“It felt like she was my daughter some weeks,” reveals Peter Scolari about playing Ted Horvath, dad of Lena Dunham’s character Hannah on “Girls” for six years (watch the exclusive video above). As he explains, “With my wife I’d watch episodes I wasn’t in and go ‘what the hell are you doing Hannah? Don’t steal that bicycle.’ I’d get mad then think ‘what the hell’s the matter with you? It’s a TV show.’” The actor readily admits, “I miss Lena. She’s gracious with everyone. On the last day she would come over and be like a daughter. She’d even make the person serving coffee on the set feel that good. ‘Girls’ came from something very personal and she shared that with millions of viewers. I was right in the pocket of that.”
Last year Scolari won the Emmy for Comedy Guest Actor under unusual circumstances. He replaced Peter MacNicol who was removed from the running by the academy after being notified by Gold Derby that he’d appeared in too many episodes of “Veep” to be eligible as a guest. Scolari recounts that “Bob Newhart, who won in this category a couple of years ago, took me aside in the dressing room. He said ‘you know I already have one of these, so I don’t have to win. I hope it’s you.” What an incredibly gracious thing to say. After I won he then said ‘you realized you jumped from seventh place to first somehow.’ To win seemed beautifully preposterous.”
Back in the 1980s both Scolari and Newhart received multiple Emmy nominations for “Newhart,” but neither was able to win. However, Scolari says now was the best time in his life to win. “You know as actors, like the characters in ‘Girls,’ we can be self-obsessed. In order to be the best father I can I’ve had to put aside what I want with my relationships. Quality of life sits on top of what we give and how we are able to listen. The upshot of learning this is that I have become a better actor.”
He elaborates more fully. “It was because of my son that I needed to grow to be his father. The depth of his emotional truth superseded my ego based truth. A lot of us actors have this big ego and low self-esteem that has us needing so much. Give me a nomination. Give me awards. Give me the roles I think I’m good enough to play. I’m shocked I won an award when I stopped so desperately needing that kind of stuff. I have to listen, I’ve had to learn how despite my own solipsism, I have to shut up and care about what someone else has to say.”
When “Girls” wrapped, Scolari says “I realized how lucky I’ve been to be a part of this fantastic disturbing show. It can be incredibly touching and at other times a disturbing show about self-obsessed people that are seeking clarification of their self-image through sexual experience. ‘Girls’ was a life-changing experience.”
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