Kathryn Hahn is tak­ing the lead. Say hello to your new­est fem­i­nist icon.

Fashion (Canada) - - The Market | Contents - By Greg Hud­son

“I was never a beauty, so my sur­vival method was to be one of the guys. I loved a fart joke.” — words from our new fem­i­nist idol

KATHRYN HAHN was never an in­genue. Not that she seems to mind—es­pe­cially these days. In the im­per­fect world of Hol­ly­wood, when lead­ing roles are handed out to women, they are of­ten ei­ther ro­man­tic leads or some­one’s mother (or both if they are es­pe­cially meaty). As a re­sult, ac­tresses like Hahn—whom you would def­i­nitely rec­og­nize even if you don’t al­ways re­mem­ber her name—play a lot of best friends or side­kicks or comic-re­lief types. It means hav­ing the ex­act kind of ca­reer where the great­est chal­lenge is scor­ing the job; the job it­self isn’t ex­actly chal­leng­ing. And, as any mo­ti­va­tional poster will tell you, a life with­out chal­lenges isn’t es­pe­cially re­ward­ing. »

Only, Hahn’s per­for­mances—whether as the A-type po­lit­i­cal con­sul­tant on Parks and Recre­ation or a loopy hip­pie in Wan­der­lust—al­ways feel like a re­ward for au­di­ences. Never be­ing an in­genue may have meant 100 per cent fewer Matthew McConaughey make-out ses­sions, but it has al­lowed us to see what mir­a­cles of char­ac­ter and com­mit­ment Hahn can per­form with what­ever she is given.

The week we talk, for ex­am­ple, Hahn seems to be in the ether. That week hap­pened to be the 10th an­niver­sary of the film Step Brothers (you know, that Will Fer­rell/John C. Reilly flick where they play im­ma­ture man-chil­dren… ac­tu­ally, maybe that isn’t very help­ful), so a pop­u­lar pod­cast and web­site de­voted an in­or­di­nate amount of dig­i­tal space to dis­cussing the movie. In a film full of sur­pris­ing over-the-top per­for­mances, Hahn’s small role as Fer­rell’s qui­etly des­per­ate sis­ter-in-law some­how stands out as the most com­mit­ted, hon­est and hi­lar­i­ous.

As great as she has al­ways been in sup­port­ing roles, Hahn has re­cently shown how im­pres­sive she can be when she’s given more to do. Since direc­tor Jill Soloway cast her in her first lead­ing role, in the in­die film Af­ter­noon De­light, Hahn has be­come one of Soloway’s go-to per­form­ers. She plays the heart­break­ingly real rabbi and love in­ter­est in Trans­par­ent and the main char­ac­ter in the adap­ta­tion of Chris Kraus’s iconic fem­i­nist work, I Love Dick, op­po­site Kevin Ba­con. This fall, she’ll co-star with Paul Gia­matti in Pri­vate Life, about a cou­ple strug­gling to have chil­dren later-ish in life.

Not only are these per­for­mances lay­ered, hon­est and breath­tak­ingly in­ti­mate but they also add an in­spi­ra­tional as­pect to her ca­reer. Hahn proves that with enough tal­ent, even show busi­ness can be a mer­i­toc­racy. Let’s see a wide-eyed in­genue do that. The char­ac­ters you play in Trans­par­ent and I Love Dick are rightly praised as ex­am­ples of hon­est fem­i­nist char­ac­ters. But in your first real film role, in How to Lose a Guy in 10 Days, you played Kate Hud­son’s des­per­ate, hys­ter­i­cal best friend, pos­si­bly the least fem­i­nist role imag­in­able. It’s been quite a jour­ney. “Fem­i­nism was kind of a dirty word when I was grow­ing up go­ing to a Catholic school. Even when I was in col­lege at North­west­ern and sur­rounded by so many men, [to be as­so­ci­ated with fem­i­nism] was al­most like la­belling your­self as ‘other.’ I was never a beauty, so my sur­vival method was to be one of the guys. I loved a fart joke. For a lot of us mis­fits, who felt ‘other,’ theatre was a way to be­long. It was a place for a lot of us who were pre­tend­ing to be nor­mal when we knew we were some­thing dif­fer­ent on the inside, what­ever that means. Af­ter school, when I first came to L.A., it was a height­ened ver­sion of what I’d been feel­ing in high school, and it was less about my gen­der and more about sur­viv­ing. “I just wanted to act, and I just wanted to per­form. So pol­i­tics weren’t even a part of that con­ver­sa­tion for a long time. I didn’t have the priv­i­lege of think­ing that way. In ret­ro­spect, you can look at your body of work, at the op­por­tu­ni­ties you’ve been given, and then sort of piece to­gether that nar­ra­tive. But when it’s hap­pen­ing, it’s a chaotic scram­ble. There are a thou­sand things that I didn’t get, and the few things that I did, and that’s the nar­ra­tive that was pieced to­gether.” I lis­tened to a Mal­colm Glad­well pod­cast where he talks about how when you’re in a mi­nor­ity, in or­der to get along, you nat­u­rally put aside what you be­lieve and take the side of the ma­jor­ity. If you’re a wo­man, you kind of have to make jokes about other women and things like that. “I re­mem­ber, my nat­u­ral pos­ture was to hunch over, be­cause I never wanted any­one to see that I had breasts. I never wanted to be seen. I hid my fem­i­nin­ity. I wanted to apol­o­gize for tak­ing up space, and I feel like a lot of women would feel the same way. I just felt like my go-to was to de­mean my­self and make fun of my­self. And it worked, but that kind of does chip away at some­thing. I just read Hunger by Rox­ane Gay. Have you read that?” No, I haven’t. “It is so pow­er­ful and ex­tra­or­di­nary, and I’ve been think­ing about it non-stop. She’s an in­cred­i­ble writer, and it has been seared into my brain like a brand. She talks about the lengths that we go to to try to pro­tect our deep­est self from hurt. Like you were say­ing, we find those ways to try to blend in and cam­ou­flage our­selves. I’m al­ways in awe of peo­ple who are able to come out truly as them­selves. It re­ally is no won­der that I be­came an ac­tor. Some­times I feel most com­fort­ably my­self when I’m ei­ther on­stage or be­tween ac­tion and cut. Isn’t that weird?” Why do you feel like you’re most your­self when you’re play­ing some­body who isn’t you? “I feel that less and less now. The older I get, the more com­fort­able I get and the less I’ve been wear­ing makeup—the less I’m in­ter­ested in all of those things. I still love dress­ing up ev­ery once in a while, but in my day-to-day life, I’m less con­cerned with that.” You once talked about how there has been a lot of dis­sat­is­fac­tion on your part with your ca­reer up un­til, well,

