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Six More Questions for Girls’ Adam Driver

Photo: Steve Schofield

In the February issue, Vogue speaks with Adam Driver, a star of HBO’s hit comedy Girls, now in its second season. Driver is known for playing colorful, often weird, but ultimately charming characters onscreen. Below, more from our interview about his experience on the set of the award-winning show, his military history, and his plans for the future.

Your character Adam Sackler, Hannah Horvath [Lena Dunham]’s erratic, inscrutable ex-boyfriend, is pretty eccentric, to put it mildly. Was there a lot of discussion on set about fleshing out his quirkier attributes?
I trusted Lena enough to edit what she didn’t want. Lena is very good about setting up borders to play within—she’s very unprecious with what she wrote, but at the same time very clear with the story she’s trying to tell. There’s very much an idea on set that the best idea wins—and that idea can come from someone who’s pulling focus, to someone who’s lighting. It can really come from anywhere.

Since starring as Adam, you’ve become a recognizable face in Hollywood and on the street—albeit one with possibly strange associations. How have you taken to this new publicity?
It is weird and jarring. I look so bizarre, I feel like I stand out anyway. . . . Usually someone will say something and tie it to a sexual reference that happens on the show, and it always leads to like an awkward few moments of silence afterward. I’m usually scared of crowds bigger than five people anyway.

Before turning to theater, you trained for the Marine Corps at Camp Pendleton in California. Even as your acting career has taken off, you kept a tie with the military, cofounding Arts in the Armed Forces, a nonprofit that performs theater for military communities. Why has that been such a focus in your life?
I still try to continue the service just because the people I served with had such a tight bond. Acting, to me, has been many things: It’s a business, and it’s a craft, and it’s a political act—it’s whatever adjective is most applicable. But I also consider it a deep service, and combining those two worlds seemed to be a way I could continue my military service and not do something as self-indulgent as acting can be. . . . I loved being in the Marine Corps, I loved my job in the Marine Corps, and I loved the people I served with. It’s one of the best things I’ve had a chance to do.

Would you say the Corps helped, in any way, to shape your path and career as an actor?
I don’t know whether it’s a false sense of confidence, but you definitely feel that you can handle civilian problems, because you handled military problems. You become aware of what can be accomplished in a day, and time management. I tried to get into the hardest school I could get into [Juilliard], just to challenge myself—and did. It was very lucky in retrospect. The biggest revelation was just how important words can be. It was the first time I’d been exposed to characters and writers in plays who were articulating experiences that I had in my life, and in the Marine Corps, that had nothing to do with the Marine Corps, or my history—this wide variety of characters that you shared a human experience with. Through theater and acting school, I found a way to articulate myself.

In recent months, your film career has taken off—you appeared as the telegraph operator Samuel Beckwith in Steven Spielberg’s Lincoln; you are costarring with Mia Wasikowska in a forthcoming epic called Tracks, directed by John Curran; and you’re set to appear in the Coen brothers’ Inside Llewyn Davis. What was it like working with the Coens?
It’s very familial when you walk onto those sets. I don’t know why—well, they’re brothers. . . . No matter how seemingly successful they get, they still have their youthful ambition to make it as good as possible.

Are you planning to transition more fully into movies in the future?
My only close-to-game-plan is to follow good writing. If the writing is in TV or if it’s in theater or in film, that’s it. It doesn’t really matter what the medium is.

Vogue | Nathan Heller | January 17, 2013

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