Kathryn Hahn: People in Film

Posted by NicoleWoods | February 19, 2014
Kathryn Hahn | Not Your Typical Leading Lady

In Jason Bateman’s BAD WORDS, Kathryn Hahn plays a reporter who sponsors Guy Trilby (Jason Bateman) to enable him, an adult man, to compete against kids in national spelling bees. Initially Hahn hopes Trilby’s antics will lead to a great journalism story, but she soon finds that her relationship with him only spells trouble. For Hahn, accepting the part was a no-brainer: “The number one thing was, Jason Bateman; I’ve had a talent crush on him for years. We knew each other socially, and I also knew that he did quality control; whatever he was putting his heart and his muscle behind was going to be something that I would want to see, let alone be in.” But once she’d fully comprehended her character, she understood this part would also give her the kind of comedy challenge she craved:  “I’d be his romantic interest – basically – and that this character was not your typical “leading lady” in any way. It was a creative turn-on.”  From the start, Hahn has been drawn to the unique and different. “Even in school, I never was the ingénue,” She told the New York Observer. “I was always grandma or the guy… I would always rather have the makeup and hair people come in and mess it up a little bit more than make it neat.”

 give her the kind of comedy challenge she craved:  “I’d be his romantic interest – basically – and that this character was not your typical “leading lady” in any way. It was a creative turn-on.”  From the start, Hahn has been drawn to the unique and different. “Even in school, I never was the ingénue,” She told the New York Observer. “I was always grandma or the guy… I would always rather have the makeup and hair people come in and mess it up a little bit more than make it neat.”

Kathryn Hahn | Theater Folk

Left, Crossing Jordan; Right, Boeing-Boeing.

 

Although Kathryn Hahn was born in Westchester, IL, a suburb of Chicago, her family moved to Cleveland Heights, OH, where she started to scratch her acting itch at an early age. By age 8, she not only landed a gig pulling the curtain at the Cleveland Play House, but she was given the opportunity to take classes as well. This early work experience filled her with a lifelong love of acting and theater folk. "I just loved being around them and hearing their stories,” Hahn recounted. “And there was something about the Cleveland Play House that was the holiest place — you know, with the ghost light on the stage and the brick.” In 1981, at age 9, Hahn made her first TV appearance on the Cleveland Children’s show Hickory Hideout working alongside a group of puppets. Aiming for a life in theater, Hahn studied drama at Northwestern University, graduating in 1995, before moving to New York. From there she continued her studies at Yale, getting her MFA in 2001. At Yale, she distinguished herself in a number of roles, including as Sally Bowles in a 1999 production of Cabaret. Thinking she would go on to do theater in New York, Hahn found her future plans dramatically changed when she was spotted by a NBC scout while doing summer stock at the Williamstown theater festival. He tapped her to play the grief counselor Lily Lebowski on the legal drama Crossing Jordan, a small part that got a lot bigger the moment Hahn was cast. While Hahn was immediately thrown into TV, and later film, she never lost her initial love of theater. In 2008, she made her Broadway debut – 10 years after she first moved to New York – in the farce Boeing-Boeing. In this all-star comedy, Hahn is one of three stewardesses – she being the American; Gina Gershon, the French; and Mary McCormack, the German –– all entangled with the same man (Mark Rylance). For Theater Mania, “not enough praise can be heaped on” Hahn and her high-flying cohorts. For Talkin’ Broaday, Hahn adds “a few layers of richness” to make her sexy stereotype hilariously “unpredictable.” 

Kathryn Hahn | True Acting Genius

Clockwise, from top left: Our Idiot Brother, Wanderlust, Afternoon Delight, We’re the Millers.

 

For Hahn, being cast in Crossing Jordan proved to be a many splendored thing. After a NBC casting executive picked her up for the show, the producers so loved her that they rewrote her part. “It was written as a one-episode or three-episode thing. They very sweetly made it a recurring after I did an episode,” Hahn told the AV Club. The popular legal drama stayed on the air until 2007, leaving Hahn lots of time to try out new material when the show wasn't in production. “I was able to go do plays and movies and stuff whenever I had time,” recalled Hahn. Initially Hahn was cast in memorable supporting parts, like as Kate Hudson’s gal-pal in How to Lose a Guy in 10 Days or as the lovelorn waitress in Win a Date with Tad Hamilton! In 2004, as a crazed staff member at KVWN in Anchorman: The Legend of Ron Burgundy, Hahn discovered a whole new side of her talent. “I’ve never thought of myself as a comedic actress in any way,” she told the Vulture. “Anchorman kind of cracked that open.” Moving forward Hahn quickly became the secret weapon for directors looking for something extra crackling. In the 2011 Our Idiot Brother, in which she plays Paul Rudd’s ex-girlfriend, Hahn is, according to Entertainment Weekly’s Liza Schwarzbaum, “hilarious as a pacifist feminist perpetually spoiling for a fight.” For his 2012 comedy Wanderlust, David Wain casts, what New York Magazine gleefully describes as, “a formidably rubber-faced Kathryn Hahn” to play “a Cassandra whose feelers are scarily sensitive to bad vibes.” When it came to casting We’re The Millers, director Rawson Marshall Thurber knew he wanted Hahn after first seeing her in Step Brothers. “She was the most inspired, electric comedian I’d seen come on the scene in years,” he told The New York Observer. Critics agreed. Star Tribune singled out Hahn as “brilliant as the stereotypical square small-town mother whose idea of “swinging” is getting a handful of Aniston’s clothed breasts.” While Hahn made a name playing hilarious side characters, Jill Soloway wanted Hahn for her feature film debut Afternoon Delight for her acting qualities. “I was very surprised by her true acting genius,” Soloway told The New York Observer. “She reminded me of Ellen Burstyn, Meryl Streep or Dianne Wiest — flawed heroines who let their humanity come through. At its center, the movie is about the notion of the divided feminine — that inside every woman is many women. It’s about the complicated nature of real women, and what she delivers on is being able to live that wholly.”

Kathryn Hahn | Back on TV

Clockwise, from top left: Hung; Kathryn Hahn and Hank Azaria in Free Agents; Amy Poehler and Kathryn Hahn in Parks and Recreation; Girls.

 

After Crossing Jordan ended in 2007, Kathryn Hahn continued to find opportunities to shine on TV. While several of her shows, like the American version of Ab Fab, never made it to air, the shows that did, even when she only appeared in one episode, generated considerable excitement. In her Slate article “The Best Female Comedian Who Wasn’t Nominated for an Emmy,” L.V. Anderson highlights Hahn’s remarkable talent in bringing a unique, often unforgettable, comic edge to the characters she plays. In the HBO series Hung, about a young dad (Thomas Jane) who takes to being a gigolo when his finances go south, Hahn pushed the edge in this already edgy comedy by playing Claire, a rich, single and very pregnant client. “There's something really kind of scandalous about it,” Hahn admits, “But it's unapologetic which I love.” In 2011, Hahn headlined with Hank Azaria in the short-lived sitcom Free Agents, about two PR executives who must work together after an embarrassing one-night stand. For Popmatters, Hahn is “as good at witty verbal exchanges as she is at coming unglued.” In HBO’s Girls, Hahn again captured a character who’s part pathos, part humor, in Katherine Lavoyt, a documentary filmmaker/mother whose wandering husband takes up with their babysitter, Jessa (Jemima Kirke). In one of her most celebrated guest parts, Hahn plays, as Slate’s L.V. Anderson describes her, “the brilliant and conniving yet somehow enormously likeable Jennifer Barkley” in Parks and Recreation

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