It started out like the stuff gay New York dreams are made of: a cute young guy meets a wealthy older celebrity at a bar and the sparks fly. But after last night’s episode of Girls, it’s clear that it’s not going to be smooth sailing for Elijah (Andrew Rannells) and his new sugar daddy, Dill Harcourt. Played with devastating charm this season by Corey Stoll, Dill is a handsome, famous, out news anchor — sound familiar? Queerty spoke with Stoll to find out what exactly his character’s intentions are with Elijah, whose idea it was to make Dill a bottom, and how he’d react to the words “Anderson Cooper.”
Queerty: Initially, Elijah’s relationship with Dill seems like such a gay New York fairytale. But it’s like, if you’ve seen Girls, you know it can’t last, right?
Corey Stoll: [Laughs] I don’t want to give away any spoilers, but Girls has not completely changed. It’s definitely still the same show. The relationships are never completely uncomplicated.
What kind of conversations did you have with Lena Dunham and the writers about the inspiration for this storyline?
Well, this is a character who has never really had real adversity — other than a very unique set of challenges, being incredibly privileged. He’s somebody who has lived this almost frictionless life from birth. Everything has been easy and he’s excelled at everything. So, I think every difficulty he has maintaining a healthy relationship is more about the fact that he has an over abundance of willing partners and an under abundance of people who will tell him the truth.
Am I allowed to speculate who he might be based on?
You can. I won’t comment on it.
So, if I said the words Anderson Cooper to you…
I don’t know. I was playing Dill Harcourt. I did not base this character on anybody.
Fair enough. What do you think Dill’s deal is? What are his intentions with Elijah?
What are his intentions? I think he is not somebody who really worries about the long-term nature of any relationship. I think he’s incredibly focused on the here-and-now in a very sort of hedonistic way. That doesn’t mean that he’s just interested in sex. He’s very much in love with romance and the idea of romance. But I think the idea of being held to any sort of responsibility in anything in the long-term—he doesn’t seem like that would apply to him. It never really has. Part of what makes him charming—and obviously for Elijah the whole fame aspect is very exciting. But above that, you know, when you have enough money that you don’t need to worry about anything and you have enough fame that you have people always adoring you in your circle it can free up a certain part of your personality to really enjoy the moment. And I think Dill does that in a way that Elijah, who is far more neurotic, can’t. And that’s a lot of what their relationship is about.
So much of the show is about growing up. The characters are all kind of immature in a lot of ways because they’re, you know, young and hungry. But Dill is a character who, despite being in a very different place in his life, is really immature in a different way.
Right, he’s a sort of funny mix. On one level he has this weirdness of this 40,000 foot view. He’s obviously very worldly and has no material anxieties, and understands how good his life is and knows that he’d be a fool not to enjoy it. So that gives him incredible grace and ease that none of the other characters can approach. And yet I think that lack of ever really being challenged leaves him in some ways less mature than the regulars.
I think my take-away from last night’s episode is that dating famous people is kind of a nightmare.
I don’t know. I never have! I mean, I think that’s the writers’ job. My job is just to be this one particular person. I think there are challenges to dating a famous person, but what’s difficult about dating this person is this particular person and his—I hate to use terms like narcissism—self-centeredness. He’s sort of the perfect guy for Elijah, but it’s also, you know…
Yes, and I think part of it is that Elijah doesn’t really know what he wants. And I think that’s a lot of the purpose of my character being on the show, to sort of give him a glimpse of what he does want and what he doesn’t want.
When you sign up to be on Girls, I imagine you kind of know going in that you’re going to get naked.
I knew that I was. Well, I knew that the character gets naked. And then there was negotiation about what exactly we show. Whenever you get naked on film lawyers always get involved. But, you know, I had great, serious conversations with Lena and some other people who have been on the show, and even though the sex scenes [on Girls] are graphic they’re scenes. Which I think is really difficult to do. Most sex scenes in movies and TV are a break from the action and a break from character development, and every single sex scene in Girls furthers the action and more importantly furthers your understanding of the characters. You know, it’s still crazy to get naked in a room full of people! But when you know that it’s not just for its own sake, then if feels more like acting than a break from it.
So, whose idea was it to make Dill a bottom?
[Laughs] I can’t remember…It wasn’t mine. I can’t remember if it was in the script itself or if it was something that was decided on between me and Jesse Peretz, who directed the scene. I actually think it was in the script. I think that was sort of a character thing, that it’s sort of unexpected.
I honestly felt a little bad for having assumed that because he’s more wealthy, I guess slightly older, he has all these signifiers of traditional masculinity—that he’d be the top.
Good! [Laughs] You know, it’s always good to confound expectations.
As a straight guy, how do you decide how you’re going to, I guess, embody — if that’s not too pretentious a word — a gay character?
I mean, I think just like any role it’s about commitment to the character that you’re playing and interpreting the author’s words. All acting is an act of imagination and of putting yourself in imaginary circumstances. Every role is somewhere along the continuum, or a series of continuums — continua — of who you are based on socio-economic history, intelligence, sexuality. And so you have to go for it. You have to commit to the character, and that part of who [Dill] is is different from who I am. But there’s a lot of the character that is similar to me. You work from what you know, and my relationships are with [women] but they can’t be that different.
It’s funny. I’d be lying if I didn’t say there was some giggling on set, some natural discomfort. But, you know, there’s giggling on set when you’re doing straight scenes too. But that’s the great thing about acting: everybody can only really get to live one life, and it’s dangerous to suddenly have a different personality from day-to-day. Acting is a place where you can live out different lives. It’s a privilege.
Your character on House of Cards has been dead for a few years now, but I always kind of felt like there was maybe some sexual subtext in Frank Underwood’s manipulation of him. Am I reading too much into that?
I think it’s Oscar Wilde who said “Everything is about sex except for sex.” And so, that show is all about power. Obviously that bathtub scene definitely has some sexual overtones. But, at least from Peter Russo’s perspective it was really much more about desire for a father figure. And obviously there can be some undertones there in terms of a desire for an alpha male.