GIRLS is back in full swing for its penultimate season, boasting all the egos and snappy one-liners you've learned to love and/or hate-watch over the years. We caught up with some of the cast recently, and we're starting things off with a member of the Y chromosome-sporting GIRLS ensemble—Alex Karpovsky, who plays beloved curmudgeon Ray. Below he talks about everything we promised you in that headline, and more.
Ray ended up having a pretty interesting season, last year. You ran for a City Council seat. What can we look forward to in the next season? Well, a bunch of things. The neighborhood that Ray’s coffeeshop is located in is rapidly changing, and one expression of that is that a coffee shop opens up across the street from him, a competitor, and they are much more “hip”. They cater to a younger and trendier clientele, and very early on in this season we introduce this opposing force in Ray’s life. And the way that he navigates within that problem is really difficult, disconcerting, funny, and ultimately I think, revealing into his character.
And then there’s still a lot of Marnie feelings that are in play. The season begins with Marnie getting married to Desi, and Ray attends the wedding and it’s extremely difficult for him to do. But as one of the moral compasses of the show I feel like he feels that it’s his duty to make sure that the wedding continues to happen, even when Desi continues to have a lot of reservations and cold feet.
Why is Ray so attached to Marnie? I think he feels, on some weird level, that they’re both misfits and ostracized pariahs. You might not think it or feel it, upon first glance, with her, but she’s really a person that’s struggling to fit in, and needs to fit in, and is struggling to feel accepted. I guess we all do, but her struggle is more pronounced and I think it resonates in a specific way that Ray responds to and relates to. And, he’s also very attracted to her, too, physically.
What’s your favorite Ray-related storyline? Well, one of his earliest storylines is his relationship with Shoshana, which really gets into the meat of his storyline of season two. I really like that. I like, in the last season, his really surprising and high-octave political ambition. That to me was also really fun. And then towards the end of this season there’s an arc that is equally unexpected and that I think was pretty fun to play with.
Do you ever see a comparison between yourself and Ray, or are you completely different people? I wouldn’t say that we’re completely different, but I hope we’re significantly different. He reminds me of a mixture of who I was about ten years ago and the caricature of my fears about who I may be. If that makes any sense. I think he reminds me of the mistakes I made, the cynicism, and the narrow-mindedness and the short temper that I had more of when I was younger and dumber. He also just does prey upon the thankfully background anxieties I have about being existentially disoriented, lonely, confused and scared by how big and scary and powerful the world is.
And you live in New York? Yeah, I live in Greenpoint.
How long have you lived in Greenpoint? Since 1999. A long time.
Greenpoint has changed fairly significantly over the past few years. Did you ever feel that GIRLS might have been a part of that, or is it more that the world is changing and GIRLS happened to be happening at the same time? Are you asking if I think that the show precipitated or exacerbated the change in the neighborhood? Yes. That’s an interesting question, I never really thought about that. I don’t think so. I don’t know if our show really has that much power and weight behind it to change the rate of gentrification of a neighborhood. My gut says no. Maybe, I don’t know.
What about Greenpoint do you like? Well, I don’t know if I like it, I’ve just been there for a while so it’s inertia keeping me there. I guess I like the fact that there’s water, like not a lot of neighborhoods in New York, but you can walk along the water, and it’s relatively quiet there especially at night. There’s a lot of warehouses there. So I like that. I like the fact that because parts of it are relatively inaccessible by the subway, like, the closest train would be the G train, and that in itself is a fifteen minute walk. That makes it slow to respond to a lot of changes. I think that’s nice. It’s geographically stubborn. I like the fact that there’s a park in the neighborhood. And I like the fact that there’s youth there. I think it keeps it fun and energetic and yeah, vibrant.
Do you take the G train a lot? No.
Any strong feelings about it? The only time I take the G train is when I visit my friends in other neighborhoods in Brooklyn. So if there’s a friend in Bed Stuy or in Downtown Brooklyn, or in Carroll Gardens, I’ll take the G train. Those are really the only times.
I feel like the G gets a bad rap. I don’t think it’s as bad as people say it is.
So there’s one more season of GIRLS—have you thought about what you’ll do after? I don’t really know. I have an idea for TV which may or may not come to fruition. I’ve started collaborating with my friend Teddy Blanks who is old friends with Lena. We’re working on a few projects together which may or may not come to fruition. And just acting little things here and there along the way.
Do you think you’ll miss the show when it’s done? Yeah, definitely. I’m already kind of sad that we’re getting ready for our last season. Even that notion saddens me.
Do you watch Broad City? Uh-huh.
People seem to draw a lot of comparisons between Broad City and GIRLS. How do you think the two shows differ? Well, I think their tone is markedly different. I love Broad City. I think it’s an incredible show, and I’m a huge fan. But I think they go into a more absurd and surreal kind of zany place than we do more regularly, so I think that’s a big difference.
Have you noticed any problems with noise outside of your own living area, and would you be upset about it in the way that Ray was on the show last season? I’m sensitive to noise to begin with, and one of the things that I most dislike about living in New York is the constant beeping and humming and shouting that takes place around me. Ultimately that will probably drive me away from this city more than anything else. More than high rent and gentrification and corporate culture taking over. It will probably be the noise that takes me out the door. There was a building that burned down on my block actually, two or 3 buildings down from me, which is a horrible tragedy. And now they’re just doing construction to it, and it’s right near my house, so that’s just a daily thing that I’m trying to get used to with meditation earplugs and noise-canceling headphones.