Lela Rose dress, Edith A Miller jacket, MANIAMANIA earrings, Audra shoes, Forevermark by House of Waris rings. Photograph by Danny Lane
Zosia Mamet lives in a pink house. This is, maybe, the kind of thing you make note of when writing about Mamet, in the same way you make note of the way her statements sometimes end as questions? And that she says “like” a fair amount and calls her boyfriend “baby” and emails you about how “stoked” she is to do yoga together and, oh, just all the ways in which she resembles Shoshanna, the character she plays on the enormously popular HBO show Girls. Because when an actress becomes as closely identified with a role as Mamet has with Shoshanna, it’s hard not to notice the ways in which she’s just like the person you see every week on your TV. So while, no, there’s not a Sex and the City poster hanging in the Bushwick townhouse Mamet shares with boyfriend, actor Evan Jonigkeit, it is, you know, pretty pink.
On a blustery day in November, I went to Mamet’s Bushwick home for the first time. It was the day of the photo shoot for this magazine’s cover, and the house was crowded with people: a photographer, a stylist, a makeup artist, a hair stylist, and assorted others. At the center of it all was Mamet—cropped platinum hair starting to show deep brown roots; clear, glowing skin seemingly free of make-up; and thick, striking eyebrows framing big, dark eyes—playing the role of both model and hostess. And hostess is a role she is naturally, disarmingly good at.
“Hi! We’re doing yoga tomorrow, right?” she asked with a wide smile. “Make yourself at home.”
Raquel Allegra sweater, Forevermark by House of Waris rings. Photograph by Danny Lane
This was incredibly easy to do. Unlike any preconceived idea you might have of what a celebrity’s home is supposed to look like—flawlessly decorated, styled to within an inch of its life—the interior of Mamet’s house probably has a lot more in common with any average twenty-something Bushwick resident’s than it does with one of her fellow HBO stars. There’s the drafting table repurposed by Jonigkeit into a writing desk for Mamet; exposed light switches that speak to a renovation never quite finished; cozy, slightly lumpy armchairs that look like thrift store finds. A cutout cardboard figure of Lisa Kudrow as Valerie Cherish from The Comeback is cheekily perched on a side table in the kitchen.
Of course, there are also some signs you’re not just in any random home: the Kudrow cutout stands beneath a haunting oil painting, a portrait of a young woman with long dark hair by Mamet’s Girls co-star Jemima Kirke (though the portrait resembles Mamet, she says it isn’t, that it’s just something she loved because the subject is “like so beautiful and also so melancholy”); in a frame above the writing desk is a personal letter to Mamet from Woody Allen, thanking her for her kind words about one of his films; and on a wall near one of those exposed light switches is a wooden plaque, given to Mamet by her father, playwright/director David Mamet, engraved with the “Ten ‘Cannots’ by Abraham Lincoln,” a series of conservative exhortations (e.g. “You cannot help the poor man by destroying the rich” and “You cannot help men permanently by doing for them what they could and should do for themselves”) infamously referenced by Ronald Reagan, though never actually said by Lincoln himself.
Mamet and Jonigkeit will soon be leaving this house. It’s just been put on the market for about half a million dollars more than they paid for it when they bought it a little over a year ago. (On the day of the photo shoot, Jonigkeit makes a quick appearance before ducking out to go look at a new apartment whose price has just been “dropped by 300;” he leaves after an exchange of “I love you, baby”s with Mamet.) Although she’s established herself in the last year as a regular presence in the neighborhood—Mamet habitually takes the subway, stops by local cafes, and frequents a beloved nearby yoga studio, Y7, on Williamsburg’s Kent Avenue, which is where we meet one night for class with her favorite instructor—she and Jonigkeit recently bought a house upstate, so they want to downsize their city residence accordingly. They’re leaving Bushwick for a couple reasons, including a new development planned for the old Rheingold Brewery space directly across the street from their home. “It’s become too cool for us,” Mamet tells me.
Despite her imminent departure from Bushwick, Mamet is definitely not going to return to Los Angeles, where too many people, she says, “are seeking fame and interested in the most shallow aspects of the industry.” For Mamet this flies directly in the face of her own experience of the industry, one in which visits to film sets and theaters were a respite from what she says was, in a sense, a “difficult childhood” because she hated school (a “slew of really terrible English teachers” is partly to blame). The film and stage world was a way to escape that; Mamet says, “All my memories that I have of being on set are so joyful. I just loved it. I thought it was the most magical place on earth.”
When I asked her what she thought the effect of growing up in a famous family had on her, (Mamet’s mother is actress Lindsay Crouse) she said, “Of course it influenced me. I don’t know what it would have been like to grow up with dentist parents. But I know lots of people whose parents were in the business who developed an aversion to it because it is incredibly specific and can make for a tumultuous childhood. But, yeah, I just did feel like going into the family business. It’s what I knew the most about. I had a well of information on this industry already before I started working.”
