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EXCLUSIVE: An Oral History of 'Girls' Fan and Cast Favorite: ‘Welcome to Bushwick aka the Crackcident’

by Stacy Lambe and Darla Murray 12:10 PM PDT, April 13, 2017
Photo: HBO

Dubbed a millennial’s answer to Sex and the City when it premiered, Girls proved itself to be much more than that. Created by Lena Dunham, the show started out as a spotlight on a group of 20-something women -- Hannah (Dunham), Marnie (Allison Williams), Jessa (Jemima Kirke) and Shoshanna (Zosia Mamet) -- who were as lost as they were indignant about perceived notions of what it means to be an adult, with Hannah proclaiming herself to be a voice of a generation in the pilot episode.

Over the course of six seasons and 62 episodes, the HBO series expanded its world to include as many men -- Adam (Adam Driver), Ray (Alex Karpovsky), Elijah (Andrew Rannells) and Desi (Ebon Moss-Bachrach) -- as there were women while addressing issues of adulthood, addiction, rape, sexism and idealism. 

MORE: The Cast of 'Girls' Looks Ahead to Final Season and a Long Goodbye

Every season, fans followed them down their own paths -- Hannah’s ongoing journey to become a writer, Marnie’s often misguided attempts to find (and define her own) happiness, Shosh’s desire to find value and meaning in her work and Jessa’s bumpy road to maturity. Often, that meant all four “girls” were not in the same room, which executive producer Jenni Konner admits is not very common for a show meant to be about a group of friends. In fact, it wasn’t until episode seven of season one, “Welcome to Bushwick aka the Crackcident,” that fans got to see what happens when Hannah, Marnie, Jessa and Shoshanna all interact with each other -- and some of those boys in their collective lives.

In the episode that premiered on May 27, 2012, the four girls, Charlie (Christopher Abbott), Ray and Adam all attend the same warehouse party -- the best one ever, according to Jessa -- in Bushwick, Brooklyn. What followed was a series of shenanigans -- including Shoshanna famously smoking crack -- as well as some unexpected character development, particularly for Hannah, who confronts Adam about their relationship.

Ahead of the Girls series finale, which airs Sunday, April 16 at 10 p.m. ET, the cast, Konner and executive producer Judd Apatow look back on this rare episode that featured all the core characters in the same location -- a feat only repeated a handful of times during the series -- that not only set the course for many of its storylines but proved to be a fan and cast favorite. 

MORE: My Favorite Scene With 'Girls' Executive Producer Jenni Konner

Lena Dunham (creator, executive producer, co-writer and “Hannah”): The first interesting thing about [the episode] is that is the first episode of Girls that Jenni Konner and I wrote together -- we ended up writing many episodes of the show together, but that was our first real collaboration, handing pages back and forth.

Jenni Konner (executive producer and co-writer): We tend to check into hotels and watch Scandal and then write and then watch Scandal and then write. We have a very strong writers’ room where everyone can do their own script. So, we sit and break the story in a fair amount of detail and then we go off and write together. It’s usually me and Lena or me, Lena and Judd [Apatow] sometimes just sitting in a room and saying, “You take this scene and I’ll take this scene.”

Dunham: Jenni really had the idea for the structure and the idea that for the first time, we were seeing all of them in a social situation together and this would be this very specific reveal of how each of them behaves -- not just when they're hanging out alone in their apartments, but what they look like as social creatures.

Konner: That is the first episode where all the girls are in the same place in the first season. So they’re not all together until episode seven, which is pretty untraditional in TV when it’s about a group of girls who don’t see each other all the time. We tried to make it more realistic friendships, but we did want to do an episode where we did see them all interacting and what that would look like. I think it taught us a lot about the four of those girls.

Alex Karpovsky (“Ray”): We only really see each other at premiere parties, press events and occasionally these big scenes. So, you have a certain dynamic when you hang out with one or two people and then a new kind of dynamic forms when you're in this big group environment. It's fun to find and explore and get to know someone better based on this critical mass as a group. It brings out different traits.

