Perhaps no character on the HBO series Girls has evolved more from season one to season two than Ray Ploshansky, portrayed by Alex Karpovsky (http://www.alexkarpovsky.com/ ). As Ray falls in love with Zosia Mamet’s character, Shoshanna Shapiro, he loses his hardened exterior and reveals touching vulnerability.
In addition to acting in the smash sensation that is Girls as well as other projects, Karpovsky is also a writer and director. Two of his independent films, Rubberneck, which showed at the Tribeca Film Festival in 2012, and Red Flag, a selection at the 2012 LA Film Festival, will be available on iTunes and Video on Demand as of Feb. 22 as well as in select theaters. The vast differences between the two films—Rubberneck a character study turned psychosexual thriller and Red Flag a self-mocking comedy—show the diversity of Karpovsky’s vision and talents.
DivineCaroline: What does it mean to you that these films are being seen by a fairly wide audience?
Alex Karpovsky: This is why I make my movies—to get them out into the world and put them in a forum where people can experience them.
DC: Red Flag is incredibly personal. You’re playing yourself. Yet you said it was great fun. What was it you loved so much?
AK: I get a kick out of playing a caricatured version of myself. A lot of the stuff that makes me laugh involves this type of approach—Larry David on Curb Your Enthusiasm, Louis C.K. on his show. I get off on amplifying your own fears, insecurities and delusions for comedic effect. I really enjoy having this playful perspective on my own shortcomings hopefully for comedic value.
DC: What drives your passion for film making?
AK: You can tell so many different types of stories. There’s so much freedom and agility. In other mediums you can feel walls quicker; the walls are sometimes higher and it’s exhausting or infuriating to keep hitting them. I feel there’s so much terrain to explore, especially when you’re wearing a lot of hats as I like to do on these low budget movies. You’re afforded the possibility to do that if you want to. That keeps me really enthused and invigorated.
DC: When you go from a situation where you have so much control—writing, acting, directing and even producing—is it hard to go into a project as an actor where someone else calls the shots or do you welcome someone else carrying the heaviest burden?
AK: I like taking breaks from directing so I can just act because I think it’s really fun to act. I like collaborating with people. I like improvising with people. I like basically working together with people that are my friends, which is usually the case, and with people that I respect, which is almost always the case. It’s really fun to step into someone else’s shoes and it’s really liberating and stress-free when you don’t carry the burden at the end of the day. When we wrap, I can have a beer and hang out and be totally anxiety free about what’s going to happen tomorrow.
If I only acted and I had to relinquish all of my control to external powers, I think I’d go crazy. What keeps me happiest is being able to go back and forth between directing and acting.
DC: You’re in this show Girls that has exploded onto the public consciousness. What is that like to be in a massive hit?
AK: I’m really thrilled that people are watching the show. I’m personally very proud of the show and I have so much faith in the show, but to be totally honest I don’t think about it too much. The only time it comes into the forefront of my mind is in interviews when people are curious about it or when we’re actually working on the show.
DC: The scene in the subway between Ray and Shoshanna where he tells her he loves her was incredibly touching. In season one this character was presented as kind of obnoxious and in season two the walls are dropping. How do you try to portray this character’s development?
AK: I’m trying to understand what the writers are going for and then communicate that in ways that are hopefully funny and realistic and ultimately engaging. In season one we were seeing sort of the tip of the ice berg. We see a guy’s who’s judgmental and cynical. He’s kind of an agitator. We don’t know where the cynicism and anger are coming from. In season two, we are kind of exploring the underpinnings and the back story, specifically through the lens of a relationship and all the fears that he’s negotiating as the relationship deepens.
As an actor, it’s incredibly fun. We’re really probing. For me, that’s the stuff that turns me on most; the stuff that makes me laugh is character-driven. The more we know of his underpinnings and back story, the more of the character we know, the richer the soil for comedic opportunities.
DC: Coming off of this huge hit season one, what was the energy like in filming season two?
AK: It was very much the same. I didn’t know if it would be because we started filming season two just as season one was beginning to air. I didn’t know if the actors or anybody would shift in light of this attention. I didn’t know if that would create a different vibe on set than season one. I was little bit anxious about that because I loved the vibe on set in season one. Fortunately, nothing changed. I think we’re comfortable with each other enough that we’re not going to change our dynamic in fundamental ways, especially when we feel it’s working.
DC: What can we expect for the remainder of this season from Ray?
AK: We’re going to keep going down this road of exploring his foundation, his underpinnings and his back story. Specifically, the insecurities and fears that prevent him from doing all the things that he wants to do, that he sees in other people that he’s envious of. I think we’re starting to understand him in a more comprehensive sense and that is especially the case with the last episode and few more down the road as well.