I Love Dick" pretty much had her by the title alone.
Of course, the major selling point that lured Hahn to her new, provocatively titled streaming series on Amazon was the fresh opportunity to work again with executive producer Transparent."
Drawing from Chris Kraus's bestselling pseudo-memoir/novel of the same name chronicling a married woman's increasingly obsessive and consuming sexual fixation on a guru-like artist and media theorist (Kevin Bacon) who has offered her philosopher husband (Griffin Dunne) a berth in his organization, "I Love Dick" casts Hahn as Krause -- or a version thereof -- and gives her some of the most unique and challenging opportunities of her career, while flipping the usual male-gaze oriented narrative in terms of psycho-sexual objectification.
Hahn joined Moviefone for a look at why she felt drawn to the material, how she navigated some of its more risqué elements, and working with an all-too-rare female-led team behind the scenes.
Moviefone: I want to know what made this role a must-do? What was that thing that you immediately grabbed on to and said, "This is going to test me.This is going to push me"?
Kathryn Hahn: All of it! For one, it was because it was Jill Soloway, and I always know whatever world I dove into with her is going to stretch, and challenge, and push me, and it's going to feel the most satisfying on the drive home for sure, creatively, and intellectually.
I was not familiar with this book before Jill handed it to me as something to consider. There was a couple things that we were thinking about book-wise, and this was one of the titles. Of course I gravitated towards just the title alone! I was very curious.
Then I was just like flabbergasted by the material. I loved Chris Kraus's voice so much. I just loved how loud, and fearless, and vulnerable, and hilarious, and messy, and complicated, and just relentless she was as a character, and messy. I could not wait to get in there.
How deep into research did you go with this? Did you meet Chris? Did you try to get a little bit more info than what was in the book, or did you just work with what was available on the page?
Sure. I did a little bit, because I knew whatever the series, how it was going to develop, after reading the pilot, the amazing pilot that our producer Sarah Gubbins wrote, I knew that it was going to depart significantly from the source material. But I also knew that I just had brilliant, literal diaries, basically, of this woman's life.
So "I Love Dick" is kind of what Chris Kraus would consider one of a trilogy. The other two books, there's a book called "Aliens & Anorexia," and another one called "Torpor." So I read all three, which kind of just, in varying ways, describe her relationship with her marriage. That was incredibly helpful. I met with Chris a couple times, and I fell madly in love. She's just a phenomenal human being. She came to the set, which was incredible, and kind of told us how we were doing, kind of how it really, actually went down, which was very helpful.
It was really trippy. There was a flashback scene in which Chris was there that day, I was there playing Chris, and then another young actress was playing my younger self. So to have the three of us together in a photograph was pretty trippy.
Was there one sort of essential turnkey element that helped you unlock it all and get where you needed to go with this role? Was there something that made you truly get it and know what you needed to do to pull it off?
Any one of these ventures is certainly a leap of faith. I'm trying to think what the one turnkey would be, because there's so many things I had in my head! I think I described it as being like Richard Dreyfuss in "Close Encounters."
Then, when we met with all the women, it was an all-female writers' room, which was incredible, and when we met to kind of talk about experience, we talked a lot about, even there's so many writings of nuns' kind of deep love devotion to Christ. So, many of those things just felt like whatever that kind of obsession feeling was, I just kind of tried to tap into that -- that feeling of having the entire world before this person or thing that you're obsessed with.
It's like when you become obsessed, the entire world is seen through that lens -- the lens that you want to share it with or for that person. So yeah, kind of just to jump into that feeling.
When you're playing a role like this that has a considerable sexual element, and you know you're going to be putting yourself out there, physically, how do you prepare yourself for that aspect of it all?
Besides, like, a wax job? [Laughs] I would say, I think there is something about it, and I was talking about this last night with Kevin Bacon, that the emotional kind of reveal certainly feels scarier, sometimes -- in most things -- for me.
I don't know what that means, but there is something about it, especially in this environment, where you know that every eyeball looking at you behind the monitor, or behind the camera, is looking at you with love, and empathy, and not judgment, where you don't feel, for a second, self-conscious, because you know that everybody in the room is there to support this journey, whether it be nude or not, it's the same kind of feeling. I just trusted people so profoundly, that it really wasn't that big of a deal.
Also, I've had two children, so it's like, "Who hasn't seen it at this point?"
Talk to me a little bit about finding those emotional spaces with Kevin and with Griffin. You've got two leading men here that you have some pretty intense work to do with.
You never know, chemistry-wise, how things are going to land. I also think, as an actor, for me, I can do as much homework as I desire, or as I want, but it's going to change, the alchemy is going to change whenever you meet whoever that person is. You are so much who you're playing with, I think. I really found Chris through Griffin and through Kevin, for sure. I'm sure they would say the same thing about their characters, and any actor would say that, I'm sure, about their work. You can't work or act in a vacuum, I don't think, unless you're like an '80s comedy male movie star.
I think, mostly, it's more fun to find yourself with who you're acting with. So I didn't meet Griffin until the day of the first table read, and we immediately just felt like family. He's a phenomenal bird, just an incredible brain, and so fast, and funny, and vulnerable, and game.
Same with Kevin. I met Kevin, I knew Kevin a little bit more because we had met randomly at a party before, and we kind of went through the Sylvere audition process together, so we got to work together while we were auditioning, trying to find our Sylvere. We walked into that first table read having known each other, having sniffed each other creatively, for quite some time. But still, there was just enough mystery, I think, to make it work.
I think we kind of just subconsciously withheld a lot from each other, because we knew that that bubble was so profound to making this work, that alchemy and that mystery. They're both phenomenal, phenomenal performers. I learned so much from being in scenes with them, for sure, and they made me feel brave.
Tell me what was pleasurable about this very female-driven production. It's rare that you get to have that many women involved in telling a woman's story.
Which is insane to me, you know what I mean? It should all be the people who are telling their own stories, should be the ones that are making the decisions behind about the content of the stories. It's just insane to me. It's like, "Oh, it's so rare for women to be behind a woman's story."
I think it's not as rare, certainly, as it was. It seems like a very galvanizing moment in our cultural history, for sure, and there are so many things I'm dying to see that women are in front and behind, not only making the decisions, but being the creative birds in front, and all of those things.
We had an all-women writers' room, which was pretty profound. I think it just added, when you know that you are the subject, and not the object, it makes the kind of work that we were being asked to do just that much safer, because you just know that there's empathy and agency from behind the camera. You just don't feel that weird handwringing judgement, or just someone that doesn't quite know, or thinks knows. It just felt that much safer.
They're all really funny humans, too. All of them are deeply funny, which I was very buoyed by. Even in the reading of the book, I remember thinking, God, this is hilarious. It's so hilarious because it's so cringe-worthy. You're just so embarrassed for this person who has no embarrassment herself. I feel like the women in that writers' room are very giddy to dig into that.
We'd been all kind of sniffing about a sequel for a while, because we were like, "Come on!" because we were so excited about the success of the first one. Then, when we heard that it was going to be holiday theme, I was so excited. There's no other time of the year that I feel like a mom would deserve and need to get the hell out of the house. There's so much!
I remember as a kid tearing open the Christmas presents so fast. We barely opened the presents from Santa, and my mom was already sweating in the kitchen trying to put bacon and eggs on. There's no moment to savor the magic you're creating for everybody else. So I'm really excited for the moms to get a chance to go out and have some mulled wine and enjoy a night out.
"I Love Dick" streams on Amazon May 12th.