“The older I get, the more com­fort­able I get and the less I’ve been wear­ing makeup. But I still love dress­ing up ev­ery once in a while.”

now. How did you deal with that? “There was a crazy dis­con­nect be­tween who I was, what I knew I could of­fer as a creative per­son and what was asked of me in drama school—when we were all able to be our truest, messi­est, loud­est creative selves—and what I was be­ing asked to do in this in­dus­try.

“So it was very hard for me to be present. I would kind of ful­fill an ex­pec­ta­tion and then go home feel­ing very un­sat­is­fied. And, of course, I prob­a­bly felt like I had ful­filled what­ever I had to but didn’t feel like I blew any­one away, be­cause I didn’t blow my­self away. I didn’t walk out feel­ing like ‘Oh, I re­ally un­cov­ered some­thing.’

“I never had those juicy creative feel­ings that I have had on­stage or with my true tribe of creative peeps. Hon­estly, it wasn’t un­til a cou­ple of things hap­pened. I think the big tran­si­tion for me was when I got Wan­der­lust, which is this big ensem­ble com­edy that David Wain di­rected. I loved that part. And through it, I met my man­ager. She opened up doors for me that hadn’t been opened be­fore. It was the ex­pe­ri­ence of do­ing Af­ter­noon De­light, which was writ­ten and di­rected by Jill Soloway, when some­thing cracked open. I could be on an equal foot­ing with some­body as a col­lab­o­ra­tor and not just feel like I was ful­fill­ing my part in the ma­chine. We were mak­ing some­thing to­gether. Hon­estly, it hear­kened back to putting plays on in the back­yard. It felt that pure.” It’s funny that in school we’re al­ways taught the ideal and then when we’re re­leased from univer­sity, it’s like “You’ll never get that ideal again.” Like in jour­nal­ism school, we would prac­tise writ­ing long-form fea­tures, but when you’re out of school, chances are you’re go­ing to be writ­ing blog posts or ad copy. “You’re ex­actly right. We al­ways talked about that. A lot of act­ing pro­grams spend a cou­ple of years get­ting you into the purest place of per­for­mance, and then the last year, all of a sud­den, is like ‘And wrap your­self up with the neat­est, most pol­ished, lik­able, palat­able bow that you can pos­si­bly find, be­cause the goal is to get hired.’

“So it’s just like ‘Glam it up, pluck it, hair­brush it, pol­ish it, wax it, stick it and put some high­lights on it.’ Any­thing that they can view of the real you, you’re taught, isn’t go­ing to help you get a part.

“Ul­ti­mately, you’re teach­ing some­body a los­ing game, be­cause what some­body is look­ing for is some­thing new. They want some­thing they haven’t seen be­fore, some­thing that is thrilling and unique. Of course, the work would suf­fer or feel tight and pushed be­cause it wasn’t com­ing from any sort of real hon­esty. It was just com­ing from a need to please.” One of the words that’s of­ten used to de­scribe your work with Soloway is “vul­ner­a­ble.” It’s used so much that I feel like it’s in dan­ger of los­ing its mean­ing. When you say that you could be vul­ner­a­ble with her, what does that ac­tu­ally mean? “You can feel like you can let your­self be to­tally seen—that through the lens that’s look­ing at you, you’re able to feel a free­dom. I don’t want to say safety, be­cause that im­plies that you need hand hold­ing, which I don’t need, but I def­i­nitely need to feel a free­dom and a shared lan­guage.”

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