The Shapeshifter: Kathryn Hahn

By / Cover stories / February 23, 2018

The Northwestern alum shows the dark side of comedy in next month’s ‘Flower’

Kathryn Hahn has proven herself to be among the most versatile actresses on screen today. She’s had standout small-screen roles  — like her Emmy-nominated turn as a female rabbi in “Transparent”  — and broken out in the box office as the hilarious Carla in Chicago-set “Bad Moms” and its recent sequel “A Bad Moms Christmas.” This year, she’s showing us yet another side of her skill set with a duo of nuanced roles: first, as a mother who sets no boundaries in next month’s “Flower,” and, later this year, as a woman desperately trying to conceive in “A Private Life.”

Though the Westchester, Illinois, native swings between comedic roles and dramatically layered characters, her approach doesn’t change.

“It really feels like the same engine; I have the same fear before going into any scene,” she admits. “There is either something that terrifies me [physically], like going out for a big swing playing Carla; or something emotionally, like what it would like to be desperate to be a mother and betrayed by your own biology in ‘Private Life.’” 

Hahn with Kristen Bell and Mila Kunis in ‘A Bad Moms Christmas’

“Being the age I am, I’m so grateful for the complexity of roles available,” says the 44-year-old mother of two. “The irony’s not lost on me that the most creative period of my life has been post-having children. When I was a young actress I was told that would be the kiss of death. I feel it’s an amazing thing.” 

Hahn’s family has inspired some of her off-screen ventures, as well: Later this year, she’ll release a children’s book called My Wish For You, based on an essay she wrote for Lenny Letter and inspired by her daughter.

“My daughter has taught me so much [about] who she is innately, before cultural demands were put on her about gender,” Hahn says. “Even though, despite my trying [to dissuade her], her room is still Pepto-Bismol pink.”

It’s a confidence and fire she recognizes in her young co-stars, too, like “Flower’s” lead, 23-year-old Zoey Deutch. “Look at all of these actresses coming up — what an exciting time to be a young woman artist, when you are encouraged to use every fiber of your being to use your talent and your voice.” Which is exactly what we love to see Hahn herself do.

< Late last year, Hahn came to Chicago for a whirlwind 40-hour trip (though she managed to squeeze in deep-dish pizza … twice). Along with co-stars Mila Kunis (from left, photo via Instagram @kristenanniebell), Kristen Bell, Susan Sarandon and Cheryl Hines, she made an appearance onstage at Music Box Theatre, where Bump Club and Beyond was hosting hundreds of excited mothers for a prescreening of “A Bad Moms Christmas.” “Oh my gosh, that was bananas,” she laughs. I felt like [I was in] the Rolling Stones.”

Back to School

On April 21, Hahn and her husband — fellow Northwestern grad and actor Ethan Sandler — will return to their alma mater for the Stephen Colbert-hosted alumni fundraiser, “A Starry Night.” She hasn’t been back to the Evanston campus since graduating in 1995, but here, she takes a trip down memory lane.

The Big Burrito (now shuttered): “The best late-night hangover food.”

Golden Olympic Restaurant (1608 Chicago): “I remember getting something — back when my metabolism was a different story — called The Francheesy Deluxe: a hot dog stuffed with cheese and wrapped with bacon, with Coca-Cola and fries … often at 11 a.m.”

Unicorn Cafe (1723 Sherman): “I had the worst college shift ever [working] at the Unicorn Cafe. The sucker shift: Sunday at 6 a.m. I’d sometimes just go [straight] to work [after a night out]. I needed the money though — Francheesy Deluxes did not pay for themselves!”

For tickets to “A Starry Night” (starting at $250), visit Commfest.northwestern.edu.


At top: Hahn in ‘Flower’


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