Konner: I think the statistic is literally that they're all together 12 times over the series. It's really low. But we thought it would be really fun.

Allison Williams (“Marnie”): I remember it as the first time Lena really learned how much power she had in her role -- neither Lena nor Jenni somehow realized that what they put in a script would appear onscreen. 

Dunham: It really came when Jenni asked for a baby. She was like, “Wouldn't it be funny to have a baby at the party?” Then it showed up and it was crying. Jenni was like, “I want it to go away; I feel that it is cruel. I don't want this baby to be here.” But that's how we got the great line from Alex Karpovsky: “What the f**k is a baby doing at this party?” We also asked for a group of clowns. Then everything we asked for arrived and we were like, “Whoa. This is a wild power.”

Williams: I'm sure they wrote that and they were like, “Well, of course no one will bring an actual baby. No one is willing to have their baby be at this party.” 

Photo: HBO

Dunham: We shot for a week and a half in a warehouse in Bushwick at night. We were also all losing our minds because we were living completely nocturnally.

Konner: It was an all-night shoot. It was 150 degrees.

Zosia Mamet (“Shoshanna”): We were vampires.

Andrew Rannells (“Elijah”): This was only my third time working on television at this point. I was still doing The Book of Mormon, and we shot all my stuff in one day. I remember having to go quickly.

Karpovsky: I was also excited about this episode because it was directed by Jody Lee Lipes, who was also our cinematographer on Girls and Tiny Furniture. He's a brilliant, weird kind of genius. I was excited to see the vision unfold.

Jemima Kirke (“Jessa”): I'm traumatized from something Jody said to me during that. He's like, “Jemima on that line [“This is going to be the best party ever”] you sound like and look like you're pretending.” I was like, “It's true.” But it's really funny though, actually, because I am pretending.

Dunham: I still love the shot of the four of us walking in together holding hands more than anything. It’s so Ocean's Eleven.

Konner: Casting was really essential to look real -- even the casting of the place had to look really real and it really did. That's when we first introduce Roberta [Colindrez] who plays Tako, and we were really excited that all of Adam’s friends would be lesbians. That just made a lot of sense to us.

Dunham: Our friend Rachel Lord played the topless girl Jemima shoves out of the way. She was thrilled for the job.

Rannells: There were so many people in the background. The location was huge and also, in retrospect, very unsafe. We were climbing on shit that was like, “I'm pretty sure this isn't up to code.”

Dunham: We were also surrounded by hundreds of Bushwick extras. The show wasn't on yet, so we weren't famous. We were no one and our set had been taken over by these style monsters.

Mamet: It was so crazy. I remember whenever they would re-up the craft table and we'd break for a second, they would descend like locusts. We would be trying to get a snack and then they'd all depart after, like, 90 seconds and it’d be, like, scraps left.

Dunham: We also had 11 cases of prop beer stolen. But the joke was on them because it was nonalcoholic. So they were, like, off getting “wasted.” 

Photo: HBO

Dunham: That was special because every single character had their own, very distinct arc, and that's something that's really hard to achieve in an episode. It’s hard to find a way to give everyone their emotional due. I also feel like it was Zosia's “coming out” as a character. 

Mamet: I've never done crack. It was tough. I was definitely nervous.

Dunham: While Shoshanna is based on my cousin, I have a friend who accidentally smoked crack.

Mamet: I’ve said this before, but I wanted to be a good actor and do my research, so I started to find YouTube videos of people high on crack and that just led to a really dark place very quickly. I was like, “Obviously, this is not going to work.” So it was really a collaboration, because everybody was weighing in with the little knowledge that they had. I was like, “Maybe I'll try a lot of twitching,” and Jodi, very quickly, was like, “I think that makes it too much like you're high on coke and that might be overboard.” So it was a mix of going really extreme and then sort of pulling it back and trying to find the middle ground, which is particularly tough with Shoshanna.

