‘Girls’ Jemima Kirke was a Successful Painter Before She Started Acting: “It was a huge decision, and I don’t think I realized that at the time”
Jemima Kirke is getting used to facing her critics head on. As one of the main characters in Lena Dunham’s Girls, the actress is slowly becoming more comfortable with lots of attention.
“I do read everything. I read all the comments; I never intentionally shut if off or avoid reading it,” she said in an interview with Vulture. “I like to read it all. Some of it’s annoying and wrong and misinformed and even hurtful sometimes—the backlash.”
Indeed, HBO’s Girls has as many detractors as it does fans (even after winning the Golden Globe for Best Comedy earlier this year.) But Kirke hates when people post “things that are direct strikes at me or at Lena. I think my first experience with reading something that wasn’t positive, I was really offended. And really hurt. And now there’s so much of it, I’m just not anymore. I’m just like, ‘Oh, that was a witty one, ha-ha-ha.’”
Even though she comes across her share of haters, one of the most difficult parts of being on the show is the fact that Dunham often takes some of the actor’s real life stories to depict onscreen. “Sometimes it’s a little…[Groans.] Because I’m like, I really don’t want to have to put that on camera,” she said. “Can we please not hear how that sounds out loud? Can we please not see how that looks? Would you really want someone [gestures to the tape recorder] taping everything you say.
“It’s really uncomfortable. It’s as if you just had a conversation on the phone with your boyfriend and someone says, ‘Okay. And now let’s go onstage and perform it.’ It’s horrible! I just said some of the lamest stuff, and it was stupid and I was manipulative.”
Kirke also finds herself a reluctant member of the acting community. She’s had past success as a painter, but was introduced to acting through Dunham, who was already a friend. “It was a huge decision, and I don’t think I realized that at the time,” she said. “I think the opportunity came at a time when I was looking for something in my life that was a lot more concrete. When you have something that you’re passionate about and that means so much to you, it’s very scary to say that’s what you do.
“So I think that when Lena offered me that opportunity—‘You don’t have to paint. You could be an actor.’—I was like, [relieved voice] ‘Oh really? Great! Okay. That’s cool.’ And then, as I’m doing this, I’m also painting at the same time, and I’m realizing I feel much more whole when I’m painting. But I have this side job of the acting, and so I had to rationalize why I was doing it. I had to really sit up at night and think. And there was no big answer. That’s what I decided: There was no answer. You made your choice. And now you’re doing it. And I enjoy it.”
Girls airs on Sundays at 9 p.m. on HBO.