There exists only a few different ways to deal with bad cell-phone service and each reveals a different set of character traits. There are those who realize the issue, try calling back, get denied and throw the phone away never to be heard from again. Those who pretend it was the person on the other line’s fault and ignore the issue altogether. And those who wave the phone in the air, find service and apologize for something that was totally out of their control.
Ray Ploshansky from Girls is likely a throw-the-phone-away guy. Alex Karpovsky is the apologetic kind.
After ten brief minutes on the phone during which the call has already been dropped twice, he cuts out for a third time. I call back and repeatedly hear, “You’ve reached…” and Karpovsky recites his number, not name, as I wonder if this phone-number-only voicemail is celebrity protocol to avoid stalkers. I nearly give up when my phone rings. “Lauren, I found a place that I think might be better Sorry about that,” he says. So I ask if he remembers my last question, “I don’t really hang out with anyone from Girls, to be honest with you,” he answers. “So I don’t have any favorites.”
Karpovsky’s not quite a loner though. To date, aside from his small, but key role in Inside Llewyn Davis, he’s only acted in one other project that wasn’t written or directed by a good friend, and a mutual friend directed that one other role. Karpovsky doesn’t hang out with the other actors because he’s just too busy. “I’m always working on at least two things at once,” he says, as he roams Los Angeles’s Echo Park after a meeting where he pitched some ideas to executives. “You write yourself into corners, but having another project to go to while you’re negotiating suicidal thoughts and despair can be a nice escape. You can take a break while still being creative,” he finishes. Take note, young writers, because this pro tip has lead Karpovsky to a string of steady success thus far. Aside from his endlessly intriguing and hysterical Ray Ploshansky on Girls, Karpovsky has acting in 23 feature length films in the past 11 years, four of which he also wrote and directed.
“I don’t really hang out with anyone from Girls, to be honest.”—Alex Karpovsky
It seems unlikely for someone who also about 11 years ago was two years away from a PhD in social anthropology from the University of Oxford. Karpovsky began writing one-act comedic plays in graduate school and wanted to see if he could actually put one on. He took a one-year leave of absence and it worked. “I kind of felt it was just more fun to pursue this than to go back to school, even though I didn’t have much left,” he says of his decision not to go back. “I acted, got some enjoyment, took bigger and bigger roles and a few years later I moved back to the states and started making a bunch of my films.”
Now, Karpovsky’s Twitter followers – over 4700 of them in number – feel close enough to him to tell him their dreams nightly. Karpovsky himself almost only retweets – he can’t remember if he’s ever actually composed a tweet. Now something like, “I had a dream I was making unleavened bread and singing the Mi Chamocha song with @AlexKarpovsky #whatdoesthatmean?!” is a daily occurrence. As for Karpovsky, he most often dreams about his dog who died ten years ago. “We used to play in a very sort of psychotic wizard way and I think that forged a very strong neural pathway to my subconscious to think about playing with an animal,” he says casually. “When I see boxers there’s a good chance I’ll dream about him.”
But there’s one important person who can’t share in all his recent success. Karpovsky’s mom moved from Russia to America before he was born, but never adopted the culture. All her newspaper, TV and friends are Russian so she never even learned English. He grew up in a world with two cultures, but never held on to his mother’s foreign one. Karpovsky barely even speaks Russian. “Basically we were like two first graders trying to talk to each other,” he says. “I’m proud of Girls. We got nominated for an Emmy, but she has no idea what an Emmy is. It’s frustrating because I love her so much and I do really want to share everything with her, but I just can’t.” He used to situations where much is left out of his control.
The interview is leaning somber, so I ask him about Ray’s despair so far. “He finds new outlets for it,” he says. “I think there’s going to be a lot of surprises in store,” Karpovsy says. He’s talking about a fictional show, but might as well be speaking on his future. After all, he’s currently working on two new projects.
No apologies there.