on the front lines of cultural chaos since 1984.
zegenbig.jpgAt this point in his career, actor Michael Zegen is an HBO vet. Zegen, an alum of gangster drama Boardwalk Empire and the erstwhile How to Make It in America, returns to the network yet again this January as a new cast member on the third season of Girls. "Yeah," he deadpans over the phone, "I'm an HBO slut."

News of Zegen's casting circulated online in June, after Christopher Abbott -- who played Charlie, costar Allison Williams' wet-blanket-turned successful entrepreneur boyfriend -- left the show allegedly citing creative differences with Girls creator, Lena Dunham. Though Zegen could only reveal his character's name (Joe), hearing himself referred to as "the new Charlie," makes him cringe. "I was reading some stuff people were saying online that was along those lines," Zegen says, "and that's just not the case. That'd be silly."

Before Zegen makes his Girls debut, he'll wrap up his role in the off-Broadway play Bad Jews, about two hot-headed cousins warring over a family relic. The role has required a lot of yelling, a lot of cough drops, and, in what might bring even the most seasoned actor to his knees, having to perform in front of a bunch of teenagers. "One matinee, we had 100 high schoolers from Brooklyn in the audience," Zegen says. "I think that was the most scared I've ever been."

Which makes sense -- Zegen got his start as "Dwight the Troubled Teen" on the Late Show with David Letterman ("my catchphrase was, 'I hate you, I hate all of you!'"), appearing on almost 50 episodes in the early aughts.

While his Girls character is picked apart in episode recaps and immortalized in GIF reaction shots over the next couple of months, Zegen's planning on taking it easy and letting his voice recover post-Bad Jews. "Or maybe I'll sign on to another HBO show," he laughs. "Something to add to the collection." ★

Michael wears a shirt by Lucio Castro, pants by WRK, shoes by Ben Sherman and hat by Kaminski XY. Styled by Avi Vichner. Grooming  by Anna Bernabe at Exclusive Artists using Aveda. Shot at Atlas Social Club.

★ Bad Jews is at the Laura Pels Theatre through December 29th. Season 3 of Girls premieres Sunday, January 12th at 10 p.m. on HBO.