Interview With Michael Zegen
How did you get involved with Girls? Were you already a fan?
Absolutely. I watched it from the beginning. I auditioned for a small part in the first season and, though I didn't get it, Lena Dunham really liked me and kept me in mind. She was also aware of me from my role in ?Frances Ha.'
And what about playing Joe appealed to you?
To be honest, I only got to read one scene for the audition. Just the fact that it was a role on ?Girls' -- and that he had scenes with Hannah -- was what really appealed to me. Since I started watching the show I wanted to work with Lena.
In general, are there aspects of the show that you relate to?
I was always a fan of ?Sex and the City' -- ?Girls' is like a younger, hipster-y version. I'd also really liked Lena's movie ?Tiny Furniture,' and I was curious to see what she would come up with next. I definitely identified with ?Girls.' I'm young and live in New York, though not Brooklyn, and frequent the same kind of places that are shown on the show.
Somebody asked me recently what I thought about the accusation that the show is not representative of my generation, or Lena's generation. It's not for everybody, not everybody who watches it is going to think, "Oh, that's totally me."
Would you say that Joe is indicative of a certain kind of twenty-something professional?
I have a friend who I kind of based him on, who's the funny guy in the office. I think Joe, more so than the other male characters, has his shit together. He has his own place, a job he likes. I think there's a chance he might be getting too complacent because he does want to be a writer. He hasn't been doing what he wants to do, but he does make a good living. I'm still figuring him out too. I don't know if he'll continue into future seasons, but in my mind he's still evolving.
How do you think Joe would be categorized in the GQ section he works on, the Field Guide for the Urban Man? He is spectacularly dressed.
Oh, I have no idea! But the shirt he's wearing when he and Hannah first meet is a girl's shirt -- it's the shirt Hannah actually wore in the pilot. It's kind of an inside joke on set and it informed the costumers in terms of my wardrobe for the rest of the season.
Hannah worries about selling out in this episode. As an actor, are you able to relate to the struggle of making compromises to get to the big time?
I totally identify with that vibe. I've been acting for years and only now has it really started to get going. It just takes time. In the previous episode, Hannah learns she has to wait three years to use her material again, and three years is nothing! But for a young person in their 20s, that's like a lifetime.
He gives Hannah kind advice about keeping up with her writing. He seems like he's in a much better place mentally than she is.
He is, but I'm sure he'd also rather be doing something else. But it's GQ, it's not some dinky magazine, so it's kind of like the big time. It's just not the department that either of them really wants to work in.
We learn that Joe has a thing for Karen, but do you think he might be developing a thing for Hannah as well?
I don't know! I think it's unclear as well -- purposely so. [Laughs.] I don't want to give away anything, but things are more friendly than flirtatious. Either way, they work together, so it can't start out as this big, flirtatious thing. It's got to evolve. But they do have a connection. There's an easygoing manner in which they talk to each other. It almost feels as if they've known each other for a while. If the story leads them to a relationship, I'd have to get used to doing more nudity!
That seems intimidating!
I've never done any real nudity before, and it's something that's challenging. As an actor you like being challenged, but it's still...frightening. [Laughs.]