In a new interview with The Hollywood Reporter after her self-imposed exile, Lena Dunham reveals she’s entering a new creative era that will focus on art rather than public perception.

“I just realized that the experience of ‘Girls’ and my 20s was such an all-encompassing hurricane of both validation and derision that in order for me to keep that place of myself that loved to make art, that was what needed to happen,” Dunham said of her sudden disappearance from the public eye.

The auteur rose to fame in 2011 with the release of her HBO series “Girls” which followed the messy lives of a group of young millennial women. Dunham was only 24 when she landed her first major TV series.

“I look back, and just, like, the sheer gall of me, stepping on to set that first day; 24-year-old me standing in Silver Cup Studios, the old ‘Sex and the City’ studios, going, ‘Let’s do this.’ I’m proud of myself,” recalled Dunham.

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With the sudden rise in profile also came criticism and scrutiny from the public eye. Past mistakes were blown up to major gaffes.

“There are things I said in my 20s and 30s that I apologized for because I knew they came from a place of ignorance and lack of awareness… I was young, and I had huge blind spots,” the star admitted of past racially insensitive remarks. “I came right at the cusp of the internet becoming a thing. The speed with which the hammer comes down is so much more intense right now.”

Lena Dunham – Photo: Lia Clay Miller/THR
Lena Dunham – Photo: Lia Clay Miller/THR
Lena Dunham – Photo: Lia Clay Miller/THR
Lena Dunham – Photo: Lia Clay Miller/THR

Commenting on the current era’s focus on diversity and scrutiny of past cultural attitudes, the artist confessed she was actually supportive of the movement.

“I am not one of those people who creates a binary between wokeness and good art,” she continued. “Because I really like the fact that we live in a moment where people whose voices have historically been marginalized can speak out through the tool of the internet.”

It’s something that came into consideration while casting for her new movie “Sharp Stick”. The film is set to debut at Sundance Festival on Jan. 22 and follows 26-year-old Sarah Jo who loses her virginity to her employer. Further sexual exploration, however, is halted by a hysterectomy.

When she approached Taylour Paige for the role of Sarah’s sister, the actress expressed hesitation.

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“If I’m being honest,” Paige recalled telling Dunham directly. “I was like, ‘Don’t you think this character was written as a white person?”

The question was partially brought on by previous criticism of “Girls” for its lack of diversity and Paige feared she was brought on to fill a quota.

But Dunham reassured Paige she wrote the role with her specifically in mind.

“She was so kind,” she continued, praising the writer. “So open. She wants to be better. She wants to do better. She wants to listen. She wants to engage. She has a really great attitude even when she’s dealing with illnesses. She was just a pleasant surprise of love. I hate cancel culture. I wish there was redemption culture.”

Lena Dunham – Photo: Lia Clay Miller/THR
Lena Dunham – Photo: Lia Clay Miller/THR

While there is hesitation on Dunham’s part about opening herself up to judgment with her new work, she wants to enter this new decade of her life with an open attitude. She wants to make art again.

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“I have a huge amount of empathy for people who make mistakes. There came a point where I was sort of apologizing for breathing. That waters down the meaning of the words,” said the 35-year-old auteur. “I’d love the next decade to be less about apologizing and just about openly making art.”

The Jan. 19 issue of The Hollywood Reporter is available on newsstands and online now. Read the full article here.