NEW YORK (AP) — Let's go surfing!
The final season of "Girls" begins with Hannah, the series' ever-out-to-prove-herself writer, braving sand, sunblock and neoprene for the sake of a magazine assignment.
As usual with this comedy of over-bright 20-somethings searching for themselves, the episode feels reliably true-to-character yet unpredictable as Hannah gains a measure of personal insight that extends beyond her lack of acumen on a surfboard. It premieres Sunday at 10 p.m. EST on HBO.
Debuting in 2012, the series instantly became a cultural touchstone as it charted the Brooklyn-based adventures of Marnie (played by Allison Williams), Jessa (Jemima Kirke), Shoshanna (Zosia Mamet) and Lena Dunham, who, besides starring as Hannah, was also the series' creator as well as writer, producer, director and its overall creative wellspring.
During a recent chat with The Associated Press, Dunham talked about this concluding season, the five seasons before, and the alien experience of surfing in New York.
A LITTLE TOO GNARLY?
Sure, certain beaches on Long Island draw a surfing crowd conspicuously outfitted with sleek physiques.
It's a different story in the nearby urban canyons.
"If you live in New York City, you almost forget you have a body," Dunham declares. "You're just walking around trying to get everywhere, like a floating head making your way through crowds."
Filming of "Girls" wrapped for good last September. Then Dunham went straight into stumping for Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton.
"When the show was over, I had taken all my creative energy and put it into campaigning. Then it was: 'Hillary Clinton's not president. Our TV show's over. Donald Trump is in control of the free world. I guess I'll be staying in bed today.'"
A FINE TIME
Filming the last season was "overwhelming and beautiful and nostalgic and at times deeply disorienting," says Dunham.
For much of its run, "Girls" was "the only thing and everything I had," she says, "which is part of why separating from it is so complicated. But I feel really lucky because, so often, a huge marker of your 20s is feeling like you don't have a place to put your passion and your energy, and like you don't have a way to feel seen. I never had to struggle with that.
"I did sort of struggle with going to brunch with my friends. I wasn't necessarily the greatest at the things that are supposed to mark your 20s — moments where you let yourself drift on the tide, even when you're in pain, and you connect with people and go to a party without knowing exactly what time you need to be home. I didn't have that experience."
In short, Dunham isn't Hannah, despite the fact that she did her job so well the distinction was frequently lost on "Girls" viewers.
"Hannah got to be Hannah, and I got to pretend to be her," Dunham explains. "Pretending to be her at a party was better for me than actually being at a party. As a result, I got everything I needed in my 20s. I had a different, really amazing, experience."
WRITE OF PASSAGE
Dunham is a writer who can turn out a "Girls" script in a night, and whose sureness of vision as reflected in the show seems beyond dispute.
"But I've had moments of crisis and doubt about the show," she readily acknowledges, "and I've had moments of crisis and doubt that comes from being ages 23 to 30, which is a time rife with crises and doubt — which is what our entire show was about."
She was 23 when she started writing the pilot script, and turned 25 while the first season was in production.
Last June, as the final season was shooting, she crossed the great divide to leave her 20s behind. She has no further pressing need for 20s-generated crisis and doubt. She says being 30 comes as a relief.
NO LONGER A PRODIGY
That's not a word Dunham condones, but based on her early and multifaceted success, she has been hailed as something of a wunderkind.
Maybe for her future projects she'll be judged on different terms: as an artist for whom age is no longer worth considering.
"I've got a lot of ideas and a lot of things to say," she says when asked what might be ahead. "Whether they're in the form of books or plays or performance art that's done in the corner of my parents' garage, I don't know. I may not have another cultural-lightning-rod television show in me, and I wouldn't be upset if I didn't, because that's not an experience you need to repeat over and over in your life. I don't feel an overwhelming preoccupation with making sure that whatever comes next matches the scale of 'Girls.'"
HANNAH'S LAST LAP
But whither Hannah in these last 10 episodes of her maturing 20-somethingness?
"We really tried to do both of the things that are glorious about any final season, which is wrap everybody up in a thoughtful way that makes you feel like you've completed a real journey with them — and also, do what the show has always done, which is not be tidy.
"Those two things are kind of at odds," Dunham allows. "But I don't think anyone's done a series finale like we did. It's a very different version of ending a series."
But that's months down the line. Right now, surf's up! Hannah — and "Girls" viewers — are hitting the beach!
EDITOR'S NOTE — Frazier Moore is a national television columnist for The Associated Press. He can be reached at email@example.com and at http://www.twitter.com/tvfrazier. Past stories are available at http://bigstory.ap.org/content/frazier-moore