Girls’ Alex Karpovsky

The final season of Girls premiered last night, and we are major fans to say the least. It seemed only appropriate that we catch up with one of our favorites from the show, actor Alex Karpovsky. He’s the actor behind the lovable curmudgeon – Ray – Brooklyn’s favorite coffee shop owner and on-again-off-again love interest of some of our ‘Girls‘. We talked about everything from political issues and personal mantras to Boston Market and what he’s learned from Lena Dunham. Trust us, this is exactly what you need to read after last night’s premiere….

From start to finish, what would be your ideal food day?

I went to Morocco a while ago, and I had the best breakfast I’ve ever had. I don’t know if it was a traditional Moroccan breakfast or not…there was egg, feta, tomato, cucumber, olive oil, salt and pepper all in a pita with hummus. It was so good. That’s sort of my favorite breakfast these days. Dreamy lunch? I usually have salad for lunch, maybe like a beet, kale, and walnut salad. Can you tell I moved to LA? For dinner, I think my favorite food probably is some Maine oysters with horseradish and some white wine to class it up.

How do you define good content in this day and age with so much of it?

There really is a lot it seems, especially in TV. The amount of experimentation that’s allowed to percolate into the main stream is a lot; things were much more tethered to a formula not too long ago. I’m not a sociologist, and I don’t know the reasons for it, but I am celebrating that it is happening at such a blinding rate. There’s so much range and so many types of experimentation. Search Party is an interesting show – they use so many types of genre experimentation – and the same thing can be said to some degree about Atlanta. I like that Girls also disrupted certain traditions and expected framework of what TV comedy needs to look like. I define good content as content that experiments, because you can now do that in TV, unlike before.

Whats the best advice you’ve ever received?

I can’t remember a single piece of advice anyone has ever given me. I don’t ask for it, but it is only because I forget to, I think. I would love to get advice from people. Every now and then I think to myself, ‘You should ask people for advice more,’ but I don’t.

What’s an issue you feel very passionately about right now and why?

Well, politics…it’s hard not to – and the reasons are obvious – but I do feel very strongly about it. I feel very passionately about an issue that isn’t very sexy and isn’t getting a lot of attention, which is net neutrality. A lot of people don’t know what it is, and a lot of people don’t think it’s that important, but I think it’s one of the most critical issues in terms of our freedom of speech and freedom of opinion. If anyone has an opinion, there is a platform to air it. Right now, it’s completely free of corporate censorship, but that’s about to change. I think we have under six months, and then I think our internet will drift towards a more Chinese internet. It won’t become that way overnight, but it’ll very quickly become the type of internet you get at hotels and libraries. To me, that is really fucked up, dangerous and disappointing, and I’m really concerned about it. Save the net!

What are you angriest about right now and how do you want to change it?

I’m very angry at my fellow democrats. We put way too much investment in one type of information stream, and it is humorous. To some degree, we got what we deserve. Shame on us for not seeing this coming. We have state of the art analytics, intelligence, and here we are getting absolutely blindsided by something that is this important. It really is unacceptable. Maybe we deserve this. Maybe it is time we learn from it.

How are you feeling about the ending of the show?

Mixed feelings…it is bittersweet. I love doing the work; it doesn’t feel like work when you’re hanging out with your friends and being goofy. Doing something that is actually seen; that is pretty flattering and neat, and we got to do it for six years. It is a really incredible opportunity, and I just love the people I work with. I’m sure people say this all the time – but I really mean this – there are not any jerks on the show. I don’t think that’s good luck, either. I think they wouldn’t last with us – Lena would just have no patience for it. That it is ending is sad, but on the other side, it is really important for Lena and the creators to exit before we lost momentum. I respect that opinion, and also I don’t really want to be on a sinking ship. I respect the context and the timing in which we say goodbye; I definitely don’t think Season Six will be a disappointment in that respect.

Can you share a memorable moment from the set?

