What do you think of Tad’s journey over the series?
The journey has been shocking, and a revelation to me. Two seasons ago, while filming the first episode of Season 4, [showrunner] Jenni Konner and Lena [Dunham] took me and my beloved castmate Becky Ann Baker (Loreen Horvath) aside to talk about where the relationship was going, and why it was going to this place. There had never been any prior discussion about Tad -- nor Loreen -- in regard to their sexuality or the stability in their marriage. We were very excited. But really it took us months to even get our minds around it.
What did you think when you learned the storyline?
To talk about Tad, and what he felt soulfully bound to do to -- come out at his age after 25 years of an arguably successful marriage -- was no small feat. I had this noble vision of this man coming out and coming to this beautiful place within himself where he was going to be who he really was and not live the lie. Instead, it was this horror of mortification, shame and what appeared to be just terrible bad luck, which was not resolved until the last Season 5 episode.
My interpretation was he came out in Season 4 and still could not be honest with himself about relationships, choices and where his affections were going to take him -- which to me shows an extraordinary achievement on the part of the writing staff. They were like, Just because this guy gets his act together at a base level, doesn’t mean he’s going to suddenly be this together guy. Anything but. He’s going to be deeply awkward and troubled, which in hindsight now shouldn’t have been so surprising to me but at the time, it was.
You won an Emmy for your performance -- how else has playing Tad affected you?
When they conjured up this controversy in Tad unexpectedly, my whole world and baseline changed. It was an extraordinary thing to go through later in my career. To realize I could achieve what was being asked of me by going to myself in a way that was not typical for me. In Season 5 particularly, to not act the part anymore, but to let this story play me.
I look at the last moment in the first episode of the fifth season when Hannah and Tad are walking around in Times Square. I remember filming it with Lena, and just being in such despair. And I felt my job was to just let the camera see that. That approach was incredibly difficult, but you’re never too old to learn. It’s something that changed the way I work.
Where do we find Tad in Season 6?
Someone on the set said, “In terms of the storyline, you and your partner are the only healthy relationship left in the show” and that resonated with me. In the episode “Full Disclosure,” we [Tad and Keith] have a slight argument. But what evolved was breezy, not bumpy. It's a clear indication of how healthy their relationship truly is.
Did you improvise the scene at all?
In typical Girls fashion we were able to add liberally in a couple of takes. That’s been my experience through all the years of Girls, going way back to the beginning. The very young and completely inexperienced Lena Dunham would, in a strangely, impossibly evolved way, say, “We filmed the scene as written, can we try something? If I say ‘X,’ would that inspire anything in you?”
Is that something you were comfortable doing?
As an actor who started out in television in the ridiculous format of the 1980s, half-hour situation comedy, Bosom Buddies, even Tom Hanks and I were constantly being reigned in and told not to improvise. We struggled for two years with that. We always wanted to ad lib. Thirty-five years later on the set of Girls I’m being asked, “Can you ad lib?” I couldn’t have been happier. Some of the most wonderful things were based on Lena teeing me up.
What do you think of Tad and Hannah’s relationship?
Tad was more relatable than I could ever imagine, or hope for. I understood my job to be this sensitive man of conscience who could be conflicted, and who would typically vote to support his daughter in spite of her willfulness and the controversy that tended to swirl around her.
I think fans think, “Aww he really loves Hannah. He doesn’t feel like he’s being taken advantage of.” Well, he knows he is being taken advantage of but it doesn’t matter. It’s his little girl. I have a 15-year-old daughter, so I get that. That’s one of the calling cards, if not the core reality of Girls: intimate, deeply personal relationships. Friendship as it connects to intimacy, sexuality and trust. That’s our show.