The indie dramedy Afternoon Delight tells the story of Rachel (Kathryn Hahn), an affluent, stay-at-home, thirty-something mom who’s feeling disconnected from her husband (Josh Radnor). When she visits a strip club to spice up her marriage and gets a private lap dance from McKenna (Juno Temple), she soon becomes obsessed with saving her, even going so far as to make her a live-in nanny, which can’t possibly turn out well for anyone involved.
At the film’s press day, actress Kathryn Hahn spoke to Collider for this exclusive interview about what drew her to this role, how grateful she is to play such a once-in-a-lifetime character, that the script initially felt a little broader than the finished product turned out to be, and how hilarious it was to do the sex scenes with Josh Radnor since they know each other socially. She also talked about what drew her to the new Showtime series Trending Down, also starring Philip Seymour Hoffman and Rhys Ifans, and what it was like to revisit the audition she did, 10 years ago, for Pam on The Office, which is being included in the DVD/Blu-ray release of the show’s final season. Check out what she had to say after the jump.
KATHRYN HAHN: This part absolutely killed me. I love Rachel, so much, and I just understood her on such a gut level. I just understood where she was coming from. I have two little kids and I just know that feeling of, “Oh, my kids don’t need me the same way anymore!” Infanthood is such a short period of time and, all of a sudden, they’re in school. I just got that sense of purposelessness, and just the idea of identity and worth, as you’re approaching your 40s.
Were you actively looking to do something that you were this much of a lead in?
HAHN: No, I certainly was not looking for a lead, at all. I would have welcomed it, but these opportunities just haven’t come my way. I’ve been so grateful and happy to be a working actor, just in the big comedy world. That’s just been a pleasure. My manager sent me this and I immediately thought, “If there’s any way I could get in there for Rachel, I would just die.” I just knew this was one of those once-in-a-lifetime chances. So, I had to Skype with (writer/director) Jill [Soloway]. I had never Skyped before. She took my Skype virginity. I had to press my case for the part, and I’ve never felt more inarticulate. Afterwards, I emailed her and said, “I know you have to fall in love with your Rachel, and I promise you will, by the end of this three and a half weeks.” It was one of those crazy blessed moments. We used my mini-van and shot half a mile from my house. I was all excited about bringing my kids to the set, and then I realized, very quickly, that it was the most inappropriate place. It was probably the most confusing set for my 4-year-old and 6-year-old. I was so close, yet so far away.
Did the initial script for this end up being pretty close to the finished product?
HAHN: I think the initial script felt a little bit broader. As it was happening, it became very clear that there was a different movie inside of it that wasn’t as set-up funny. It was actually much deeper than anyone had anticipated. That was a really amazing discovery. We were like, “Oh, there’s actually some pretty serious feelings.” I think a lot of it is testament to Juno Temple. She just sets a gorgeous bar, that girl. I think she’s so extraordinary. One of our first scenes together is the walk-and-talk where we’re getting to know each other, and we share a cigarette during it. Something just happened, in that moment between the two of us, that we didn’t anticipate and we didn’t see coming. We both just got really moved and fell in love. That was before we even shot the strip club scene. We were like, “This is actually a bigger beast than we anticipated, when we started shooting it.”
The humor in this works because it comes out of the awkward moments and you aren’t playing it for laughs.
HAHN: It would have been dismissive of these people. It would have been dismissive of McKenna, and maybe belittling. It’s no joke, where this couple is when we meet them at the beginning of this movie. They’re on cruise control. There’s no way they’re gonna make it, the way they’re going. In about five years, they’ll be very polite, call mediators and slowly divorce. So, something needed to happen. It’s amazing to look at a marriage like that. What’s on the other side? So many people just pull the plug now. My husband and I talk about what the odds are against us, all the time. Marriage is crazy, as an institution. So, to see a couple that has made it imperative to work through it, you never really get to see what’s on the other side. I still don’t know if they’ll actually make it. I wonder. But boy, they’re giving it the old college try. My husband and I have been together, but sometimes we realize that we’ll go for days, only communicating via text. It’s easier than the phone, but that’s crazy. Their sex life, in this movie, as daunting as it was to shoot, for a mother of two, it’s so imperative to see this couple and see what happens with their intimacy. By the end, they can actually see each other and they’re okay with being naked, in all ways, with each other. Just looking at each other is something really moving to me, more so than the nudity. It’s more about just being present because they just haven’t been.
Sex scenes are always awkward, but does being friends with your co-star change or help that, at all?
HAHN: It’s actually less awkward when it’s a stranger, oddly enough. But, Josh [Radnor] and I had known each other socially, and he knows my husband, so it was hilarious, trying to get through those scenes. But, he’s a gentleman and so polite, and we’re both pros. It was fine. It was just me and Josh, and Jill [Soloway] and Jim [Frohna], our amazing D.P., in the room. It was no biggie, at all.
HAHN: That’s so funny because I don’t know if it is actually a male-female thing, or it was just born out of this person. I think there are plenty of men, women and human beings that would be as sensitive to this material and to the nuance of this kind of marriage and exploring this, in this way. I think it’s more specific to Jill. It depends on the guy, I guess. There’s a lot of sensitive gentlemen, that I’m sure it would have been as easy to be safe with, in this way.
You’ve bounced back and forth between film and TV, throughout your career. How did the Showtime series, Trending Down, come about?
HAHN: I read the script in November. It’s wickedly funny. It’s a crazy good cast. (Writer) Shalom Auslander is just so disturbing and hilarious, in the ways that speak to me. That’s just the way to my heart. I knew that they would have to get their Thom Payne, which is Philip [Seymour Hoffman]. I just crossed my fingers and held on until it finally landed in my lap. I’m so excited. We start rehearsals next week. It’s crazy! John Cameron Mitchell is directing. And I just did a movie with Rhys Ifans, which is this big Peter Bogdanovich comedy (Squirrels to the Nuts) that I just wrapped two days ago. It’s a crazy good cast. I can’t wait! And it is a great mix of comedy and drama.
It was really fun to see your screen test for The Office recently, now that it’s being included on the final season DVD/Blu-ray. When you see something like that, 10 years later, does it make you think about how differently your career and life might have been, if you’d gotten that job?
HAHN: I know! It’s been so chaotic. It’s basically that what I get is what has happened, and I’ve just been so grateful to work and pay off my student loans. There’s no one else who should have played that part, but Jenna Fischer. She was unbelievable. But boy, that was a heartbreaker, I’ll tell you, because I loved the British series. But, I see that and I’m like, “Oh, why did I put so much make-up on, and why didn’t I run a brush through my hair before it?” Obviously, I was a newbie. Boy, did I want that! It was funny when they called us ‘cause they very politely were like, “Would you mind, if we used that?” And I love that all of us were like, “Of course, put our failed auditions on a DVD! That sounds amazing and hilarious!” For every TV show, they should put out DVDs of the people who didn’t make it. That’s really, really heartbreaking. And to see the quality of people that are on it, I was excited to squeeze my way onto the failed audition DVD compilation. I was like, “That will be my claim to fame!” I’m so proud to be involved.
Afternoon Delight opens in theaters on August 30th.