One in the Oven
Richard Kern and I drove out to the East Hampton family home of Jemima Kirke, the star of HBO's 'Girls,' to photograph her at eight months pregnant. I also chatted with her about the time we did key bumps together in a bathroom, dating assholes, and...
Growing up in New York City, I knew about Jemima Kirke long before we ever met. We both went to art-centric private schools in Manhattan, and Jemima was a myth you heard about during Monday-morning homeroom. Her dad was a rock drummer, and her mom owned a vintage boutique that supplied dresses to Sex and the City, so it was ridiculously unfair that Jemima was also stunningly gorgeous. Normally, this breed of legendary cool chick meets some tragic fate after graduation, or moves away and is never heard from again until she appears in a Japanese perfume ad under a different name.
Somehow, Jemima has avoided both fates, and she’s being talked about now more than ever, mostly because of her role as a fun-loving party gal on HBO’s Girls, which revolves around the stories of four young women who keep trying and failing at relationships, work, and life (it also makes dorks on the internet very angry for some reason). In real life, Jemima is a wife, the mother of a young daughter (with another baby on the way, obviously), and a visual artist, so when Richard Kern and I drove out to her family home in East Hampton to photograph her (at eight months pregnant), I was curious as to whether she had been wholly domesticated by this point. I also wanted to see if she’s still pretty. She is, and she’s got her shit together so much that it’s somewhat upsetting.
VICE: I ran into you when you were 18 and back home for the holidays from the Rhode Island School of Design. It was at an afterparty for our friend’s band Dopo Yume. From the moment I met you I’ve always seen you as this beautiful, glamorous—
Jemima Kirke: Wait, what happened at the afterparty? Now I want to know. Do you remember?
Well, I can tell you and it can be off the record if you want...
No, it’s fine.
We were at Black and White, the bar, and obviously neither of us was old enough to be there. We were introduced by a mutual friend, hit it off, and then you asked me to go into the bathroom with you.
Oh yeah! I do remember that, and that you seemed somewhat impressionable at the time. So I thought, “I could probably get this girl to do drugs with me.” But I don’t think there was anyone else at the bar…
You offered me bumps off your keys while you were peeing on the toilet. And I recall thinking, Who the hell is this girl? Then when I saw the show and watched you doing the same thing, minus the drugs, it brought it all back.
The character I play is not so far from me. I mean, fundamentally she is, and some of her behavior might have been taken from things I’ve done, but—
But now you’re 27 years old and about to be the mother of two. How did this happen? Most people our age who grew up in the city are still kind of fucking around—living at home and not pursuing any of their passions, if they even had any to begin with.
I think that way of life stopped working for me really quickly. Some people know how to balance things, at least enough to be able to continue messing around, but I didn’t. I was very all-or-nothing about it, and you burn out really quickly if you keep going that way. It really fucked me.
How did you get into acting?
My friend Lena [Dunham] asked me to be in a movie that she was making with her parents’ money called Tiny Furniture. She didn’t have enough to pay anyone, and I guess it was slim pickings, so she asked me to be part of it and it was a success. Afterward she was offered the TV show and invited me to work on it. I never thought it’d go as far as it has.
How has this sudden fame changed your life?
One of the best parts is that I can sufficiently support my kids. At my age that’s pretty hard to do without struggling or taking money from my parents, and I don’t have to do either. But it has taken a lot of time and energy away from my work as an artist.
Would a career in art be preferable to what you’re doing now?
Acting is secondary—I don’t feel like it’s going to stick around because it’s not something I want to do forever. My art has always been my top priority and I have far more experience in that field than I do in film. It’s hard to explain without sounding like a dick. I’m not that person. I’m really grateful for such enjoyable work, I just don’t feel as though I have any clout as an actor. I haven’t earned it, and I don’t intend to.
How did you and your husband, Mike, meet?
Really short story, actually: We met in a doctor’s office. I had bronchitis, and I don’t remember what he was there for, but I liked him and gave him my number. We’ve been together for four years and married for three of them.
What kind of dating advice will you give your children when they grow up?
If I have a boy, I’ll probably just tell him to be nice to women. Being humble and sweet is the hardest thing you can do. Stay confident and don’t act desperate, because I guarantee whomever you’re into actually sucks way more than you think they do. There is always something they’re not telling you that will bring them down a notch in your eyes.
What about for your daughter? Lock her up and not let her out?
I would love for her to date guys. I guess I’d just let her do her own thing and hopefully she’d feel comfortable enough to talk to me so I can offer advice.
What’s your take on the theory that girls secretly love to date assholes?
I think it’s a phase and something you grow out of. That kind of game gets really old, hopefully sooner rather than later. I loved that when I was younger, but my husband is the perfect example of what I think is hot now. He’s the kindest, most humble man in the world but still has that bad-boy glint in his eyes. He could be an asshole if he wanted to, but he isn’t—he knows how to treat the woman he loves.
How would you feel if you had a son and he turned out like Adam, Hannah’s boyfriend on the show? Or if your daughter began dating a guy like him? He doesn’t seem that bad once you get to know him, but he’s a fucking mess.
If my son turned out like that I’d actually be proud! He’s a smart and intuitive guy once you get to know him, but he’s really dark and that can be incredibly seductive and potent. I’d be worried if my daughter ended up with someone like that and would hope she was in a good place prior to getting involved, because that type of darkness can destroy a person.
Sounds like you’re going to be a really understanding mom.
I’ll probably be freaking out on the inside, but I’d like my kids to feel like capable and independent human beings. I’m here for guidance or if they need me; I’m not going to tell them who they should be.
Are you planning on raising both of your kids in the city?
For now, yes, definitely, I think New York is a great place to grow up.
Do you feel that living in such an abrasive place has shaped you in any way?
People tend to say that living here you grow up too quickly, but I don’t necessarily agree. It just depends on the person. If someone is going to gravitate toward bad things in the city they’re also just as likely to do the same in the suburbs to a certain degree.
It definitely seems to have worked out for you.
Yes! I promise I still would have been a disaster in the suburbs, too. In the city I had access to bars, parties, and drugs, but even if I lived on the outskirts I probably would’ve been cutting up pills in my bedroom.
It was just your path.
Yeah, that was just me. I don’t think location would have mattered. I wasn’t pissed at my parents, and I wasn’t a brat, so I don’t feel the city really changed me in that way. [pause] Oh, Lindsay [Lohan] strikes again! I’m reading the Post and she fucking hit a pedestrian again with her SUV.
Are you serious?
It was at 2:30 AM, too. That’s not a good look.
She hasn’t grown up yet.
No, she definitely hasn’t, and I don’t think she ever will.
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