Around the R29 offices, we've been talking about Lena Dunham and Judd Apatow's new show, Girls , a lot. Watching the pilot (you can see it for yourself on HBO on April 15 at 10:30 p.m.), we actually felt a little stressed out by how real so many of the most uncomfortable scenes felt (Asking mom and dad for money? Taking a stand at work and being summarily dismissed? Revisiting an ex who's always treated you poorly after a bad day, only to be treated poorly again? Yes, yes, and yes. Ugh.).
The quartet of lead characters has been compared to the cast of Sex and the City time and again, but we're actually not sure we agree. These ladies feels so much more nuanced and real, and one of our favorites in the bunch is Yale grad Allison Williams (yes, her dad is Brian Williams), who plays the uptight know-it-all who needs to have everything in order, always. We were smitten upon first viewing, and had to get to know her better (particularly after watching her Kate Middleton impersonation). So, we grabbed the NYC native for a chat about what it's really like to move to the city after college, her biggest missteps, and of course, fashion and beauty. Peep a Q&A with the Girls cast here, and our chat with Allison below.
Your Girls character is wound a little tight—you've previously mentioned that you can relate to her sometimes, but not to that extreme. What's the most obsessive thing about you?
"I would say I'm somewhere between a perfectionist and an improv comic. And by that I mean that I love everything to be just right, but I am very good at saying 'yes, and...' and going with the flow — a technique I have not always possessed. Once I realized that perfection is impossible (I know it sounds obvious, but it actually took me a long time to believe that that was true), I felt extremely liberated. That's why erring is so important. Every time I make a mistake of any magnitude, it helps me recognize my faults and become comfortable with them — they have lost their bite over time. Perfection, to me, is when the things you don't love about yourself feel just as at home in your brain and body as the things you like about yourself.
I also like making informed, educated decisions, and that applies to my acting. When I read a script and go to work, I try to understand every detail of what my character is doing and why she is doing it. Sometimes, the answer is as simple as "she has to mention this in order to advance the plot," and that's okay too! I just like to know my purpose in the machine."
Your early twenties in NYC can be tough (as so clearly evidenced by the show). And you're going through that right now. What's the best advice you've gotten so far or the best lesson you've learned through experience? What do you wish someone had told you before you moved back, post-college?
"When I was younger, my parents always encouraged me to write hand-written thank you notes. Luckily that habit stuck with me, and I would encourage anyone else to do the same! And for that matter, remember people who help you get to where you are. None of us can succeed in a vacuum, and there's no better feeling than being appreciated for helping someone along the way. From teachers to people who give referrals for jobs, those magnificent, generous people have a hand in your fate, and don't forget it!
I also try to be as present as possible. That can be as simple as not wearing headphones in the subway or simply feeling my toes in my shoes. Something that reminds me that I'm alive — right now — and that circumstances could change dramatically at any minute. I spend so much time in a technology-mediated world...don't even ask me how much television I watch. It's unhealthy (but so, so good! The Bachelor? Most important part of my week). But I try to get out into the world every once in a while! We're here, after all. We might as well interact with it."
What do you love best about NYC? And what do you avoid like the plague?
"My favorite thing about NYC is that it is relatively limitless. Anything, anytime, anywhere. Want to have pancakes at 4 p.m.? 9 p.m.? 2 a.m.? Go ahead.
My favorite place in the city might actually be the subway. I avoid trying to get somewhere in a cab during rush hour. If you want to shave years off your life, that's a great way to start. I'm not going to lie — New York rush hour traffic has brought me to tears before."
How would you describe your personal style in a few words?
"Classic, comfortable, easy, simple, instinctive."
What three pieces are you dying to buy for the warm months ahead?
"A golden retriever puppy, an Alaskan malamute puppy, and some flattering shorts. The third is the only realistic one, unfortunately."
Where do you look for inspiration when you're trying to style a new outfit?
Photo: Everett Collection/Rex USA
What's been your biggest fashion misstep, or regret, ever?
"Oh I've made all the mistakes in the book. Clothing wise: ill-fitting pants, see-through tops, platform rainbow sneakers, a Kermit-green velour legging outfit I loved in 3rd grade (mock-turtle neck shirt with tapered leggings), and let's not forget the fact that I only left the house in costumes until about age 7. Makeup wise: black eyeliner instead of eyebrow pencil, covering my face in bronzer (obviously not blending it into my neck...), using foundation as face cream, very odd hair-cuts, braces...The day I got my braces off, I could have sworn I walked everywhere in slow-motion. I thought it was such a transformation, and I expected everyone to immediately know the difference. 'Oh my God, how beautiful you suddenly are. Never mind your weird short hair and your beanstalk body type...the braces are off, and now you look like Aphrodite. I received no such attention.':
I am still learning, though. Check back in a few years from now when I know what I'm doing! I'm still just a girl who likes pretty costumes."
You have such a fresh-faced look, with the long, gorgeous hair and great skin. What are your beauty secrets?
"That is so nice of you to say! I got lucky in the hair department — it's pretty low-maintenance. I would say that people don't give enough credit to what a great haircut can do. Splurge on a great cut every once in a while. I use different shampoos and conditioners all the time, so there isn't really a routine there. Maybe switching it up is a routine in and of itself...who knows.
Skin-wise, it hasn't always been so easy. I drink as much water as I can stomach, and I drink a lot of Blueprint green juices (I know it sounds so weird! But try them — you feel amazing afterwards). I use standard exfoliating face wash once a day, simple moisturizer when my face is dry, and that's about it! Oh, and take your makeup off before you go to bed. I know you're tired, drunk, upset, whatever — just do it. It takes much less time than it does to cover up the zits you'll get if you don't! Trust me — I learned the hard way!
And one last thing, a rule I don't follow myself but I know I should: don't. pick. at. your. face. And if you figure out how to resist this, please tell me. It's like a weird compulsion. I should have yellow tape surrounding all the mirrors in my life so I'm not allowed to get that close to them."
Photo: Jojo Whilden/ HBO