Girls star Alex Karpovsky on Ray and Shoshanna: "It’s a crazy relationship – but somehow it works"
The actor/director on the secret of one of TV's weirdest and most wonderful relationships - and how the Bafta-winning show is an extension of New York's underground film scene
HBO's New York comedy-drama series Girls was one of the UK's most successful TV imports of the year, picking up a Bafta for best international show earlier this month and creating a huge buzz among audiences, who loved the relatably complex and dysfunctional characters and dynamics it offers up.
One of the relationships that really captured the hearts of viewers was the romance between misanthropic thirtysomething Manhattanite Ray, played by Alex Karpovsky, and virginal 21-year-old motormouth and Sex & the City addict Shoshanna (Zosie Mamet).
On the face of it they’re one of the most unlikely pairings imaginable but as Karpovsky points out, somehow it feels authentic.
"There are elements of their relationship that are crazy, and these might be the last two people you’d think would have a relationship, but somehow I feel like it works," says Karpovsky. "There’s a believability and authenticity to it.
"I think Ray is really attracted to Shoshanna's sincerity. He has a really low tolerance of hipsters and people whose lives and aesthetics are drenched in irony. And in Shoshanna I think he sees someone who is untainted by that, and is very pure and honest.
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"On the other side of it I think Shoshanna sees someone in Ray who is smart, who is a little bit older and experienced – I think she likes the fact that he really likes her, to be honest – and she also respects the fact that he has convictions; really passionate beliefs. She might not agree with some of them, or most of them, but she admires someone who has these strong feelings."
That mutual respect and fascination leads to some tender – and hilarious – moments. Ray and Shoshanna first collide at a warehouse party where she has mistakenly taken crack (accidents will happen) and ends up haring around outside without her skirt. He attempts to talk her down and gets punched in the face for his troubles. There's also a rather sensitive first sexual encounter and, at the end of series two, an emotional break-up instigated by her.
So will Ray be pursuing Soshanna again in season three? Is there hope for their fans? When I speak to Karpovsky, the new series has only just begun filming and he is understandably cagey. The best I can get out of him is a promising half-sentence – "They do have…yeah..." – before he clams up. "I shouldn’t say anything. You’ll have to wait a few months. Otherwise I’ll get in trouble!"
Ray has been something of a break-out role for Karpovsky. A director and producer of indie films, as well as an actor, he spends most of his time making and starring in his own movies, and those of his filmmaker friends, and says Girls is really just an extension of the buzzy New York scene he and the show's creator Lena Dunham inhabit.
“Lena made a movie called Tiny Furniture before she made the show, largely with the help of the New York independent film infrastructure," says Karpovsky. "The cinematographer for that has shot a lot of movies through this community, a lot of the actors, we kind of all knew each other going into the movie, it felt very collaborative and supportive and familiar, and then Lena took a bunch of us over to her show.
"I feel like, since then, Girls is an extension of New York in film.”
Karpovsky had two movies featured at the most recent Tribeca Film Festival (it was founded by Robert De Niro among others, supposedly in response to the 9/11 bombings which traumatised that area of Manhattan). One, Rubberneck, written by and starring Karpovsky, is described as a slow-burn psycho-sexual thriller, while in comedy Supporting Characters he plays a film editor trying to re-work a movie, a role he should be able to bring some insider knowledge to.
Both films are currently available to watch in the UK via Tribeca Film’s On Demand service, which streams via iTunes, Virgin Media and PlayStation.