Kathryn Hahn hadn’t read Cheryl Strayed’s book, Tiny Beautiful Things, before signing up for the Hulu limited series. But she knew from the moment she met the main character that she wanted the part.
Clare is a writer whose life is in tatters — her marriage isn’t in the best of shape, she’s still grieving the death of her mother, and she’s struggling to connect with her teenage daughter. When a former colleague suggests she become Sugar, a popular, anonymous advice columnist, she reluctantly takes a chance.
“Clare doesn’t have all the answers and is a work in progress herself, like all of us. Through her shame, sadness, and deep self-worth, she finds that frighteningly awake and honest voice she doesn’t know she has. But I find it so puristic and hilarious,” says Hahn. “It was impossible to say no”
The series was filmed in Los Angeles, which allowed Hahn to be close to her family — something that now feeds into all of her decisions. Now she can fully trust her gut. But that wasn’t always the case.
“I couldn’t afford not to say no. I auditioned for everything and it was like a game or a pinball machine – whatever ball went into which hole, that was the part I did,” she says. “There was no rhyme or reason. It was just like when I got cast in it, it was a yes… If it fits, I wear it. And it was just, I’ll do it, I can’t pay for changes.
She adds that “only recently” has she found the luxury of being choosier. With Agatha: Coven of Chaos around the corner, she knew she wouldn’t be in town for a while, so it’s important to stay close to home when she can.
Also, Clare was a character to draw on in Tiny Beautiful Things.
“I can relate to Clare 100% and I think that’s why she was so difficult to play in so many ways,” she says. “It’s that feeling of trying to put a face to something that’s been really, really painful for so long. Everyone would tell her “She’s the good girl” or “Smile through, smile through”. At some point the dam will inevitably burst. The Jekyll and Hyde about being a woman becomes impossible. For Clare, she provided this incredible outlet that is this colleague’s gift of asking her to write this anonymous letter. She can channel some of that and not many women get that opportunity.”
Hahn feels blessed to have been given the opportunities she has — and there’s still a lot she wants to do as an actress. She also hopes to direct.
“I am so inspired by the passion of young actors, particularly in theatre, that I cannot believe that in this post-pandemic world, children are going through school to become theater artists. I want to do something with all the young people who want to tell stories like this,” she says.
There are also “so many genres” that Hahn wants to delve into: “I’d love to do straight-forward horror in some way.”
One question asked in Hulu’s new series is, “What would you say to your 22-year-old self?” For Hahn, the answer is pretty simple: “I thought I was supposed to be something — I tried to be something, that this business that is Hollywoodland wanted me to be instead of just being who I am. Not realizing that your authentic self is the most attractive thing that people will be most interested in. Don’t play with an executive. Just tell your story.”
All episodes of Tiny Beautiful Things are now streaming on Hulu.
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