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Interview With Chris Lilley

jamie

HBO

The finale ends with so many twists. Can you talk through writing it?

Chris Lilley

It's one of my favorite finales for anything I've ever done. I structured it to be this rollercoaster of ups, downs, twists and turns. Ja'mie loves to do shocking things and manipulate people, so she's the perfect device to take you down one road and deliver something else.

I also thought the actual ending was really cool. After all of her homophobic ranting and goings on about how amazing she was as a private school girl, Ja'mie is at a different type of school and she's decided to be a lesbian. The poor girlfriend is obviously really into her and Ja'mie's just using her as a status thing. That's just Ja'mie; she can be put in any environment and decide she's going to run it.

HBO

You interviewed real teenagers as research for the show. What did that teach you?

Chris Lilley

I find that teenagers don't change. They're not that different now than girls that I went to school with. The way they interact now is different only because of the technology, the Facebook and social media stuff. There's more communication outside of school and this idea that you present yourself in a certain way online. When she first meets Mitchell, Ja'mie always talks about their relationship in terms of how they interact online. "I sent a selfie" and "I sent him an emoticon." That's how she relates.

HBO

What surprised you?

Chris Lilley

The homophobia and the racist stuff really shocked me. I was interviewing a lot of girls and I'd be like, "That's not a good thing to say."

HBO

Does the show have a takeaway message for teenagers or their parents?

Chris Lilley

It's all about what's funny. I want people to sit at home and go: "Oh My God. That's my daughter!" or "That's me!" I want it to reflect reality because I think that's funny. The show wasn't intended to be a statement. Ja'mie's just a selfish, self-centered, nasty character.

The series is finished here [in Australia], and I've been doing DVD signings. I went to an area on the weekend in Sydney, which is the hub of all private schools. My signing was 90 percent private school girls exactly like Ja'mie all lining up and going, "Oh my God, it's me!" There are all these rumors about which school it's based on, and these girls are so excited by the idea that I might have done some reference to them. I was like& Have you not seen how awful she is?

HBO

Sounds like they're not in on the joke&

Chris Lilley

Yeah, it's funny. I guess that's what happens when you represent someone on television -- all they see is them. They don't see that it's not a very good portrayal of them.

That's just Ja'mie; she can be put in any environment and decide she's going to run it.

HBO

Can you talk through the transformation of becoming Ja'mie?

Chris Lilley

It evolves over a long period of time. I write the scripts by myself, so I'm in the mindset of the character. All I'm doing 24/7 is thinking about this show. We start casting really early. I'm immersed in this world. By the time it comes around to shooting, most of the performance is instinctive. Maybe it evolves during the shoot as well. I probably look at what the other girls are doing and copy them. It always surprises me.

HBO

What about the physical element?

Chris Lilley

I decided early on that with makeup, wigs and even wardrobe, I never wanted things to be too extreme or take away from people seeing me.

HBO

Was there any scene where you couldn't stop laughing?

Chris Lilley

There was a scene in episode 4 where Ja'mie's already started dating Mitchell. She's accidentally farted and is worried he's going to dump her. When I was writing that scene I thought: You are never going to get through this. I was really nervous the morning we were filming it. I didn't mention anything to the girls. But as soon as I did that [fart] sound, I lost it and then the girls lost it. That was the hardest scene of all to shoot. There's a blooper reel on the DVD of trying to get through it. In the show the girls laugh and I say, "Don't laugh! It's serious!" I tried to incorporate it. It's so juvenile because it's a guy making a fart sound.

HBO

Ja'mie is quite the dancer. What's your background in dance?

Chris Lilley

I don't have any dancing training at all. My problem is that I find it quite hard to learn any moves in a sequence. I made it so Ja'mie mostly dances on her own; I choreographed all that stuff by myself. The cameras are only rolling for a certain time, so I try to give it everything. I get so worn out. I don't have the stamina of a real dancer so I do one or two takes and I'm dead.

HBO

Was there any move or sequence distinctive to Ja'mie?

Chris Lilley

I don't know. Probably that dance she does for Mitchell in episode 2. It's like this weird contemporary dance meets stripper. It's like a lap dance and then she's throwing her hands in the air. I don't know what's going on there.

I rented the little studio thing the day before we shot those dance scenes and it had mirrors on the wall. I was doing what I thought would work, and I was like, "No. You've got to go more extreme." That's when I came up with lying on the ground and thrusting towards Mitchell. I glanced over at the mirror and went, "I think that will work." But you never see the way it's shot until later.

HBO

What was your reaction when you watched it?

Chris Lilley

I loved it. It was so much crazier than I expected it to be.

Episode 06