Scene Last Night: ’Girls’ Stars Save While HBO Splurges
Lena Dunham said the group of young and cash-strapped creative women she leads on “Girls” could get a whiff of Wall Street scandal.
The plot idea came on the red carpet in New York last night, when Dunham learned that her character, Hannah Horvath, shares a surname with Jon Horvath, the former technology analyst at a unit of Steven Cohen’s SAC Capital Advisors LP who passed illegal tips to his portfolio manager.
Dunham said the overlap was a coincidence, and that alliteration was her focus when she named the female characters. Yet she didn’t rule out weaving a reference to the financier into the show, whose third season starts on Jan. 12.
Becky Ann Baker, who plays Hannah’s mom, Loreen Horvath, warmed to the idea of a hedge-funder relative entering the picture.
“It’d be interesting, because we’re simple. I’m an English professor, my husband owns a store,” Baker said. “Where does Jon Horvath live?”
In the “Girls” universe, Loreen is the one with money smarts, a fact established in the first episode of the first season, when she cuts off her daughter from financial support to force Hannah’s independence and protect her own retirement dreams. The financial anxiety Loreen triggers becomes a recurring theme of the show.
There is some progress in the third season: Hannah gets an office job, while her friend Ray, played by Alex Karpovsky, has moved up the coffee-pizza shop management chain.
Meanwhile in real life, the young cast members seem to be on their way to fiscal responsibility.
“They don’t need financial advice,” said Judd Apatow, an executive producer of the show. “They’re not the kind who are going to run out and buy Ferraris.” (He drives a 2008 Prius.)
His own approach to money: “I’m a long-term thinker. At every stage, I’m thinking, how long can I survive on what I have,” said Apatow, the director of “Knocked Up” and “The 40-Year-Old Virgin.”
“When I was young, it was how many months of rent before they kick me out, if I never made another nickel.”
As for the stock market, Apatow said, “I stay out of it completely. I like to bet on my own ability to do what I do, and not on the long-term success of the economy.”
Allison Williams, who plays Marnie Michaels, said she has always kept to a budget. Lately, she’s been pasting her expenses into scrapbooks. “Electricity, the phone bill, they’re amazing records,” she said.
Karpovsky set up a 401(k) account last month when he was doing his year-end taxes. “I’m trying to be a little bit like an adult,” he said. “Just a little bit.”
His saving tip: “Cook at home.” He makes stir fry.
“Ever since I was little, my father taught me to be smart” about money, said Zosia Mamet, the daughter of playwright David Mamet, who plays Shoshanna Shapiro. Her biggest splurge: “My boyfriend and I just bought a house in Brooklyn.”
Dunham, 27, is starting a production company with “Girls” fellow executive producer Jenni Konner called The Casual Romance to develop projects for HBO. (TWX) She owns her apartment and has added a dependent to her household -- her dog, Lamby, whom she likes to pamper. Herself, not as much.
“I’m the product of a frugal WASP grandmother and a frugal Jewish grandmother and I usually get into trouble because I’ve bought the cheap thing that falls apart right away,” she said.
“We’re setting up a new office and she’s the one saying, ‘No, we should not get that couch,’” said Konner, who’s in her early 40s, and regrets not saving in her 20s. “I learned in my late 30s to take care of money. What can we do to educate women about money?”
At the post-screening party, the actors mingled with guests including Karlie Kloss, the Victoria’s Secret model, who said she’s money-minded and took a course in finance last summer; fashion designer Nanette Lepore, who dressed New York Mayor Bill de Blasio’s wife and daughter for the inauguration; and Ira Glass from “This American Life” and Seth Meyers from “Saturday Night Live.”
In an echo of the Horvath coincidence, an assistant director of “Girls” named Tudor Jones was in attendance, though he said he wasn’t related to hedge-fund manager Paul Tudor Jones.
Despite the show’s Brooklyn locale, the event was hosted in Manhattan’s Jazz at Lincoln Center. A girly party area offered Cargo makeup, nail art, a photo booth and vases filled with luminous gum balls, shiny rock candy, yellow and purple M&Ms and gummy bears.
Lisa Plepler, the wife of HBO Chief Executive Officer Richard Plepler, said she’d be bringing home some sweets for their 10-year-old daughter.
The most fun of all was the replica of the Brooklyn-Queens G train in the Ertegun Atrium -- G as in “Girls,” that is -- situated in a re-creation of a subway stop. The car, built by Largent Studios in Brooklyn, had yellow and orange suede seats, beautiful globe light bulbs, and a ’Girls’-ified subway map. It took two months to build and two days to install.
On the platform, guests sat on wooden benches admiring a tile mosaic spelling out “Girls,” and the HBO logo on the outside of the car, done up in MTA blue.
A man in a flannel shirt manned a newsstand stocked with Reese’s Peanut Butter Cups. The waiters wore flannel shirts and jeans, like the “G” train a nod to Brooklyn, where the show was mostly set. So was the food, which included brisket, kale salad and pickled vegetables.
Nathan Pelle, an actor, entered the subway car with the hood of his sweatshirt on. “This is a stick up for your drinks,” he said loudly and urgently to a group of guests, who responded by offering him their phones and wallets -- enacting a scene for a Vine video he planned to make on site.
On pillars around the room were black signs in MTA style, with pertinent quotations. One read, “Boredom is for lazy people that have no imagination.”
(Amanda Gordon is a writer and photographer for Bloomberg News. Any opinions expressed are her own.)
To contact the reporter on this story: Amanda Gordon in New York at email@example.com