Close & Personal
With Kathryn Hahn
athryn Hahn can either make you laugh or cry, as she is equally
at home in comedic or dramatic roles. She is also equally at home on
stage, screen, or television, having performed in all those genres.
She recently had a role in This Is Where I Leave You where she
played a woman desperate to get pregnant. In her personal life, she's
managed to do that twice. She is married to Ethan Sandler and
has two children: her son Leonard and her daughter Mae.
Kathryn Hahn is equally at home on stage,
screen or television. Courtesy photo.
Among Hahn's screen credits
are: Revolutionary Road, Our Idiot Brother, Afternoon Delight, The
Secret Life of Walter Mitty, Bad Words, She's Funny That Way, and
Tomorrowland. Some of her television credits include appearances
on: Hung, Mad Love, Girls, The Newsroom, Transparent, Parks and Recreation,
and her latest, Happish, airing on HBO. She made her Broadway
debut in "Boeing-Boeing" and appeared in "Dead
End" at the Ahmanson Theater, as well as plays at various
Hahn recently sat down with a select group
of journalists to discuss her latest film, The D Train. Written
and directed by Jarrad Paul and Andrew Mogel, she co-stars
with Jack Black and James Marsden, with Jeffrey Tambor
in a supporting role. Briefly, the story revolves around two main characters
a loser by the name of Dan Landsman (Black), and a popular
former high school classmate, Oliver Lawless (James Marsden).
The reunion committee, of which Landsman is chairman, is having
trouble selling tickets. He comes up with the idea of inviting Lawless,
who he thinks is a Hollywood star. It's this determination that sets
into motion a series of lies and deceptions that get him deeper and
deeper into a dark pit from which escape is getting harder and harder.
Although this is billed as a comedy, and it is very funny, it's really
a dramedy, as both of these characters are deeply flawed and make for
strange bedfellows. Hahn plays Landsman's wife Stacey,
the grounding force in his life.
James Marsden (Oliver Lawless), Kathryn Hahn (Stacey
Landsman) and Jack Black (Dan Landsman) co-star in Jarrad Paul and Andrew
Mogel's The D Train.
This role is different from roles you've played
before, so what did you like about your character?
Kathryn: Very rarely am I the grounding or the anchor
character, so it was refreshing. I really liked her goodness. I was
interested in the mystery of her and investigating why she stayed with
her husband. She met him in high school but I don't think he was on
her radar. But ultimately, she considered him a good and decent person.
As the years have gone on, the dark cloud over him has gotten bigger
and bigger and darker and darker. Being a nurturer and a classic enabler,
she's pulled him up continuously. She is the grown-up and the parent
to their three children.
How much rehearsal time did you have?
Kathryn: Like a minute and a half. It was luxurious.
(Laughter) It was a short shoot and it all came together incredibly
fast. I think Tambor (Jeffrey) and I were the last to
sign on and we started shooting ten days later. We had a couple of good
conversations with the directors, a couple of good meals, and then we
How was it working with two directors?
Kathryn: I was really impressed with Jarrad and
Andrew finding themselves as directors during the making of the
movie. It was really exciting to see the birth of two directors.
We had a hilarious time with Jack and James. How
was it on the set?
Kathryn: They are hilarious, but actually there wasn't
a lot of room to screw around. We just got down to business. There are
some scripts that call for fluffing out the comedy edges by improvising
a little bit around it, but with the time we had, we knew it would be
better spent in trying to get into the whys of these people. So instead
of trying to make it funny, we made it as real as possible.
What's different about your actual career vs.
when you were studying?
Kathryn: I went to Northwestern University thinking
I could play anything, but when you're in school, you can't. It's not
based on what you look like. It's based on whether or not you're good
in the part. I was into playing a gazillion different roles, using different
muscles. I'd so much rather that than to be just a variation of myself,
which I guess you are anyway. I suppose this is a philosophical question
in the end. I loved doing this small film as much as I love doing a
big studio comedy.
Have you gone to any class reunions?
Kathryn: I went to my 10th year high school reunion.
I attended an all-girls Catholic school in Cleveland, Ohio.
