that stuff.
So, how did you get hired for the show? Actually, could you catch us up on what you’ve been doing work-wise since VICE?
Well, I really stopped working with VICE in 2007, when Dear Diary was published. After that I worked retail, went to India, became the editor at Missbehave magazine, and was on unemployment for a while. I got hired for the show when my writer friend, Nichole Beattie (she writes for The Walking Dead) told me about it. I had written a pilot and submitted it to be considered for the job. Lena Dunham, the show’s creator, was also familiar with Dear Diary so I was lucky in that respect (lucky that she liked the book!).
What do you do for the show, writing-wise? Do you focus on a particular character/kind of storyline/dialogue?
I’m a writer among writers. First season I was a staff writer, now we’re in the second season and I’m what is called a story editor. For every season in TV writing (usually) you go up a title, but I’m still pretty low-level so my responsibilities aren’t that concentrated.
So, what kind of conversations do the writers have about what to include and what not to? Obviously Lena’s focus is on her character’s body and the kind of hideous side of having sex with boys is really present. How do you prioritize which elements of the girl experience have to go in?
I don’t know. I actually disagree with the focus on Lena’s character being her body. I see Hannah as being more concerned with being treated well and fair and being heard. She wants badly to be heard—she’s just not sure what she wants to say. We don’t prioritize elements like, “Oh, we should talk about periods!” No. The show is not manipulative. Really, what we try to focus on is good storytelling… and funny stuff!