Lena Dunham might be the face of Girls, the HBO show about twenty-somethings stumbling into adulthood in New York City (returning Jan. 13 at 9 p.m. ET), but Allison Williams is making her mark as Marnie, the Type-A yin to Hannah’s (Dunham’s) hot-mess yang. Here, the 24-year-old actress lets loose with TIME.
The new Girls tagline is “almost getting it kind of together.” Heading into season 2, which character is the biggest mess?
At the top of the season, it’s probably Marnie.
Not that you’re biased or anything.
No, I know. I’m going through the characters in my head, and Marnie [who just broke up with longtime boyfriend Charlie] has had the whole rug has pulled out from underneath her. She really is the biggest mess.
So does she get it together? Almost? Kind of?
It’s mostly a season of flailing for her. But I think that’s really important. People who claim to have it all together, who seem totally together all the time, need to have a realization that everything isn’t perfect, and that that’s okay. It was hard for me. I root for her.
(SEE: Where Girls landed on TIME’s Top 10 TV Series of 2012)
Do you think she’ll get back with Charlie?
Oh, I can’t tell you that. You’ll have to watch.
Do you want her to?
I want her to be happy, so if that is what will make her happy, then that’s what I would want for her.
The last time we saw Hannah, she had lost her purse and phone and was stranded on Coney Island beach—with a slice of cake. I take it she survived?
She survived! I asked Lena, So wait, did you replace your credit cards, or what? And she was like, ‘Only you would worry about the logistics of Hannah getting her purse stolen.’
Actually, I was wondering the same thing.
Yeah! She gave me no answers.
(SEE: Which Girls episode made it onto TIME’s Top 10 TV Episodes of 2012)
When Girls first premiered, there was a lot of backlash. People were saying the show wasn’t diverse enough, that the actresses were too well-connected [Williams’ dad is NBC anchor Brian Williams], etc. Did any of that bother you?
I have a couple friends who are actors, and before the show came out, they said stop Googling your name and don’t read anything—good or bad—because the best criticism and notes are gonna come from your directors, and Lena, and stuff. And so I didn’t read a lot of it. But I of course heard about it through broad strokes.
And what did you think?
Honestly, I think some amount of that is certainly to be expected. To be on a show where you hear no negative criticisms at all would have been an incredible anomaly. But when people come up to me and talk to me they seem to really love it. So in terms of the criticism, none of [what we did] was malicious and I’m sorry if it offended anybody or hurt anybody’s feelings.
Well, the show got a second season and four Emmy nominations, so clearly you’re doing something right.
Thank you, yes, that was really exciting. Especially to be nominated with all of those behemoth shows I’ve been watching since their inception — it was an absolutely eye-opening and a humbling experience.
What do your parents think of Girls?
My entire family likes the show. In fact, my grandparents watch the show. My grandfather just turned 90 and my grandmother is 83 and at Christmas they were asking me all kinds of questions. They were begging for spoilers.
You shoot some pretty racy scenes, though—sex, drugs, even masturbation. That’s never awkward?
OK, I was concerned about that, obviously, cause you know, it’s grandparents. But they quickly reminded me that they’ve been alive so much longer than I have, and that they’ve seen it all. So I was like, Oh okay, great. We don’t have to have this long, awkward conversation!
You’ve said you watch a lot of TV.
Oh my gosh, I did an interview once where I wrote down every single show I watch, and there are, I believe, around 50 of them. Luckily they’re not all on the air at the same time.
I was gonna say…
I watch everything. Really. Honestly. If you just picked a show and guessed, I probably watch it.
Which one is your guiltiest pleasure?
Bachelor Pad [ABC’s reality competition for ex-contestants on The Bachelor and The Bachelorette]. The Bachelorette and The Bachelor are such an intricately produced and riveting two hours of television that I don’t call them guilty pleasures; they’re just pleasures. Bachelor Pad—even my most devoted Bachelor fan friends, are like, I gotta bow out for this one. But I always stick through it.