From executive producers Lena Dunham and Jenni Konner, and based on the British series of the same name that was created by Julia Davis, the HBO comedy series Camping follows the obsessively organized and controlling Kathryn (Jennifer Garner), who puts together what she thinks will be a delightful camping trip to celebrate her husband Walt’s (David Tennant) 45th birthday. Pretty quickly after arriving, this group’s bonds become tested, and the heightened emotions and tension that arise at the Brown Bear Lake campsite threaten to ruin the weekend. The series also stars Juliette Lewis, Ione Skye, Brett Gelman, Janicza Bravo, Arturo Del Puerto and Chris Sullivan.
During this 1-on-1 phone interview with Collider, actress/creator Lena Dunham talked about what spoke to her with the original series, putting together such a great cast for the U.S. version, why she ultimately decided not to act in it herself or direct any of the episodes, and her hope that Jennifer Garner’s character can really help give people a sense of what it’s like to live with chronic pain. She also talked about whether she’d be game for a Girls movie, working with Quentin Tarantino on Once Upon A Time in Hollywood, and making sure that her voice is properly represented.
Collider: Camping is a lot of fun. Because I’ve never gone camping and likely never will, it’s entertaining to watch other people suffer through it. When you saw the original series, what did you see in it that spoke to you? What did you instantly feel like you could add to it, in adapting it for the States?
LENA DUNHAM: I think that we just loved the isolation of the setting and the complexity of putting people into that world together.
Did you immediately start thinking about people that you could cast in these roles?
DUNHAM: Yeah. It was really fun. It’s infinitely castable ‘cause most of this entire thing is about performances. It’s not like there’s anything to conceive or back it up. Jen [Garner] was someone that we obviously wanted. When we wrote this, we knew that we’d need somebody who could humanize it and give it a sweetness, and Jen was that. She’s an incredibly complicated and interesting person, who people wanna cast as America’s sweetheart ‘cause she’s great at it.
But you saw something in her that you knew you could bring out with this?
Did you ever consider acting in this series yourself, at all, or did you just want to stay behind the scenes on it?
DUNHAM: I did, but it didn’t necessarily feel like I had that much to offer, in that department. The characters are a little bit older, which was really interesting to me, and I wanted to honor that. She’s a mother, and I wanted to honor that. I was also really sick, at the time. I was able to be on set, a few weeks ago, doing the Quentin Tarantino movie (Once Upon A Time in Hollywood), but I was really recovering, at the time that we shot the show. It’s been a really positive thing, watching somebody else do it.
At the same time, had you ever thought about directing any of the episodes, or were you just more interested in being a writer/producer on it?
DUNHAM: For me, it was always about being a writer/producer. I think Jenni [Konner] is an amazing director, and I wanted to support her vision. And then, after she had started, I was there to support her. Writing for these people was such an honor.
At the same time, because this is your last project with Jenni Konner as your producing partner, does it give you a sense of satisfaction that you guys are parting ways on a project that you both love and are proud of, and that you’re ending that relationship on a high note?
DUNHAM: 100%. We’re both proud of it, and it’s interesting and complicated. It honors what we’ve always done, which is make things that make people talk.
What are the advantages and what are the challenges, in telling a story that you have only eight episodes and four hours to tell it in? Did you ever wish that you had more, or did this feel like it was a good amount of time?
DUNHAM: This felt like it was exactly perfect. HBO gave us the perfect slot to do this.
You’ve obviously been very open about the pain that you deal with, in your own life. Do you hope that seeing what Jennifer Garner’s character goes through in this will help to give people who don’t deal with chronic pain a better understanding of what it’s like to cope with that?
DUNHAM: I sure do. I really do. I think it’s something that can really give people a sense of the emotional complexity of it, and that’s really interesting to me.