Lena Dunham and Jenni Konner, the writing and producing duo behind Girls, have found themselves at the helm of another HBO series. This time, they've traded in the streets of Manhattan for the great outdoors, and instead of focusing on the millennial experience, they're delving into the lives of a mix-matched crew of middle-aged adults.
Aptly named Camping, the comedy follows a group of friends and frenemies as they embark on a birthday camping trip. It's based on the British series of the same name and stars Jennifer Garner, David Tennant, Juliette Lewis, Ione Skye, Brett Gelman, Arturo Del Puerto, and Bridget Everett. While it's a far cry from Girls, the show certainly packs a good helping of Dunham and Konner's signature cringe-worthy plot lines and complicated characters.
"We always say, 'We don't need the characters to be likable, but we want them to be relatable,'" Konner tells MyDomaine. While she and Dunham haven't exactly created the type of characters you'd like to spend extended periods of time with, they explore the power relationships have to endure, the manifestation of chronic pain, and the repercussions of what happens between old friends when there's nowhere to hide.
Jennifer Garner plays the controlling Kathryn, who's the mastermind behind a meticulously planned camping trip for her husband Walt's 45th birthday. "I have a lot of love for Kathryn," Garner says. "I feel like the way that Jenni [Konner] and Lena [Dunham] wrote her, over time, you understand her more and more, and you have glimpses of who she was before her body started to kind of fail her."
Like Dunham herself, the character Kathryn has undergone a hysterectomy and suffers from chronic pain. "Lena's work is incredibly personal, and so it seemed like a natural thing to include [chronic pain], and I think it also explains a lot about why Jen's [Garner] character is the way she is," Konner adds.
Kathryn is just one of the many multifaceted friends along for the camping trip. Between the free-spirited newcomer Jandice (Juliette Lewis), Kathryn's shy sister Carleen (Ione Skye), and the outspoken campsite owner Harry (Bridget Everett), the show explores a wide spectrum of what being a 40-something woman looks like. "It's a lot about friendship over time and what friendships can go through and still be richer for it or what the breaking point of a friendship might actually be," explains Garner.
Konner likens the show to something out of a '90s MTV reality series. "It's like the Real World—when people stop being polite and start getting real," she says. "When you’re stuck together like that, if you're annoyed by someone or you're not getting along with someone, you can't walk away from it. There's something about that that brings out the crazy in people, and it's really fun to watch."
Although their characters may experience seriously cringe-worthy moments of tension on screen, Garner, Everett, Skye, and Lewis all agree that the opposite was true when the cameras weren't rolling. It's something they attribute to the diverse cast and crew led by mostly female department heads. "It was the most competent, human-driven set I've ever been on," says Garner. Everett shares this sentiment, telling MyDomaine, "I hate to be so on the nose about it, but it feels very nurturing and warm and full of love."
Lewis and Skye agree that the collaborative spirit and support felt on set helped them feel more confident in themselves and in their work, skills they've both been honing since the beginning of their careers. "As I get older, I'm even more and more confident and … braver in my choices," Skye says. Lewis agrees, adding, "I think there's something that happens when you have this experience behind you. … You come to the table with a tried-and-true experience."
Not only did the cast work well together, but they also worked out together on set—something Garner implemented to help everyone stay energized and on their toes. "We would do mid-day squats and push-ups," Lewis reveals. "That's a very Jen Garner thing," she continues. And, of course, no camping trip—real or fictional—would be complete without a few challenges brought about by Mother Nature. They had to endure dust, sun, and even rattlesnakes—so much so that they needed a rattlesnake handler on site at all times.
"He had a bucket and a pincher and he would catch them," Garner explains. "And then show them to us," Konner adds.
If you'd rather enjoy the great outdoors from the comfort of your own home, catch new episodes of Camping on HBO.