How Kathryn Hahn became a modern Hollywood comedy hero

The evolution of Kathryn Hahn from the frumpy friend in romantic comedies like “How to Lose a Guy in 10 Days” and “The Holiday” to the scene-stealing revelation in “Step Brothers” and “Bad Mums” has been a lot of fun to watch. But Hahn is about to take another big step as the lead in the latest Amazon series from the creator of “Transparent.”

The upcoming “I Love Dick,” based on the Chris Kraus book of the same name, is showrunner Jill Soloway’s latest envelope-pushing series to come to the streaming giant (it premieres May 12, but you can watch the pilot now for free). It follows Chris (Hahn) as she moves with her husband Sylvere (Griffin Dunne) from Manhattan to the mellow Marfa, Texas. There they meet the charismatic professor Dick (Kevin Bacon), who puts a fire in Chris and Sylvere’s relationship that was thought to be extinguished long ago.

As in “Transparent,” which also stars Hahn as Rabbi Raquel Fein, Soloway fills “I Love Dick” with risqué subject matter and unconventional storytelling that you’d never see on network TV (or most cable channels).

Hahn talked to Business Insider at the recent Sundance Film Festival, where the show was given a world premiere sneak peek, about how working with Soloway changed her career, why she wants another “Step Brothers” movie, and what to expect from the “Bad Mums” sequel, “Bad Mum’s Christmas.”

Jason Guerrasio: Were you familiar with the Chris Kraus novel before going into this?

Kathryn Hahn: No, I was not. Like so many of us, I had been horribly unaware of the brilliance of Chris Kraus and that book. Jill, I guess it was two summers ago, had mentioned a couple of books to me, one of which was this. I was immediately intrigued because of the title. I dug into that first and I was just blown away. I couldn’t believe how bold and bombastic and fearless and sexy and vulnerable it was and I knew if anyone was going to be able to unwrap that and cut into it as a series it would be Soloway. I was so excited, I didn’t even see a script before I said yes. It happened very fast and very organically. All the sudden we found ourselves in Marfa, Texas, like what?

I Love Dick AmazonAmazon‘I Love Dick.’

Guerrasio: So you didn’t worry that much about preparation it sounds like — you were in from the get-go.
Hahn: For sure. There’s no other circus I would rather join than Soloway’s. I had been in it for a while and I knew it was going to be the same people and the same process as “Transparent.” And I also knew it was going to be such a departure from Raquel, which I was excited by. 

Guerrasio: Has it been a revelation for you with what Jill and Amazon have been able to do? The material they have given to actors?

Hahn: Yeah, sometimes we would all look at each other and basically giggle because we couldn’t believe we got to make this. And it wasn’t like there was a team of executives behind the monitors and questioning it. They just let us do this crazy deep dive into this world.

Guerrasio: You’ve had such an incredible evolution in your career, going from being in romantic comedies playing the awkward friend or third wheel —

Hahn: HOW DARE YOU! No, I’m joking — [Laughs]

Guerrasio: But was there a moment where something clicked for you, or was it just grinding it out until you started getting better roles?

Hahn: I certainly feel that having kids did something, for sure. I was so grateful to be invited to the party for a while. I just could never imagine as a kid from Cleveland who loves theatre more than anything and ensemble work to doing this. I was a theatre nerd. So back then it was really always looking for that kind of feeling I had onstage. So there was a weird separation between the work I did onstage and the work I would be asked to do on camera. And so I think it was finding Jill and connecting with her for [Soloway’s 2013 debut feature] “Afternoon Delight” that I was able to find that feeling of creative risk that I had onstage. Those three weeks of making “Afternoon Delight” cracked that open for a lot of us. 

Kathryn Hahn Step Brothers Columbia PicturesColumbia Pictures‘Step Brothers.’

Guerrasio: Is there a character you’ve already played that you would love to go back to explore? And before you answer, let me just say, please say Alice from “Step Brothers” —
Hahn: I was just about to say that! [Laughs] It’s funny, I did “Step Brothers” the same summer I did “Revolutionary Road,” which are completely different. And Adam McKay, with that cast, though that was pre-Jill, that was another movie where I had like an “oh” moment. That working on a movie could feel creatively fun. I just didn’t know on camera that we were allowed to just do those things. [Laughs] I always was just on my mark and say the line as written and make sure the script supervisor was happy and all that nonsense and that all was getting in the way of making something special on camera. 

Guerrasio: Adam McKay has always said that he would love to explore the characters from “Step Brothers” years from now and see what they are doing. Is that just one of those things that sounds cool or has it ever gotten back to you that he’s serious about it?

Hahn: There was a rumour for a second of maybe revisiting it and then I think “Anchorman 2” happened. But I would love to do it. And I also just love those people and just want to hang out with Adam Scott — I’m sure his Derek character is in prison by now or something. Or Alice would be, who knows.

Bad Mums Kathryn Hahn STX EntertainmentSTX Entertainment‘Bad Mums.’

Guerrasio: Another character we have to bring up is Carla from “Bad Mums.” What can you say about the sequel?
Hahn: We are looking to shoot in the spring and I know it’s out there that it’s a Christmas theme.

Guerrasio: Yes. 

Hahn: And when we all heard that, we were just like, “Of course!” Because there just doesn’t seem like another time of the year that’s more right for that. There’s so much craziness. As a kid it’s just the magic of Christmas but behind the scenes of course mum is trying to get breakfast together as you’re ripping through the presents and then the family comes over. It’s never magical for the mum. So we’re excited about doing this.

Guerrasio: Have you gotten a script yet?

Hahn: No. But just ideas we’ve been told, we are very excited, and what I can say is they are right on board with the spirit of the first movie.


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