Though he’s best known as Ray Ploshansky, the coffee entrepreneur perpetually torn between Shoshanna and Marnie on Girls, Alex Karpovsky’s career spans so much more. He’s directed quite a few films (and an episode of Girls), appeared in two Coen brothers movies as well as dozens of others, and — just like Ray — he’s politically active, campaigning for Bernie Sanders earlier this year.
In June, Alex took some time from shooting the final season of Girls to talk to BUST about his short film, “Possibilia.” Directed by the Daniels (you know them from Swiss Army Man), “Possibilia” played at Sundance in 2014 but is only now getting a wide release online. Starring Karpokvsy and Zoe Jarman (The Mindy Project) as a couple breaking up, “Possibilia” is a uniquely interactive experience that lets the viewer choose which scene comes next, a sort of “choose your own breakup adventure”:
Of course, we also couldn’t resist asking a few questions about the final season of Girls, who he wants to see Ray end up with, and why — as any single twenty- or thirtysomething Brooklyn lady into dudes has seen — he’s on Tinder.
“Possibilia” is so interactive, is that what drew you to it?
That was one of the reasons. I’ve never done anything interactive before, and I thought it would be really fun and challenging to explore new spaces. I also really liked the story. And the more that I started learning about the Daniels, the more I started to fall in love with their work. It’s a combination of all three of those reasons.
One of the things I find really compelling about it is how it explores the idea of choices and forks in the road in a relationship. When you have tension in a relationship, there are so many ways of proceeding from there, and one choice, or series of choices, could forge a path to salvaging the relationship. That, to me, was what the movie was about.
You and your co-star Zoe Jarman both make great TV for a similar audience. Did you know each other before?
I was familiar with her work on The Mindy Project, but I never met her in person. When I knew we were doing this together, I looked at more of her stuff and became a pretty big fan. She’s amazing, because she not only has impeccable comedic timing and incredible improv chops, but she also lays down the drama like it’s nobody’s business.
You’ve done quite a bit of directing, so working with the Daniels, did you feel like you were observing them in a different way?
When I act, I do my best to not bring my director’s hat to the set because I think it can be very annoying to the director, and also, I think it compromises my abilities as an actor. I feel like I need to use every neuron in my brain just to do a decent job acting, and if, in addition to that, if I’m trying to be a closet director on set, it’s not going to make my acting any better.
But one thing I did notice about working with the Daniels is how much fun they have on set, and their relationship is rooted in so much mutual respect for the other person. There’s something that allows them to have one person talking to the camera department, while another one is talking to the actors, that made me really jealous. I also wanted to find a collaborator that I could form a directing duo with, and a few months after working on that movie, I started collaborating with this guy named Teddy Blanks, and we now make music videos and other things together. I don’t think that would have happened if I didn’t see the enthusiasm the Daniels have on set.
You said that when you’re acting, you can’t bring your director’s mind to set. What’s it like with, for example, that episode of Girls, where you’re both directing and acting?
I just try to focus on one thing at a time. I can’t be thinking about directorial decisions too much when I’m acting in a scene. Lena [Dunham] is different from me in this way. She has this amazing mind where she can simultaneously be very engaged and be supple and flexible in a scene as an actor, and when she yells “cut,” she can immediately rattle off a list of pivots and adjustments. I don’t have the dual processor in my brain like she does, so I have to stay in actor’s mode as best as I can, and then talk to the crew, watch the playback, and be a little slower and more methodical about it.
I wanted to ask about Girls. The final season is coming up. Are you currently filming it?
We started filming about a month ago, and we’re going to film until August.
What’s that like, coming to the end of such a big project?
Well, there’s a lot of sadness and melancholy. We spent six years doing the same thing, we really formed a family with our cast and our crew, so to see that come to an end is difficult. We’ve already slowly started the process of wrapping out a location, wrapping out an actor, and we’re slowly saying goodbye to a thousand different little pieces. I’m taking a lot of photos and sometimes keeping little pieces of memorabilia. I’m trying to savor the moment and realize how lucky I’ve been to work on this show.
Do you have an ideal ending for Ray in mind?
He’s just another man who’s been negotiating with his cynicism and his existential disorientation for a long time. I guess I want him to find a more constructive way to process those feelings, whether it’s in a political sphere, or a cultural community sphere, or whether it’s in a relationship sphere. He’s really smart but he doesn’t apply himself. And, I guess because a part of me likes happy endings, I would like that, for sure.
Do you want to see Ray end up with Marnie or Shoshanna?
I don’t know. We’re shooting now, and Ray has a lot of interesting scenes in the first leg of this season with both of them, and there’s a lot of variety in those scenes. That answer for me is changing pretty much every day. There are some moments where Ray and Marnie are really connecting, and I feel like, despite the odds, these two are actually wonderful for each other. And then there are moments when Ray and Shoshanna meet on this really intimate and emotional level, and I’m like, these are the two that should end up with each other. And then there are moments when Ray just shoots himself in the foot, and I’m like, this motherfucker deserves to be on his own.
You’ve talked about being on Tinder before, and I live in Brooklyn so my friends and I have all seen you on Tinder. Do you ever swipe right?
Swipe right is when you like someone, right?
I’m joking! I was trying to make a show, not about Tinder, but about online dating — basically, a swipe left, swipe right dating app. We were going to call it Sideswipe. We actually shot a spec episode with it with Noel Wells, who’s on Aziz Ansari’s show. So, you get your research, and you get out!
Is there any chance we’ll see Sideswipe eventually in some form?
I think it’s dead, unless you put it in print and someone reads it and takes a shine to it! It’s all on your shoulders at this point.
Top photo: Girls/HBO
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