15 Minutes with Kathryn Hahn

The actor talks to LAMag about her upcoming show “Tiny Beautiful Things”, ageing gracefully and the success of “Wandavision.”

It has been an absolutely whirlwind few years for Kathryn Hahn following her breakthrough role as political animal Jennifer Barkley on the beloved comedy series Parks and Recreation. Since then, Hahn has starred as Agatha in the hit Marvel show Wandavision, which led to the upcoming spin-off series Agatha: Coven of Chaos; more recently, she was featured in the star-studded cast of Knives Out: Glass Onion. And currently, Hahn is leading the Hulu series Tiny Beautiful Things.

Based on Wild author Cheryl Strayed’s book of the same name, Tiny Beautiful Things tells the story of Clare, a woman who takes on an anonymous, unpaid position with an advice column called Sugar as her personal life is falling apart. In her process, Clare uses her own personal experiences and trauma to offer advice to others in need.

LA Magazine: Tiny Beautiful Things is a great drama full of themes of grief, motherhood and marriage — how did it feel to get offered the lead role for a show like this?

Kathryn Hahn: I’m still new to this whole getting offered the lead role kind of thing so it’s very exciting for me. Then for it to be something that is this complicated, flawed and powerful and [my character] finding her voice and all of that was a real thrill.

How did you find that challenge of adapting to the lead role?

I’m an ensemble player — I come from the theater — so I approach it like any other gig. I can’t find my character unless I’m looking in my co-stars’ eyeballs. One is only as good as the people that they work with so I’m just lucky to be surrounded by incredible actors and an amazing crew. It’s the circus, we just had a great circus. 

The show is centered around an advice column that your character writes—did it give you a clearer perspective on your own life situations afterward? 

You learn something from every show you do. Life is life. Every day on set is a day that you lived in your life and so I always approach it that way. I always want to glean something from every day I’ve lived and every interaction I’ve had with anyone on any set. And this was no different. It was a beautiful crew and a beautiful group of actors. Also, I will forever be grateful that my paths crossed with Cheryl Strayed because she’s a magnificent human being and I feel forever changed, by feeling so empowered by her and her writing.

In the show, your character is asked, “If you could tell your 20-year-old self something, what would it be?” Can I put that question to you? 

I would tell myself to stop caring so much about what other people think about you. And to stop shapeshifting—to just fit into what every person wants you to be, instead of sticking true to who you are in every situation. Because what happens is, you deplete yourself. Also, to just stay authentically you in every situation and then you will feel more whole at the end of the day and feel less like you’ve given yourself away.

What’s been the best piece of advice you’ve been given in your career?

Just trust your gut. That when in doubt, don’t. And that your first instinct is the right instinct.

You’re an executive producer on this show, alongside Reese Witherspoon and Laura Dern. What did you want to come across the most on this show?

Truth. I just wanted it to feel honest and true to the experience. Truth, honesty—and also funny.

I was reading that you want your immediate future to be with TV because you can develop a character and story more clearly. When you were starting out could you have ever imagined that TV could have been this huge enterprise like it is now?

When I started out it was all networks, it was all like, 22 episodes a season and that was very difficult to maintain quality over that amount of time. There are notable exceptions like Parks and Rec, which was like a dream come true for me, I loved being on that show so much! They’re still some of my dearest pals in the world and I learned so much from the number one, Amy Poehler, on that show. She is still my touchstone when I think of what it is to be number one on a cast list, and in movies, it’s Daniel Craig. I still think of those humans and those experiences.

But I think streaming has really offered a lot to women, especially women that are not as young as they needed to be to attract an audience. Now there are more and more women who are older that are interested in watching women their age go through complicated and interesting experiences. Also, younger women are interested in watching older women go through complicated, sexy, deep experiences because they can see the power that it is to grow older and not feel like what the patriarchy had always told us, that it’s a bummer when you’re older as a woman. Growing older naturally and aging doesn’t have to be the end of the world.

Was that one of the most important themes of the show to you? That idea of aging naturally and gracefully.

Growing older is a source of power and wisdom and there’s constant evolving. It doesn’t stop. There is a second adolescence that comes that no one tells you about. Through that and on the other side there is so much more for a woman that continues to evolve — that is something that certainly no one told me. I think it’s so thrilling, not even just with this show — hopefully in everything. It’s that beautiful connection between her mining from her experiences as a young person and finding your voice can happen at any time — not just when you’re young. It can happen whenever. I didn’t really start working until my 30s and I just want to constantly remind young women, and young men, that it’s not just a young person’s game.

What was the biggest challenge for you in this role?

There are challenges in every role, but I think the biggest challenge in this was there was so much legacy behind it, of Wild, and there had been so much Cheryl in the world. I didn’t know that much about Cheryl Strayed’s writing to be totally honest, even though I was such a fan of Wild, I had not read Tiny Beautiful Things. I think it was trying to excavate my own version through it. I will again just say Cheryl was just nothing but wind in my back and let it be my own. Having our souls collide during this was a treasure of my life that I will hold on to forever. 

That, and sharing a hot tub with Tim Roth?

Oh yeah, that also! That was a bucket list item I didn’t know I had.

It’s been a whirlwind last couple of years for you, with Wandavision, Glass Onion and now this show. What do you think was the most important role that started this chain reaction?

Wandavision came out during the pandemic and I have no social media, so I knew it was exciting, I got a lot of exciting texts, but I certainly didn’t know there would be my own show at the end of it. It’s all been really bonkers and so thrilling and I’m still pinching myself. It’s very, very exciting!

Agatha: Coven of Chaos will be coming out at the end of the year, what can people expect from this?

You’ll have to see it, I can’t really describe it!

Stay on top of the latest in L.A. news, food, and culture. Sign up for our newsletters today.