Lola Kirke may not be as well known as her sister, “Girls” star Jemima, but the younger actress is on the verge of much wider recognition. Along with supporting parts in last year’s “Gone Girl” and “Free the Nipple,” Kirke currently plays the lead role in “Mozart in the Jungle,” the first season of which is now available on Amazon. As oboe player Hailey, Kirke portrays the latest addition to a version of the New York Philharmonic lorded over by an eccentric conductor (Gael Garcia Bernal). While the show just premiered last month, Kirke already has another project in the bag: She co-stars alongside Greta Gerwig in Noah Baumbach’s 2015 Sundance premiere “Mistress America,” which was recently picked up by Fox Searchlight. Kirke spoke to Indiewire from the “Mozart” set last fall, while co-creators Jason Schwartzman and Roman Coppola worked nearby.
I wasn’t looking to do TV stuff. I was looking to do anything. At this point in my career, I’m not choosing things. People are choosing me. I’m really lucky and so grateful that they do. There are these things called agents, but when you’re starting out, you’re lucky to get what you get.
Amazon was just trying their hand at this adventure of the new frontier of television on the internet. I thought that was incredibly exciting, to be part of this age. I have so much respect for Jason and Roman. It was really great to read the pilot, which I loved and then I read the book. It’s really the jumping-off point. The most powerful part of the book to me was the birth of this culture in America and the necessity for an art culture in America — how classical music from other places and times made it here.
The classical music scene was completely unfamiliar to me. It was something that I didn’t have the most fun associations around. A lot of people don’t — they think of older generations and stuffiness. But it’s not. You listen to the Overture of 1812 and you can hear a rock ‘n’ roll catharsis.
Now I’m tapped in. Whenever I see anybody with a music case or hear a piece, I’m like, turn it up. What is this? I’m trying to learn as much as I can and accelerate that process. I’m practicing the oboe. But I don’t play. Just single notes, not an entire piece of music. We gave up on that. I did learn how to read music. Slowly. She’s taught me how to mime playing with my mouth and my fingers. As somebody who has wanted to be an actor who is very young, I can relate to somebody who has been practicing oboe five days a week since they were very young. The physicality of anything a character does is a tremendous gift.
I didn’t hang out at Julliard. I creepily approached two young men on the F train who had instruments. I said, hey, are you guys musicians? They were like, uh, yeah? And I was really sweaty. I’d just come from the gym. I said, “I’m about to play a classical musician on TV,” knowing how sketchy that sounded. I said, here, take my email so we can get coffee. They never emailed me. This goes out to Jim with the trombone. Their loss.
The stigma of TV not being an art form has totally changed. The TV shows I’ve watched over the past 10 years have been so phenomenal in the way they depict their characters. I like to think of it now as a longer story told in these shorter bits of time. It’s no issue for me to be going into a TV show — especially one with such crossover artists working within it.
“Mistress America,” Noah Baumbach film we shot right before “While We’re Young” was co-written by Greta Gerwig. It’s a really fun film. I can’t wait for people to see it. It was a very secretive project. We shot most of it in the city, a lot at Columbia and Westchester in a very interesting glass house. It’s a goofy film. Very clever, I think. We probably had a crew of 12 people.
I produced a film that I acted in last year that I’m going to finish and will hopefully be done in the near future. The working title is “Lake City.” It’s directed by Aaron Fischer-Cohen. It’s his first narrative feature. He directed a documentary about Jimmy McMillan and the Rent is Too Damn High party called “DAMN!” It stars Dominic Chianese, Joanna Merlin, Rosie Perez, Ellen Barkin and myself. And Jonathan Rosen. It’s about a young couple who try to move to New York City and they have no money so they move in with his grandparents’ retirement community. It’s about what it means to love a person when you’re 80 and when you’re 20.
I directed a short film like two years ago. It keeps coming up in places. It was my senior thesis project. I’d love to direct. It’s great film school to be on set.
My sister and I have a lot of other things to talk about. But it’s very cool to not have to translate this world to her at all. I’m very grateful for that.