Lena Dunham assured a sold-out crowd at Iowa City's Englert Theatre on Oct. 7 that she and Iowa City are good.
"Like certain pop stars, our beef has been overblown," said Dunham, who was in town to promote her memoir, "Not That Kind of Girl." "We are like Nicki Minaj and Iggy Azalea. We're fine."
Dunham, the creator and star of the popular HBO cable TV show, "Girls," was referring to controversy that erupted locally earlier this year when the University of Iowa declined to allow filming for the show's fourth season to take place on the UI campus.
The show's plot, which follows a group of young adults living in New York City, turned to Iowa City during its season three finale when main character Hannah Horvath was accepted into the Iowa Writers' Workshop. The UI MFA program is internationally heralded for producing Pulitzer Prize winners, U.S. Poets Laureate and National Book Award winners.
"Getting into the Writer's Workshop is one of the most validating things that can happen to a young person," Dunham said.
One of the show's writers, Sarah Heyward, is a Workshop alumna, and Dunham said they did their best to recreate Iowa City's atmosphere while shooting elsewhere.
"I think we did an OK job of replicating your fair city," Dunham said.
She revealed there is a scene set at a recreated Fox Head tavern, a regular hangout among Writer's Workshop students. She also said the show will explore Hannah's struggles to fit into the Workshop community.
"It's this person who doesn't play by the rules entering the world of academia," she said.
Dunham didn't give away other plot details for the coming season, set to air in 2015, though she did mention trying a Hamburg Inn hamburger earlier in the day.
Before she addressed the audience, Dunham read excerpts from her recently released memoir, was interviewed by novelist Curtis Sittenfeld, herself a Writer's Workshop graduate, and answered previously submitted questions from the audience.
Another workshop graduate, poet Jenny Zhang, opened the evening.
Dunham has been nominated for eight Emmy awards, won two Golden Globes and was the first woman to win the Directors Guild of America award for directorial achievement in comedy. She is also a frequent contributor to "The New Yorker."
She said she hopes her work touches other young women struggling to find their way in the world, and she dismissed critics who deride her charachter's physical appearance.
"I always wanted to make a show about a girl who had a lot of problems, but none of them are because she's fat or doesn't brush her hair," she said.