Kathryn Hahn just had one of the busiest TV seasons, concluding her role in “Transparent” and the limited series “Mrs. Fletcher.” The Emmy nominee is currently on another HBO limited series, “I Know This Much Is True,” plus the new Apple TV+ animated musical “Central Park.”
Hahn spoke with Gold Derby senior editor Rob Licuria recently, where she discussed wrapping up “Transparent,” taking on a demanding role in “I Know This Much Is True,” singing in “Central Park” and much more. Watch the exclusive video interview above and read the complete transcript below.
Gold Derby: Kathryn, what’s it like to be so in demand? You’re in a lot of projects coming up.
Kathryn Hahn: I’m very excited about the two things that are about to be released. The first is “I Know This Much Is True,” which is coming to HBO in May. That’s starring the incredible and kind Mark Ruffalo, directed by Derek Cianfrance. It’s an adaptation of the book by Wally Lamb, and the second is “Central Park” and t’s a completely different genre. It’s an animated series created for Apple created by Loren Bouchard who did “Bob’s Burgers” and that’s a series that is a musical, something completely new and different and that’s also co-created by Josh Gad and it’s starring some incredible voices.
GD: Yeah, it is, I’ve seen a bit of it and I can say it’s so entertaining. You also were in “Mrs. Fletcher,” which we’ll talk about a little later. That was one of my favorite things in the last few months. You were also finishing up with “Transparent” with their fantastic musicale finale so I don’t know how the hell we’re gonna get through all this in such a short period but we’ll do our best. First of all, “I Know This Much Is True,” I’ve seen some of it and we can’t really give away too much ‘cause it’s not out yet. It’s pretty heavy stuff and without giving too much away, the series explores some very tragic themes, Mark Ruffalo playing twin brothers, some of the heavy lifting is on your shoulders as the ex-wife. How difficult was it to prepare for such an emotionally challenging role like that?
KH: I hadn’t read the novel when I got the call about this project. I had to meet with the director, Derek, so I devoured the adaptation and the novel in about a week’s time, which was significant. It’s a pretty significant novel so there’s a lot of material to get through. By the time I met Derek, I felt such a connection to Dessa and to this material that for the first time I think in my creative life, I really did feel weirdly that I was meeting him as Dessa and I had never really felt that before. She had really filtered through. He’s such an incredible actors’ director, Derek, so the process, there wasn’t a ton of rehearsal process because everybody was all over the world at that point before we had started. He’s not a micromanager with actors and he really is such an incredible listener that we were just really able to arrive there fully formed and he just trusted us, so to answer your question, it wasn’t precious. It was, like, revealed, if that makes any sense. It was really special how it happened. I give a lot of credit to Derek and to Mark.
GD: Speaking of Mark, such a brilliant cast. You’ve got people like Melissa Leo and Rosie O’Donnell and Archie Panjabi, Imogen Poots, Juliette Lewis, we could spend all day just talking about the ensemble but Mark Ruffalo brings it together as the leading man. What’s the best way to describe working alongside him?
KH: Yeah, you’re right this entire cast is so incredible but Mark as the number one on the call sheet was just a dream, working with him. He is so extraordinary in this part. I had heard such amazing things about him walking into this and he did not disappoint. He’s a magnificent listener. He’s so wide open. He’s just a dream collaborator. He just cares so much about what you bring to the table, he’s so humble and he’s just a decent and kind person. He’s just an incredible actor. His work ethic is incredible. He’s what you want as your number one on a call sheet ‘cause it filters down. He’s just a good, decent egg.
GD: Apart from working with him and working with Derek Cianfrance, what would you say would be the number one highlight for you as an actor? Looking back over your career you’ve had some amazing and challenging roles but I would assume this would be one of the most challenging you’ve done given the topic or the subject matter. What was the highlight in terms of what you had to stretch as a performer to make this work?
KH: This was a really precious experience for me. When Derek and Mark and I were in the bubble, I hopped in and out of this a lot, and they made it incredibly welcoming for me every time I jumped back into it. There’s a funeral in it, this was shot on film, and it’s a very teeny, teeny scene, but Derek had set up an entire funeral with an actual priest and a choir and a packed church and we were not allowed in the church until it happened and the whole scene was set up. It was like an actor’s dream. I wanna cry thinking about it, just for this teeny, teeny little piece of this project, that we were held outside the church and then when it was time to shoot, three cameras, time to shoot it, we were allowed to walk in and it was a 40-minute take and it was just one of those experiences that I will never forget as long as I live as an actor. That’s an experience I will hold to my heart, that care. It was just so actor-forward, this process. That kind of respect, it was like performance first over anything that is so rare and so appreciated and I think I’ll just never forget that, being able to be a part of it.
GD: You’re right, that scene was very short but it was so impactful and now I understand why. It’s good to know. I’m gonna pivot a little now, given that we will eventually run out of time. You’ve been on plenty of series. Most actors who do series work always talk about how bittersweet it is to finish up. Was it bittersweet to say goodbye to “Transparent” after all these years?