When we finished wrapping Season 1, we shot a little bit out of order. The last thing we ended up shooting was me running through the streets of Bushwick with Shoshanna, who just took crack, at like four or five in the morning. We shot the whole season in a vacuum because no one had seen anything, so we had no idea if anyone would watch the show. A lot of people, including myself, thought the show was quirky and cool, but maybe no one was going to watch it. We thought it was going to be too weird and specific, and just too gritty for people to really get any kind of mainstream acceptance. 

But I remember shooting that last moment and then all of us having drinks in a parking lot in Bushwick so early in the morning and celebrating the end of this first season, which had so much impulsivity and craziness and just a real vibrant energy that we knew would never be there again. Either the show would get canceled, or the show would go on, and things would just have to change. There was this weird “no man’s land” time period. I’ll never forget that moment of having a beer, when Lena came over to me and said, “If we do go to a second season, would you like to be a regular on the show?” (because at that point I was recurring) and I just remember how nice that felt – like I was doing something correct in terms of this wonderful part.

What’s the best thing about working with her?

The fact that she has a very, very specific idea of what she wants. On top of that, she knows how to communicate that to people in a way that’s really coherent and accessible and efficient. Those are really difficult things to do. I have a tremendous amount of respect for her for being able to do that consistently for six years.

Are you and Ray similar? How so?

Sort of. I would like to have a drink with Ray maybe once a month, but I think that is as much as I could do. He reminds me in many ways of who I was ten or fifteen years ago. I feel like I also – like Ray – think about a lot of my insecurities and disorientation, or confusion. When I was in my early to mid-twenties, I would just try to amplify those elements for comedic or narrative effect, so he’s kind of a caricature of who I used to be. He reminds me of me, because I’m a narcissist (laughs).

What are some common misconceptions about you and your sense of humor?

People think that I’m a lot more cynical and judgmental than I think I am. A lot of people, when they first meet me – before they get a whiff of my sense of humor – think I’m sort of making fun of them. I don’t think that’s the case, though. Or people think I don’t like them as people (I heard Zosia didn’t think I liked her when we first met!) I think I just sort of have a sour resting bitch face, and people misread it.

Do you think Ray is more cynical than you are?

Definitely.

Who do you think you were in a past life?

The structure of this question is interesting, because you have to say someone who’s famous so that we know, but I’m going to go into my soul for this one. I’m getting a snow rabbit in the tundra. One of these really soft, white-haired, jittery creatures that blends into his environment and needs to stay one step ahead of his prey.

What’s your personal mantra?

I don’t know if this is a mantra, but sometimes I say to myself “Today is going to be the best day of your life and tomorrow is going to be even better.” Sometimes I say that like five times in a row when I’m showering; I like the way it makes me feel.

What are your favorite restaurants in New York and LA?

I never really eat out, and I know nothing about food. I like to cook, but I’m not a great cook, and I’m very behind with hot restaurants and hot chefs. Actually, my first job was delivering chicken at the original Boston Market (then called Boston Chicken) when I was sixteen. 

When I cook, I make variations of stir fry. I just throw a bunch of stuff together and then I’ll add in a protein. It’s usually a bunch of vegetables, peanuts, sometimes ginger, and then I will have brown rice going and throw in some steak. I use a lot of oyster sauce; it is quite tasty.

If you could host a dinner party with any five people living or dead, who would they be?

Bob Dylan would have to have a seat at the table. Man, this is so hard…only five people in the whole history of the earth! I mean, how do you not invite Jesus? You’d be an asshole not to invite Jesus. Let’s get Freud in there, and Elon Musk. Let’s get a lady in there, let’s open this up…I would say Joan of Arc – she’s so fiery! I’m sure someone’s a vegetarian in the bunch, but I’d probably make a beef tenderloin, with potatoes and spinach. Something rich and heavy to celebrate their accomplishments. I wouldn’t make it, but I’d call Boston Chicken. 

Check out our interviews with Karpovsky’s former co-stars Jake Lacy and Gillian Jacobs.

*Alex Karpovsky, photographed at Temple Court in The Beekman Hotel in New York, NY by Danielle Kosann