The days of actors getting props for navigating between film and television projects are long gone. It’s no longer all that impressive to line a resume with movie and shows, simply because the landscape has shifted to include lots more than just traditional theatrical releases and broadcast television. The streaming world is massive, films can still break out on VOD, and the lines have been redrawn. Still impressive, though? Kathryn Hahn, who moves between worlds with such ease that she doesn’t even make a distinction between them.
“I really don’t see the difference anymore, especially with these incredible short order television series, like eight to 10 episodes,” Hahn said in a recent interview with IndieWire. “It’s a movie slot, basically, [that] you’re doing. That’s why I think you’re getting these fabulous, incredible major movie stars that are willing to commit [to these shows]. … You’re able to really kind of sink into an arc of a story over a longer period of time.”
Hahn’s not kidding about what she calls a “blurry moment of where you can see things,” and it’s one the actress has fully embraced in recent years. Alongside a box office hit like “A Bad Moms Christmas” or an indie standout like “Flower,” Hahn has recently contributed her talents to streaming series like the dearly-departed “I Love Dick” and “Transparent.” Later this month, she’ll be seen in Tamara Jenkins’ “Private Life,” a bonafide indie that debuted at Sundance, where it was picked up by Netflix.
“I think like a traditional 22-episode network show does not sound as appealing anymore, just because I think it’s hard to maintain,” Hahn said. “I’m really in awe of shows that can maintain quality, because they are out there, and I’m always in crazy awe of that. I loved ‘Parks and Recreation,’ and I was just in awe of the talent on that show, and that they could maintain it over that amount of episodes. That blew my mind. That group was incredible.”
Still, even Hahn has managed to hone in on at least one sweet spot: shorter series with those meaty arcs. That’s what she’s gearing up for next, thanks to HBO’s limited series adaptation of Tom Perrotta’s novel “Mrs. Fletcher.” Hahn will star in the series’ title role — a bored divorcee reeling from the recent departure of her college-age son, who starts dabbling in internet porn and finds her world changed — in what she promises will be one of those “eight to 10 episodes per season” programs she likes. They’ll start shooting in November, and Hahn can’t wait.
Jessica Brooks / Amazon Studios
“I love it. I met with Tom Perrotta, and this was before even Jessi Klein, the amazing Jessi Klein, and Nicole Holofcener were involved,” she said, noting just two of the series’ most exciting executive producers. “I just thought I found him to be a real deep feeler. I love his writing, and I was really interested that he wrote this role. I really wanted to get inside of the why of that, and weasel my way in there into that brain. I was excited that he wrote her in the third person.”
As with many of her recent roles, “Mrs. Fletcher” isn’t just a female-centric project, it’s also one that explores a period of a woman’s life that typically doesn’t get a lot of screen time. Paired with the porn stuff, and it’s a hot-button series with a compelling character at its center.
“I think it’s an interesting age in a woman’s life,” Hahn said. “I love the idea of a dual coming-of-age story. I think the idea of online porn is an interesting place to start as a jumping off point for a woman and her son who are embarking on this new chapter in their lives. And just in terms of consent, and intimacy, and relationships, and vulnerability, and all that. I’m really excited to dig in.”
While Hahn may talk about shows like “Parks and Recreation” with all the affection of a fan, that admiration is also steeped in insider knowledge: after all, she did get her own recurring character on the beloved NBC sitcom. As brassy political strategist Jennifer Barkley, Hahn appeared in 11 episodes throughout the show’s run. Despite nearly two decades in the industry, it’s that role that gets her the “rare” on-the-street reaction.
“It’s so rare, but if it’s for anything, it’s like for ‘Parks and Rec,’ oddly enough, which I’m always really proud of,” she said when asked about the roles people recognize her the most for. “But, boy, do people love that show. I’m so proud that I was anywhere a part of that. … I’m always like, ‘Gosh, that was so long ago, and I was so young, and kind of duded up.’ It’s always so awesome. God, people love that damn show. It’s so good, though. I feel like, it was ahead of its time. Wouldn’t that be great if it was on right now? We need some optimism in politics.”
The series may have gone off the air in 2015, but these days, it’s enjoying its own renaissance in Hahn’s own home.
“I started watching with my kids, and they love everybody, except they think I’m the most boring part of it,” Hahn said. “I’m like, of course. They’re obsessed with Amy, obsessed with Aubrey, obsessed with everybody. Chris Pratt, obsessed with.”
With one exception: Hahn herself. “They love everybody else. I’m just boring in it to them. I’ll never be cool. That’s okay.”