‘Girls’ Girls: Lena Dunham and Company Continue to Cast Canny and Compelling Female Guest Stars

By  · Published on February 19th, 2014

Lena Dunham’s popular television series Girls has already advanced the careers of its four central stars – Dunham, Allison Williams, Zosia Mamet, and Jemima Kirke – but the HBO production has also dedicated plenty of screen time to a bevy of other talented ladies, even those not necessarily known for their acting work. Dunham’s series has long appeared to be compelled to cast the coolest female talents for a variety of guest roles that often quite handily subvert their public and professional personas.

Kathryn Hahn had an arc back in the show’s first season as the mother of Jessa’s young babysitting charges who attempts to juggle her career and her family, Rosanna Arquette stopped by for an episode, comedienne Jenny Slate showed up for one, and even Dunham’s artist mom (and Tiny Furniture co-star) Laurie Simmons has played a named character in an ep. Elsewhere, Dunham’s childhood pal Audrey Gelman (who supposedly inspired the overachieving character of Marnie) is a political wonk by trade, but even she has shown up in three episodes of the series (remember her? she played Charlie’s just terrible new girlfriend in the first season?).

Last week’s episode of the series, the sixth of its third season, saw Hannah taking on an office job penning advertorial content at GQ, a surprisingly corporate environment that introduced her to both a new contemporary and a straight-laced lady boss with little time for her new employee’s internal struggles. And the show’s casting of even relatively small guest stars did not disappoint. The casting for “Free Snacks” was particularly canny – setting up Daily Show correspondent Jessica Williams as Hannah’s new work buddy Karen, a formerly literary-minded writer who was lured to the dark side of corporate writing by way of, yes, free snacks (and also health insurance and a gym membership) and J. Crew creative director Jenna Lyons as her corporate cold editor Janice.

Williams is, of course, a bit of a whiz kid, and extremely different from her character Karen. The comedienne is the youngest correspondent in Daily Show history and she first interviewed for the gig while still finishing up her BA at California State University Long Beach. (She was about to take her final exams when the call came!).

Lyons, who made her acting debut with “Free Snacks” and is poised to reappear throughout this season, is also an amusing pick to play a creative type overcome by getting the job done and making sure her home’s copper pipes are correctly installed. The fashionista has long been lauded for her visionary point of view, and casting her as someone so seemingly opposite is a neat little in-joke for her fanbase. Lyons, however, maintains that the character was partially based on her, sharing with The Cut that Dunham texted her about the part: “She texted me when I was in Barcelona and said, I’m working on a character and it’s kind of modeled after you, and we’re trying to get you to play it, would you do it? And I literally wrote back expletive yes!”

Somewhat similarly, the previous week’s episode (the fifth of the season) cast Jennifer Westfeldt as newbie widow Annalise Pressler-Goings, wife to Hannah’s recently deceased editor, David Pressler-Goings. It was a pointed little bit of casting, putting someone as talented as Westfeldt in a role that hinged on the developments of her husband, as the actress is also a gifted filmmaker who is often reduced to being “Jon Hamm’s partner” by the press.

Other Girls guest stars of note this season have included Melonie Diaz (who recently garnered critical acclaim for her turn in the wrenching Fruitvale Station) as Jessa’s death-faking former pal, Rita Wilson as Marnie’s flighty mother Evie (returning to a part she originated last season), Sonic Youth’s own rock goddess Kim Gordon as a patient at Jessa’s ill-fated rehab center, Orange Is the New Black star Danielle Brooks as another rehab-mate of Jessa’s, and an eye-popping and stomach-splitting Amy Schumer as Natalia’s (Shiri Appleby) vengeful pal Angie.

With the season only half over, the possibility that Girls has landed still more prime female talent is high, and we can’t wait to see what Dunham and her team do with their inevitably enviable guest stars.

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