That “well of information” didn’t include much in the way of formal training. Mamet studied at the Atlantic Theater Company “kind of by accident,” which she liked because it “takes out the mumbo-jumbo and is about just doing it.” She also says she doesn’t really have a process other than to “learn my lines and show up on set and just do it,” because her “dad isn’t a fan of acting training,” despite being one of the founders of the Atlantic Theater Company. She does, however, possess a comprehensive knowledge of and love for classic movies—many of which were introduced to Mamet by her father. (She adores Jean-Pierre Melville films and Young Mr. Lincoln.) And what Mamet lacks in formal education (she hated high school so much that college wasn’t really a consideration) she makes up for with her love of reading—Donna Tartt, W. Somerset Maugham, Jane Austen, Daphne du Maurier, and Dawn Powell are favorites—and has started writing, including a bimonthly column for Glamour magazine in which she details personal experiences, including ones with both an eating disorder and anxiety.
Raquel Allegra sweater, Lauren Manoogian jumpsuit, MANIAMANIA earrings, Forevermark by House of Waris rings. Photograph by Danny Lane
Mamet’s writing is notable for being more relatable than what could maybe be expected from a celebrity, as if her column is an email written by a friend, rather than for the masses. It’s this type of automatic, seemingly unforced intimacy that is also Mamet’s trademark as an actor (think of her spot-on portrayal of Joyce, the frank young photographer and friend-of-Peggy, on Mad Men) but also carries over into the way she interacts with people in general. In the time I spent with her, Mamet’s easy openness was noticeable and refreshing. While certain topics were clearly not ones she was interested in talking much about (her father’s opinion of Girls, whether or not the show is more heavily critiqued because of the fact that it features women instead of men), Mamet’s enthusiasm and readiness to talk about most other things was infectious. She has a genuine excitement and love for what she’s involved in now (on looking for work post-Girls: “We talk about it all the time that we’re kind of fucked for whatever we want to do next because we’re so spoiled now”) and is even happy to talk about what must be the single most asked question she hears: How much of Shoshanna is you?
I ask this question while we’re sitting in her incredibly cozy kitchen sipping tea, Lisa Kudrow looking down on us, and before she answers, I’m already inwardly cringing, thinking that it’s a stupid question because of course Mamet is not like the emoji-loving, elaborate-hairstyle-sporting, vocal-fry-having character she plays on TV. I’d found out at the photoshoot that Mamet didn’t even know what KIT stands for. Yes, Mamet says “like” a lot and lives in a pink house, but virtually every woman of her generation has that same speech tic, and she’s moving out of that pink house very soon. But Mamet surprises me with her answer, telling me: “The character was a human that I really knew so little about. I’ve said that I imagine her coming out of a seashell… but I’ve really come to love her and find her so fascinating. I’ve never felt this way about a part—it’s not how I process things as an actor—but I just love her so dearly, and I worry for her so often. Lena once said that Shoshanna was the moral compass of the show, because behind all her insanity and search for perfection and doing everything right, she still is very true to herself and does everything with the utmost sincerity and kind of goes HAM on everything she does. And that’s the quality I aspire to in so many ways. Even though she’s suppressing so much and pressing everything down, these little bits of her are still popping up and coming through.”
And, of course, the same could be said about Mamet herself. It would be easy to write her off as another celebrity spawn, someone who has some of the same (totally typical) speech affectations as the character she plays on TV, someone who, at times, exhibits a surprising level of privilege and obliviousness. (Remember that failed Kickstarter project Mamet launched with her sister Clara in order to fund a music video for their band, Cabin Sisters? Better to forget.) But a truthful portrayal is more complicated than that; it always is. A truthful portrayal of Mamet is of a young woman whose missteps are made with honest intentions, and who can’t really be reduced to things like what Brooklyn neighborhood she lives in or who her father is and what TV show she appears in. In the end, it doesn’t matter if Mamet is like anyone, really. As Mamet herself says about Shoshanna, “I kind of like the fact that she is the way she is, and we don’t really need to know why. There’s just so much joy there.”
Follow Kristin Iversen on twitter @kmiversen
Tanya Taylor coat. Photograph by Danny Lane
Tanya Taylor coat. Photograph by Danny Lane
Lela Rose dress, Edith A Miller jacket, MANIAMANIA earrings. Photograph by Danny Lane
Lauren Manoogian jumpsuit, MANIAMANIA earrings, Forevermark by House of Waris rings. Photograph by Danny Lane
Photographs by Danny Lane Stylist: Kat Clements Hairstylist: Bryce Scarlett Makeup Artist: Min Min Ma