Q&A: Jenni Konner

As showrunner and writer of the hit HBO series GIRLS, Jenni Konner is one inspiring woman. Not only is she doing what she loves while working alongside other creative and talented people; she’s committed to portraying women authentically. I recently got a chance to catch up with Jenni and chat about the importance of body positivity, what it’s like working with Lena Dunham and what it really means to be GIRLS.
Jodi: What do you love most about your job?
Jenni: I love working with Lena Dunham and Judd Apatow. They are both very creative partners who I learn from everyday. I always say that Lena is my 29 year old mentor. We have a great time collaborating and I feel really, really lucky to work with them daily.

Jodi: What is it like working with Lena Dunham?
Jenni: It’s very rewarding. We have a very intense mind meld and a real shorthand. We think the same things are funny – we think the same things are moving. We work hard at communication and are committed to being people who really communicate in a way that never stops the work from happening. If there is a stress or an issue, we work right through it so the work continues.
Jodi: How do you write such authentic female characters? 
Jenni: We mostly write from experiences we’ve had ourselves and from those of the writers in the room. When we get to a point where it feels like the natural end to the story we like to push further and further – because we can. I tell the writers, “whatever you think the blow (finish joke or ending) of the scene is, then write 6 more lines of dialogue after that.” We may cut it, but we are expanding our brains past the typical rhythm of TV comedy and we get great stuff out of that process.
Jodi: What is most important to you when it comes to writing female characters?
Jenni: Honesty – the actual idea or story didn’t have to happen exactly like it is shown in the show, but it has to be written in an honest way. Also, having complicated characters that make choices people hate is something that we love to express – it shows the humanity in people.

Jodi: Which GIRLS character do you relate to most?
Jenni: Ray, because he is the older one. He’s more set in his ways and tying to be a moral compass to the younger kids – but it changes week to week.
Jodi: What do you think it means to be GIRLS?
Jenni: To be exploring adulthood but comfortable resting on being a young woman. Knowing some of the mistakes you make you still get to blame on youth and newness in the world.
Jodi: We love how you show real female bodies on the show. Was this something the creators planned from the show’s inception? 
Jenni: It has always been important to Lena to show real women’s bodies. We made GIRLS on HBO (not ABC) so they knew it was important. People call her brave and she feels brave doing lots of things but she doesn’t feel brave doing that – she actually feels quite comfortable. I met with a young writer recently who told me that, after watching GIRLS, she feels comfortable having sex on top! That’s why we do what we do.
Jodi: Do you think showing real female bodies nude helps promote body positivity and acceptance among viewers?
Jenni: I would like to think so – that’s my greatest wish! I hope people learn body positivity, start talking about reproductive rights and put attention to friendships.

Jodi: Any advice for those who are struggling to accept the way they look naked?

Jenni: Don’t push too hard on yourself in either direction as acceptance is a very fluid thing. There are days I am 10 pounds up and feel my best – it has nothing to do with weight. Remember to be gentle on yourself.

Jodi: In your opinion, what makes a girl beautiful?

Jenni:  A great personality, sense of humor and a drive to grow and change.

Jodi: How does the pressure of being in the limelight affect your personal body image?

Jenni: 10 years ago showrunners were not in front of the camera and so visible. It took 5 years to be comfortable in front of the camera as it’s a skill you learn – truly. It has illuminated how fleeting it all is. I can see a photo I don’t like of myself and the next day it’s gone in the garbage, so I try not to get too precious about anything. And I never google myself!

Jodi: What is your motto?

Jenni: All we can do is grow. -Mary J Blige

Jodi: What are you most afraid of?

Jenni: Being inflexible.
Jodi: Who inspires you?

Jenni: Lena, definitely. Gwyneth – unbelievably kick ass business woman who stepped away from a great day job that she is great at to run an empire. Also, she was so helpful when we were launching Lenny Letter.  Reese – another unbelievably kick ass business woman who launched a secondary business. I so appreciate the hard work. Hillary Clinton – I am working to help her campaign. Sexism in politics is crazy and the fact that she can get through it all with a smile on her face is inspiring. Mara Brock Akil – a fierce show runner who had to deal with a lot being both a woman and African American. Her super practical advice to young writers is very inspiring.

Jodi: More girls should:
Jenni: Vote for Hilary!

Tune into HBO for the 2 part GIRLS season finale this Sunday, April 17th.