Dunham: We talked about the idea that at first she's freaking out but then once she's really on it, that she actually slows down a little bit. She already talks so fast that she seems like she's on crack, so the idea became that time kind of slows down. It almost calms her.

Mamet: The question we kept asking was: “What is Shosh like on crack?” Because she's so high already. 

Dunham: I love when she says, “Don't tell my mom. Don't even tell me.”

Williams: “Don't even tell me” is so good. How many times have we thought that?

Konner: I had a friend who took a model mugging class, which was like a self-defense class in high school. The guys are full of foam and one of the things you're supposed to do is scream what you're hitting -- that's part of the training -- like, “Groin” and “Neck.” So I always thought that would be so funny to see it played out. Shosh would be the exact person who would take that class. Also, the idea that she would lose her skirt and there would be no explanation for it really made us laugh in the writers’ room.

Williams: It was also the beginning of Ray-Shoshanna.

Karpovsky: It was a really big script for my character because it starts introducing the possibility of a romance with him and Shosh. I was particularly excited about it.

Mamet: We played that clip at Inside the Actors Studio. Watching that when they're essentially strangers to each other and then knowing where they end up was so interesting because I hadn't seen the episode in so long. 

Konner: There were just certain combinations you put together over the years that you were like, “This is a real magical combination.” (Last year, just having Andrew [Rannells] with Becky Ann Baker was really fun for us.) I always thought Shosh and Ray were kind of a perfect couple, because they both had more strong opinions than anybody else. They both knew exactly who they were, what they wanted, and told everyone all the time very directly. So, I always thought it would be funny to see what they would be like together.

Photo: HBO

Dunham:  Whenever someone dresses as Jessa for Halloween, they wear that dress. It’s always the feathers and the bouffant.

Kirke: The dress was mine, but it was very fragile. It was so old, it was actually rotting. So [costume designer Jennifer Rogien] copied it.

Dunham: They did that a lot of over the years.

Jennifer Rogien: [As told to Fashionista] The dress itself was a piece from the 1930s. I didn't know if it was going to hold up the production demands for the show, so we remade it so it could travel through the fight and the hospital and the potential blood. The look has to be right, but there is also a practical demand that we have to take into consideration for every single piece.

Konner: Jenn Rogien is a genius. The way she talks about wardrobe, it’s so much deeper than what you're thinking. It’s very deep and academic and amazing. Our costume meetings were 10 minutes long. There was never a moment like, “That doesn't work at all.” Seriously.

Dunham: Then, the hair was a Gibson girl-style hairstyle.

Mamet: That was the strongest look that I'd ever seen her in.

Rannells: When I first started, it was just supposed to be one episode, so to get to learn more about Elijah in this episode -- like him being in Rent, his relationship with Marnie and uncovering more of who he is -- was really fun and exciting.

Dunham: We always knew Allison could sing because we found her through her YouTube video, where she sang the Mad Men theme song. So we always knew, between her and Andrew, that there was going to be some singing. We liked that they had a musical theater college backstory, because Allison had so many funny stories.

Konner: Both of them have such gorgeous voices that it just seemed like a real tragedy not to use them as often as we could. Actually, episode seven of [season six] really showcases Andrew's full talents and it's so special to watch.

Dunham: I will never forget when Jenni and I were sitting in my trailer trying to figure out how to end that scene and she was like, “Oh my god, we should slap Marni in the face.” And we were like, “Can we? We will.”

Konner: The physical stuff was all scripted. The slap, all the running -- I think Adam picking up Roberta was probably not. Usually, when Adam picks up people it wasn't scripted until later seasons when we realized how great he was at picking up people and how funny it looked. All the physical stuff was pretty planned out in that episode. It's kind of rare, so it’s usually pretty plotted.

