The performance of Peter Scolari’s “Girls” was at the heart of the show’s triumph.


Peter Scolari, who died at the age of 66 on Friday, has had a long and successful acting career, with leading roles in “Bosom Buddies” and “Newhart”. But a late triumph – and the performance for which, for many, he will be remembered the most – was her Emmy-winning turn on HBO’s “Girls.” As Hannah Horvath’s father Tad, Scolari brought rare sensitivity and care to a delicate character who has evolved dramatically over the course of the series. It took a great actor to realize some of the changes in Tad Horvath over the seasons of “Girls,” but those changes have always felt, in Scolari’s tale, as the evolution of a person coming into contact with her. -same.

“Girls” depicts a bizarre side trip among members of the Horvath family: as millennial Hannah (Lena Dunham) grew progressively disillusioned with life among Brooklyn’s sexually liberated creative class, her baby boomer parents (Scolari and Becky Ann Baker) started trying to live on their own terms for the first time. They met less in the middle than in some sort of upside down reality where, by the end of the series, Hannah was raising her elders. This element of the series could, in the writing of the series, test gullibility – Hannah’s parents, both academics, seemed oddly pampered at first. And later on in the series, they became libertines at times that suggested the show was looking for a source of spectacle and weirdness.

But Scolari, in particular, leaned heavily on the shared reality of the Horvath family, no matter how far removed the series was from its origins. At the start of the series, he was the more sensitive and attentive of Hannah’s two parents, gently encouraging her in small touches: he took up less space, in the psychic life of the series, than either or the other of the two wives of Horvath in conflict. As he went out and fell away from his wife, he became in turn more assertive and more strangely broken, finding in his new life a set of demands that he was not sure he could meet and a language he didn’t quite speak. . His journey to himself went through loneliness and isolation, and provided a kind of lesson for Hannah that even authority figures in his life hadn’t understood: the issues of grief, of uncertainty about who you are, not knowing if your choices will be worth their consequences do not disappear at 30, or 40, or later.

Scolari’s was a finely crafted performance, showing both the personal involvement that was endemic to the three Horvaths and the shimmering kindness and good intentions that made the three so human behind all the bluster. He intended to do the right thing – it took a lot of effort to figure out what that right thing was. These nuances and careful decisions existed against the backdrop of one of the great reversals in the medium’s history: Hired to play a stern but loving father in a nuclear family in the Midwest, Scolari ended up portraying a male. gay in search of oneself. .

The actor won an Emmy for “Girls,” making him the only performer on the show to do so. And while other performances in the series have garnered more attention, few have done more to advance the central concern of what growing up means. The answer that Scolari’s performance suggests is that it is a process that never ends, but requires a radical willingness to confront yourself and what you want. And in his scenes with Dunham, both playing characters who demand a lot from each other and also give a lot, he showed how much of this growth process relies on giving and receiving forgiveness for not being everything. the way again.

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