I'm still very good friends with a couple of the ladies from my class,
but reunions are nightmares. Like no matter how well you're doing in
your real life, or not well, I feel that reunions are so fertile for
story telling because it's a place of re-invention. You can decide what
you want to show of yourself and what you've become. You know, it's
an idealized version of yourself. Ultimately, you walk into that gym
or wherever you are, and you literally become your fifteen-year-old
self again. I don't know anyone who's had a great reunion experience
that wasn't wasted. (Laughter)
Were your classmates in awe of you because of
Kathryn: Ten years ago I was a different bird. A lot
of the people that I went to high school with still live in Cleveland
and live rich, amazing lives. You look at all your alternative selves
like it was awesome to see some pals of mine who have huge families
and live in these big, gorgeous houses with woods in the back and their
kids walk to school. And you think that sounds like an awesome life.
You see these alternate views of what you could be.
Who were you in high school?
Kathryn: I worked hard in high school and got good grades
not that I remember anything. I kind of tap-danced between different
groups. I was liked by a lot of people, and skirted between the nerds
and drama and art groups. I did everything but sports. Try as I may,
I was never an athlete. (Laughter)
Was there an advantage going to an all-girls school?
There was something about going to a single-sex school
that was really valuable for me, and I think for a lot of young women.
We didn't have to worry about our clothes and you weren't afraid to
raise your hand. Being smart was not seen as "not cool." So,
I was very grateful for that.
What's your most pleasant memory starting out
as an actor?
Kathryn: It was at the Cleveland Playhouse, a
beautiful, romantic regional theatre that unfortunately has folded.
I saw A Child's Christmas in Wales, and remember being
very moved by it. There was a tiny black box* called the Drury.
I would take classes there. It was called the "curtain pullers."
It was my happy place. If I think of my beginnings, I think of this
little stage. An empty theatre is the most beautiful image in my mind
because it has possibilities creating something out of nothing.
Do you have a specific technique or do you use
different acting tools for different characters?
Kathryn: It's different tools for different things.
But, it's always a question of what do you want and what are you trying
to get in a scene. If that is happening, then you know you are listening
and receiving. I'm not an improviser out of thin air. I always have
to gird myself with a history. I have to know who the person is as well
as I can so I have a point of view. I do a back-story as specifically
as I can so then I can pull from that when I'm in a scene. So much is
about listening and about who your scene partner is. It's always better
to act with someone who is better than you.
Left: Kathryn Hahn with her husband Ethan Sandler;
Right: On her role as mother: I try to be present when Im
with them so that they know they have 100% of me. But, you never feel
satisfied. Courtesy Photo.
What is your biggest struggle in combining your
roles of mother, wife, and career?
Kathryn: When I'm with my children, it's very hard to
not be thinking about my gig. However, I try to be present when I'm
with them so that they know they have 100% of me. But, you never feel
satisfied. It's like Sisyphus you know one thing happens
and then the boulder rolls down again. I am crazy grateful that I get
to do what I love, and I'm very excited that both of my children get
to see their mom do what she loves. My kids are five and eight. We were
at a circus this morning. My daughter juggled one ball back and forth.
Just kind of threw it from one hand to the other. (Laughter)
What are you working on now?
A scene from Happyish, airing on HBO.
Kathryn: My show, Happyish, with
Steve Coogan, has premiered on HBO. I'm also starting
the second season of Transparent. I'm also did a
couple of movies Tomorrowland, and a Peter
Bogdanovich movie called She's Funny That Way.
This is the fun stuff. I get to put make-up on, get dressed, and
go to the Four Seasons for an afternoon with journalists.
How was it working with Bogdanovich?
Kathryn: It was as dreamy as you could possibly
imagine. He's a genius and one in a million, and he still always
wears his cravat. It was the hottest summer in New York City.
He would dunk his cravat in a bucket of ice water and then put
it on. Just to do an old-school farce was such a pleasure for
all of us improvising comedians.
Hahn on Bogdanovich: He's a genius and one
in amillion, and he still always wears his cravat.
Hahn on George Clooney: I wish I did get to
play with the toy that is George Clooney. Courtesy
So in "Tomorrowland" you got to play
with all the toys and George Clooney?
Kathryn: You know, I wish I did get to play with the
toy that is George Clooney. (Laughter) We had no scenes
together, but we do share an IMBD page,** which I'm very excited
* An intimate performance space
**An entertainment industry website