KH: Oh yes, of course. Yes. I would say bittersweet was the perfect word because it was a joyful way to end it and I think it was important for Jill [Soloway] and for their sister Faith [Soloway] to have it be the musical because it was a celebration, so the shooting of it and the making of it was very, very joyful. It didn’t end on a down note. That was helpful, for sure. But yes, of course bittersweet because I love those people and that series meant so much to so many people for so long and it really changed the cultural landscape when it first came about and woke a lot of people up and it was very important in terms of changing conversation and I’m really proud to have been a part of it.
GD: And obviously that show was what you were nominated for a few years ago at the Emmys as a supporting actress. It was a really exciting nomination to see you and a bunch of the other people from that show to be nominated. Take us back to the day you were nominated for that. How were you feeling? Were you extremely excited? What does it mean to you to be nominated by the industry like that?
KH: I had never been nominated for anything before. It was absolutely crazy. I mean, I was gobsmacked. It was the craziest feeling! I had been driving, there was no way in the world I would have ever considered it or conceived it. Absolutely gobsmacked into total and utter silence. It’s like it happened and then I just continued to the grocery store. It was the greatest, craziest honor and again, very humbling. It was one of the most fun nights of my hubby and my life and also just really great for everybody in the show. And to be for that part too, which had meant a lot to me, I just loved the rabbi so much and the woman that I had worked with the actual rabbi, Susan Goldberg, who would become a very dear friend, it was very special for us to share, all of it.
GD: I love the rabbi character, too. I don’t know what it is about the rabbi on that show but I really loved her. I kind of miss her for some reason. There’s such a warmth to her, right? Is that what you were going for?
KH: I think she just was, yeah. I think maybe also in the context of everybody in that world too, she just landed that way. Also, if you could meet this woman who I had worked with, Susan, she’s a very warm presence and a warm human, so yes, that was not what I was necessarily going for, was that word, but she is a good, warm listener, I would say. Yeah, for sure. She’s a listener.
GD: What the finale reminded me of was how you’ve got some really good singing chops there. I forget that about you and you get to do that “Central Park,” which people haven’t seen yet but it’s such a great show. The songs on that show were brilliant.
KH: Aren’t they amazing?!
GD: They’re so good. People will be very surprised. Why did you take on that? It’s very different to a lot of your other work. What made you decide to do that?
KH: I think that’s exactly why, because it’s so different from anything else. I didn’t even quite know what the songs were gonna be before I took it on. I took it on because of Loren and because of Josh and because of the rest of the cast. I heard Leslie Odom Jr. and I had heard Daveed [Diggs] and Kristen [Bell] and Stanley Tucci. This cast was bananas. And then I heard the songwriters and that it was gonna be a musical and was like, “Well, this is crazy. Of course,” but I had not heard the music, and in an animated show it’s all piecemeal, you’re never in the room with anybody, you have no idea what it’s gonna sound like. Then I went in to record some songs and I was like, “Holy crap, this is really good music.” Caveat, I would just say I’m really good at karaoke. I would never consider myself a professional singer but I love singing. But these guys are, like, profesh, and so I always felt like Peter Sellers in “Being There,” like, “Which one of these people is not like the other?” What am I doing in this company?! This is absolutely crazy! But I was finally able to see a couple of the episodes and the music, it’s so unforgettable! So anyway, I couldn’t be more proud to be a part of it. It’s really, really good. I’m very excited for people to see it.
GD: Me too. So now finally touching on “Mrs. Fletcher,” which I devoured in a day, my wife and I sat on the couch and just watched the whole thing, then it was over and I was like, “I want more and I don’t think there will be more.” It’s a shame, ‘cause it’s a really, really good show. It’s based on a novel but one of my favorite writers, Tom Perrotta. What drew you to taking on the role? That’s another departure for you.
KH: Yes, I was very intrigued by “Mrs. Fletcher” back when I read the book. I’m also a huge fan of Tom Perrotta’s work as well and especially his curiosity about women and I loved Eve and the fact that there was something interesting about his curiosity about this woman at this time in her life, and that it was a two-pronged coming of age story, that it was an inverse coming of age story, that it was not just Eve’s coming of age but it’s also her son’s and the fulcrum being maybe through the lens of internet porn, but not really. That’s the launching pad but it’s not really about that. Today it’s all topsy-turvy but back when that was happening, thoughts of consent and intimacy and all the vulnerability and all the things that were wrapped up, for her it was like shame and pleasure and identity and getting what you want. There’s so many things wrapped up that I found very interesting and it was important that it be all women directors, especially because it was written by Tom. He was really on board with that. He was such an incredible collaborator and very, very open. We had a really great push-pull the whole time with trying to figure her out in a great way. Yeah, it was a real juicy, great experience of trying to figure her out. I agree with you. The end of it, I was unsatisfied and I think that was a perfect way for it to end, for sure. I kept wanting to see them at the kitchen table the next morning.
GD: We just have to imagine it. I’m gonna miss them. I’m gonna miss the interplay between your character, Eve, and Julian, played by Owen Teague. I love that. It’s so unusual.
KH: He’s so good, yeah. The whole cast, everybody in that show is so fantastic. I’m incredibly proud of what we made on that show and also, I’m very satisfied with the dissatisfaction of it. You know what I mean? It doesn’t always land in a settled chord. I was satisfied with that feeling. But yeah, everybody. Katie Kershaw I thought was fantastic, Jen Richards, the whole cast. And Tom too, digging in deep. It was a real journey together to make that show and I could not be more proud.