Rannells: What I was nervous about was in the script, I was supposed to haul off and hit her, which I was not comfortable with. Even as a character, I can't imagine doing that. I remember saying to Lena, “Maybe if I was a smaller gay, it would be one thing. But I'm 6-foot-2 and it feels mean.” So we had to come up with a way that I could hit her and it wasn't too violent, which sounds ridiculous. We worked on a lot of different things to make sure Allison was comfortable and I was comfortable. I’d never hit anyone before, let alone a girl. So, it felt weird to figure out logistically.

Williams: Another thing we didn't realize yet is that if you write a slap in a script, a stunt coordinator shows up. They just wanted him to slap me, which I was totally fine with, but of course, we had to choreograph this careful slap. It ended up being a bop that is very clearly not making contact.

Mamet: It's also so Elijah.

Williams: It's the physical manifestation of the way he says “Ma'am.”

Rannells: That’s what I remember being stressed by: “Here I am, this new character on the show. Am I going to look like a f**king dick because I smacked Marnie?” Turns out people wanted me to hit Marnie.

Williams: He also mentioned my dad [Brian Williams].

Dunham: There was a part where he was like, “By the way, you look like Brian Williams and not in a sexy way,” and Allison just goes, “F**k you.”

Rannells: Elijah has a unique role in this show a lot of times. He's sort of the audience. So I get to say some sh*t to these women that some people at home are like, “Thank you! Call her out on that.” 

Photo: HBO

Dunham: My favorite thing, which is like a real subtle detail Jenni wrote in, is when Jemima is at the ER with James LeGros and we have the woman who is there obsessed with getting pills. She's just crazy. Anyone who has ever been to the ER in New York knows that, like, half of these people have problems and half of it is just people who are drug addicts. So, she was holding her side and saying, “I've got appendicitis.” That actress was so polite and then she just transformed into a raging drug addict.

Kirke: We were talking about [how] she had just adopted a baby or was in the process of it and then she was like, “Go f**k a…”

Dunham: I love, love, love when Jemima -- and this was all her -- nervously pets James’ head when he cries, because what is more revolting that being cried on by a grown white man? 

Kirke: I could barely do it. It was the ponytail.

Konner: We’ve never seen Adam in the real world [before this]. Hannah’s never seen him with his shirt on. None of the girls had met him. He’s kind of a Snuffleupagus of Hannah’s life until that moment. We just sort of thought, “What is Adam’s point of view of this relationship? Let’s show what it looks like from the other side of being in a relationship with Hannah.” It’s similar to introducing someone’s parents. It’s like, “Oh, that’s how you build Shoshanna, having those two people.”

Judd Apatow (executive producer): It's always fun to slowly reveal more layers of the character, and Adam [Driver] was somebody who we met at the auditions and you could tell he was a fascinating person.

Konner: My favorite thing about that episode was at the end when Hannah’s in the big fight with Adam. We've only seen Adam from her point of view until then -- and he seems withdrawn and withholding and like he's not really that into her -- and then he says, “You never ask me anything about myself. You don't know shit about me.” To me, that moment was the moment we realized Hannah has become an unreliable narrator and maybe we shouldn't have trusted her so much. It’s when Adam became a man. 

Apatow: A lot of the creation of that character was a collaboration between the writers and him. It was really fun to try to figure out who he was. And one way to do that was to see her side of it and then just flip it and realize, “Oh, we didn't know any of this information, that she doesn't treat him well, that she's afraid of commitment and she's a weird person to be in a relationship with.”

Konner: It’s such a big, pivotal scene -- that was one where we didn’t play around that much because we needed to get what we needed to get. [Adam, Allison and Lena’s reactions were] completely scripted. The whole idea of that was that we’re going to do this hard cut to Hannah being so happy. I think it’s in the stage direction: “A huge smile spreads across her face.” We knew that was going to be very delicious for her.

Apatow: It set the relationship off into a new trajectory. It was more complicated than we thought. It wasn't just a sweet girl with a unique guy.

Welcome to Bushwick aka the Crackcident” as well as the entire series of Girls can be viewed on HBO GO or HBO Now.

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