Girls co-cre­ators brave the out­doors for new HBO se­ries

Winnipeg Free Press - - ARTS LIFE | ENTERTAINMENT - PA­TRICK RYAN

FOR two peo­ple mak­ing a show called Camp­ing, Lena Dun­ham and Jenni Kon­ner sure hate the out­doors.

“It was not well thought out,” dead­pans Kon­ner, re­turn­ing to HBO af­ter the pair co-cre­ated Girls. “We loved writ­ing the show, and then we were like, ‘Oh, this re­ally means we need to be in the dirt all day, ev­ery day.’”

Their aver­sion to na­ture was par­tic­u­larly amus­ing to se­ries star Jen­nifer Garner, who “didn’t re­al­ize how out­doorsy I was un­til I was (on set) with Jenni and Lena, who felt pun­ished ev­ery day we had to be out­side,” she re­calls. Mean­while, co-star David Ten­nant and Garner “thought it was the big­gest gift. Ev­ery day, all we could do was be like, ‘Look at that oak tree! Look at that sun­rise!’ “

If only Garner’s Camp­ing char­ac­ter shared her serene out­look. In the acer­bic new com­edy (Sun­day, check lo­cal list­ings), the Alias ac­tor makes her small-screen come­back as Kathryn McSor­ley-Jodell, a high-strung mom who in­vites her friends on a camp­ing trip to cel­e­brate her hus­band Walt’s (Ten­nant) birth­day.

Equipped with binders of metic­u­lously or­ga­nized ac­tiv­ity sched­ules, Kathryn im­pe­ri­ously at­tempts a pic­tureper­fect get­away but in­stead makes her young son (Dun­can Joiner) and fel­low cou­ples mis­er­able. Among them: a randy reiki healer (Juli­ette Lewis), an oafish re­cov­er­ing ad­dict (Joe Sullivan of This Is Us) and Kathryn’s dim younger sis­ter (Ione Skye), who drink and have sex in ir­rev­er­ent re­bel­lion.

Camp­ing is based on a 2016 Bri­tish se­ries, which also re­volved around un­pleas­ant peo­ple work­ing through re­la­tion­ship is­sues in the claus­tro­pho­bic set­ting of a camp­ing trip. It’s a nat­u­ral fol­lowup to Girls, which ended its sixsea­son run last year, in that both mine toxic fe­male friend­ships for un­com­fort­able laughs.

Through Kathryn and her es­tranged best friend Nina-Joy (Jan­icza Bravo), “we hoped to ex­plore how women can be re­ally cruel to each other, even though we be­lieve deeply in fe­male friend­ships be­ing the core of our lives,” Kon­ner says.

“One of the cen­tral ques­tions of this is, ‘What hap­pens when you get a group of peo­ple to­gether and you can’t just walk away from the friend who is an­noy­ing you and not call them for three days?’”

Af­ter the first four of the sea­son’s eight episodes were made avail­able to crit­ics, some were put off by Kathryn, call­ing her “tyran­ni­cally at­ten­tive,” “ir­ri­tat­ing” and “in­suf­fer­able.”

Garner agrees with those ad­jec­tives but as­sures “you’ll un­der­stand her, even if you don’t love her” by sea­son’s end. Read­ing the scripts, “I could see where the old Kathryn had been cov­ered up by years and years of in­se­cu­rity and see what her re­la­tion­ship with her hus­band used to be,” she says.

One of the chief road­blocks in their mar­riage is Kathryn’s on­go­ing strug­gle with chronic pain, which led to mul­ti­ple surg­eries, in­clud­ing a hys­terec­tomy. It’s a com­mon thread be­tween the char­ac­ter and Dun­ham, who opened up about her own hys­terec­tomy ear­lier this year and was forced to pull out of pro­mot­ing Camp­ing this week due to her con­tin­ued bat­tle with en­dometrio­sis.

Dun­ham “is so brave and ar­tic­u­late about what her body has put her through and talked to me about it,” Garner says. “When you suf­fer from chronic pain — and I don’t, thank God, I’m only speak­ing from hav­ing read and spo­ken to a bunch of peo­ple who have — you don’t feel good, but no­body can see it, so peo­ple ex­pect you to feel fine and per­form any­way.

“Poor Kathryn is just ex­hausted,” she con­tin­ues.

“She’s ex­hausted from be­ing ex­pected to be some­thing she can’t be any­more and hasn’t been able to be for a long time.”

Al­though she has played type-A char­ac­ters in Juno, But­ter and now Camp­ing, Garner in­sists she is not so fas­tid­i­ous, de­spite try­ing to “plan my nuts off” ev­ery fam­ily va­ca­tion. The fa­mously pri­vate star en­joys camp­ing with her three kids, who made a rare pub­lic ap­pear­ance at her Hol­ly­wood Walk of Fame star cer­e­mony in Au­gust, days be­fore their fa­ther, ex-hus­band Ben Af­fleck, en­tered re­hab for al­co­hol ad­dic­tion.

“We have a pole bro­ken in our tent — a very im­por­tant pole that we’ve put back to­gether with duct tape — but I think we need to get that re­placed be­fore we can pull it back out,” Garner says of the fam­ily’s wilder­ness digs.

“But yes, we will be camp­ing again soon.”

ANNE MARIE FOX / HBO

David Ten­nant (left) and Jen­nifer Garner in Camp­ing, pre­mièring on HBO Sun­day.

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