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Girls’ Becky Ann Baker on her character’s last fight with Hannah

Photo: HBO
Photo: HBO

Note: This interview discusses plot points of the series finale of Girls.

During Girls’ finale, Hannah, who believes her own baby hates her, complains to her mother, Loreen, that she’s in ”emotional pain.” Loreen hits back with a brutal but honest retort: “You know who else is in emotional pain? Fucking everyone. For their whole lives.” Their knock-down, drag-out fight was one of the highlights of the last episode. As she has throughout the series, Loreen refused to kowtow to her kid’s whims, forcing her to face reality. Becky Ann Baker, once Lindsay Weir’s mother on Freaks And Geeks, has given Loreen’s practicality a biting edge. She spoke with us about filming the last episode.

The A.V. Club: How did you learn that the finale was going to be focused on Hannah and Loreen and Marnie?

Becky Ann Baker: It was a total surprise to me when I got the script. I was like, “Wow.” I guess I always think of finales as including all the main players, that there’s some kind of send-off. So I was surprised. But I think the entire season was surprising in that way. Each episode, they had a real focus as to how to send each character off in their own way. It all made sense to me once I thought about it.

AVC: Can you talk about filming that fight scene? Lena Dunham and Jenni Konner said you did it like a play.

BAB: I credit the writers. The whole writing staff—Lena, Jenni, and Judd [Apatow]—were so remarkable all six seasons. I wish I could take credit for things like that, but it was all in the writing. So as an actor you get that, and it just feels like a gift. Because it’s so well written. Lena and I have really never had a whole lot to talk about in those terms because it was all so well written, and we’d find it in rehearsal. Unlike a play, where you kind of dive into everything and dissect everything, the writing was just so amazing that we just did it.

AVC: Did you stage it any differently because of the way it was shot?

BAB: Jenni had this great idea to do that scene on the run. We shot that scene where we’re having that argument in one take and flying by the different cameras where they were landing. It was thrilling. I felt like I was in a Robert Altman film or something. It was just so exciting to do it that way. That took a little rehearsal. But then when we did it, we really only shot it about two or three times. Once we had rehearsals and figured out what the angles were and where we were going, when we actually rolled and shot, I think we only did it maybe three times. It’s amazing.

AVC: There is some parallelism with the pilot and the finale in terms of Loreen and Hannah’s relationship. Did you think about that?

BAB: I think in both cases it’s like tough love, which I think any parent knows there are times when that’s what is at stake. I think in both cases, especially the pilot, of saying, “All right, we have supported you for a long time, and it’s now time for you to jump out of the nest and figure this out on your own,” there are so many parallels with that full cycle of where we go. Now it’s about her own child. She’ll reach a point some day where she may have to cut her own child off and say, “Okay, it’s time for you to go out there and get a job.” But at this state, it’s time for her to grow up. It’s such an interesting idea about the millennials. All the way along, they were writing with such a great sense of humor about this millennial generation. I have a 24-year-old daughter, and it is interesting to watch a generation that has been told they were the best thing that ever happened and believed it. There does come a time when all of a sudden they have to assume responsibility and accountability, and I think that’s what both of those were about.

AVC: What did having the generational perspective in the finale mean to you?

BAB: My generation in real life and in terms of Girls, we were kind of a disciplined generation. We’re brought up on a really strong discipline, and then we turn around and bring our children up with all this permission and hippie love. Then here they come and they are just in some ways ill-prepared to meet the responsibilities of being an adult. And rightly so when you’re being told that everything you do is terrific. I think it’s interesting, because I found so many parallels working on this show to my own life. I find it fascinating, especially in light of how they’ve written about it. They’ve used great humor to turn the lens on that generation—humor and sexuality and all these amazing parts of the story. It is about a generation that is having a tougher time. They are assuming responsibility a little later than other generations have. It’s fascinating. I’m not sure if that’s in light of we’re living longer and things are gestating longer, they are having their children later. It’s interesting. I’m sure some sociologists will be able to define it better than I am.

AVC: The argument feels really realistic. What was your thinking behind portraying that?

BAB: I think it’s the truth. I don’t think that Loreen was using it as a tool to be manipulative. I think I’m trying to get her to realize life is filled with not just great times all the time. There are hardships, and there are things that are harder. It’s like, everyone has a lot of these feelings. You’re not unique, and it’s time to grow up, you know?

AVC: What was it like filming this final episode?

BAB: Well, we were out of town. We were all staying up—I forget what little town it was. It was last fall. We were all staying up on location for about five, six days. We were kind of removed from our typical usual lives or settings. I know that Allison [Williams] and I and Lena all talked about this. It was really hard to say goodbye to this job. We were getting sentimental way before we shot the last scene. It was really fun to shoot, because we were all away and having fun. It was great. But that last scene was a really hard one to shoot.

AVC: Which scene was your last one?

BAB: Sitting on the steps at night.

AVC: Did you shoot in order?

BAB: No, not typically in order, but somehow that last one was the last one we shot. Just because of the time of day, I think.

AVC: Was that everyone’s last moment?

BAB: No, I think there was something being shot after it, but it was the last one for Allison and me.

AVC: It was hard?

BAB: Oh, yeah. There were tears shed. I think for most of us—I know for myself, and I’ve been around for a long time and done a lot—but it was one of the best jobs I’ve had, creatively, and the group of people, and just in every way.

AVC: Earlier in the season, there’s a lot of pain in Loreen’s reaction to Hannah’s pregnancy.

BAB: She’s gone through a very painful split. I think that Loreen has found herself at this certain age with a life that she doesn’t know the future to. Loreen has always thought that her future would be with Tad [Peter Scolari] and she’d have this typical life and this cabin on the lake, and now everything has flipped. She doesn’t have a partner anymore, and her chances of having one are pretty grim. I think there is a lot of pain there. I think there’s a lot of pain, and I think in the [“Gummies”] episode, we got to see that. She was just on a real short rope.

AVC: How did that inform your performance in the finale?

BAB: I think I was able to bring knowing what I know about that episode along with me. I think that’s the place that Loreen is in. I think it very much influenced that last episode. That’s where I am right now, and I’m not sure what the future holds, but at least now I have this lovely grandchild, and I have a daughter that’s letting me into her life to help her.

AVC: Were you surprised by the structure of the last episode?

BAB: Yeah, I was. I had no idea what to expect of a finale for Girls, but, yeah, it was a total surprise that that’s how it was written. But so smart when you look at it and realize everything she’s saying about trying to go forward and grow up and assume the responsibilities of an adult. I think it’s all right there in that episode. I think it’s pretty wonderful.