Richard Shepard Q&A: ‘Girls’ director
“The first time I directed ‘Girls’ was the first time someone had directed something Lena Dunham had written that wasn’t Lena,” recalls Emmy winner Richard Shepard as we chat via webcam (watch above). He goes on to explain how six years later “Lena gave me the script to the ‘American Bitch’ episode and said ‘this is the last season and I wrote this especially for you and I to do together.”
“American Bitch” is a self-contained episode where Hannah (Lena Dunham) goes to an apartment to meet an author (Matthew Rhys) she used to greatly admire. Once there, they have a tense discussion in the wake of a scathing article Hannah has written about allegations of him committing sexual assault.
At the end of the episode Shepard details, “there’s a moment where she’s charmed by him enough, that she’s put in the most vulnerable position. She willingly goes into his bedroom, and touches his penis. It’s a power thing. It’s not an everyday topic.” The director talks candidly about how he wanted to stage that scene. “It was a wide shot. I wanted the audience to not immediately see it. To first see Hannah’s face and then look down and see the penis. That was done for both dramatic and comedic effect. It is horrific, but her reaction is also sort of funny. Life is both funny and dramatic.”
One of the moments Shepard is most proud of is the final shot of the episode. “It’s not scripted but I wanted to see Hannah leaving the apartment and all these other women heading in. It was slightly surreal and a little different from what ‘Girls’ usually does. In editing Lena, Jenny and Judd cut it out. After six seasons I had to beg them to keep it in and take the risk. I wasn’t above grovelling. I literally grovelled. I called all of them and begged. Thankfully Lena is always open to ideas.”
Before his time with “Girls,” Shepard won an Emmy in 2007 for directing the pilot of “Ugly Betty.” Looking back on that win he says it was “odd to win an award for television, when two years before Time Warner cable turned off my TV cause I couldn’t afford to pay my bill.”