Kathryn Hahn Put (Literal) Sweat and Tears Into ‘Tiny Beautiful Things’


The Big Picture

  • Kathryn Hahn reflects on the balance of vulnerability and comedy required to bring her Emmy-nominated role in Tiny Beautiful Things to life.
  • Hahn talks about what it was like to film Tiny Beautiful Things and Agatha: Darkhold Diaries just a few months apart.
  • Hahn shouts out her favorite TV performances of the year and teases what might be next for her career.

Kathryn Hahn is one of the most versatile actresses working today. From comedic turns in movies like Bad Moms (which we deserve more of) and Glass Onion: A Knives Out Mystery to more dramatic ones in shows like I Know This Much Is True and Transparent, delicious villains in comic book projects like WandaVision and Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse to complex women in indie films like Afternoon Delight and Private Life (which she should have gotten an Oscar nomination for), she can do it all. This range came in handy for her role of Clare in the dramedy miniseries Tiny Beautiful Things, for which she’s nominated for an Emmy — her third nomination overall and her first for a leading role.

Created by Liz Tigelaar and based on the Cheryl Strayed book of the same name, the show centers around Clare at one of her lowest points. Her marriage to Danny (Quentin Plair) is hanging by a thread, her relationship with her daughter Rae (Tanzyn Crawford) is strained, and she’s on thin ice at her job working at a nursing home. It seems like she should be the last person giving anyone guidance. But when the opportunity to take over an advice column opens up, she proves to be just the right fit. Through her Dear Sugar letters, she not only helps other people heal but begins to heal herself — particularly the wound left by losing her mother (fellow 2023 Emmy nominee Merritt Wever) at a young age.

I got the chance to speak with Hahn about her favorite scenes to shoot, the parallels that pop up between her projects, what it was like to film Agatha: Darkhold Diaries just a few months after wrapping Tiny Beautiful Things, her favorite performances of 2023, and more.

Tiny Beautiful Things

Release Date
April 7, 2023

Kathryn Hahn, Sarah Pidgeon, Merritt Wever, Tanzyn Crawford, Quentin Plair, Aneasa Yacoub

Drama, Comedy

Liz Tigelaar

Kathryn Hahn Credits Her ‘Tiny Beautiful Things’ Co-Stars With Letting Her “Surrender”

COLLIDER: First of all, congratulations on the Emmy nomination. It’s so well deserved.

KATHRYN HAHN: Oh god — I mean, I don’t know about that, but we were all really, really moved by it, and so moved by the reception of it because it really was very deep and pretty life-changing for all of us. So to hear people respond to it on that level…it just felt like we were putting on this little show in a barn — it felt so tiny — so it’s always such a crazy feeling. It’s always so humbling, and you’re always like, “Really?” when a random stranger says they can relate on a deep level with something that you’ve done.

And I think that’s clearly the power of the writing and finding that kind of magic. It’s the source material of Cheryl [Strayed] and her connectivity with her readers and her willingness to be so nakedly vulnerable and share her everything. And her forthright authenticity and her willingness to bear everything for us as her readers so that we feel strong enough, and capable enough, and confident enough to want and achieve and go for what our true selves want in our lives. So, yeah, anyway, that’s a long-winded answer to your congratulations.

No, I love it! That leads really well into my first question because it is so raw and so real. I interviewed Tanzyn Crawford, who I love, a couple of months ago.

Aww! I love her so much. Boy, did we luck out with that human being.

She’s so wonderful, and she noted when I interviewed her that you were always sort of checking in on her during the more emotionally intense scenes to make sure that she was doing okay. When you’re working with heavy material like this, how do you approach giving the performance your all while also taking care of yourself and your scene partners?

Oh my gosh. I mean, for me, it’s always about my scene partner. It’s never about trying to work up to something emotional. I had done that at the beginning of my career, for sure — I was always trying to dish it and show the writer I was getting there. But now, I feel like if I do my homework and I’m as prepared as possible, I can just surrender. I really love that feeling of just falling into my scene partner and her or his or their experience and being there for them in the circumstances that the scene requires. I think the only red flags in those circumstances are getting lost in their performances and forgetting who you are for a second because you’re so transported. But that rarely happens in their performances because all of a sudden, you’re so deep into the world and in the bubble that you’re in with your scene partners that it does so much of the work for you. You can just surrender.

Speaking of intense yet hilarious scenes, one of my favorites in this show is the Clare and Montana showdown when she goes viral on TikTok.

Oh god. Me too.

I just want to hear anything you can share about filming that. I feel like it’s probably not every day you get to just yell at a teenager for work.

No. Also, those stairs were pretty steep, and there were a lot of them, and it was not a cool day in Los Angeles. So much of this show was so blurred lines. There was always, kismet-wise, a connection between what we were doing and what we were going through as humans. This is kind of a shallow anecdote, but I was huffing and puffing going up those stairs — as sweaty and gross as possible — and I see this gorgeous human [Aneasa Yacoub] at the top of the stairs. When I read it, I was laughing so hard. There was a point where I thought, “Ahh, how is this gonna happen? How am I gonna pull this off in a realistic way?” But that was so brief. I just knew exactly what it was gonna do. I knew how it was gonna land. I knew how we could pull it off. There was no fear. I love Liz [Tigelaar]’s writing, and I think she knew that I could pull it off. She knew that the both of us could, I think, pull it off. That amazing Montana. Again, just looking at her eyeballs — she was so freaking good and maddening. The more she went for it, the more I was like [grunts in frustration], so it was really a pleasure. Yeah, that was a satisfying scene. But then they would say cut, and we would just be sobbing with laughter.

I still use quotes from that scene.

They’re so good. She was so maddening — she really, really teed it up.

Kathryn Hahn Reflects on the Emotional Impact of ‘Tiny Beautiful Things’

Kathryn Hahn as Clare and Tanzyn Crawford as Rae lying outside on blanket in Tiny Beautiful Things
Image via Hulu

I think one of the most underrated movies and one of my favorite movies is Private Life, and I feel like, in a way, your character in that feels almost like a “ghost ship” version of Clare in that she sort of focused on her career and didn’t choose to have kids right away.

Oh my god — that’s so astute. I totally thought the same thing.

I love that you did! That was one of my questions. I was like, “Is that a parallel that you sort of recognized?”

I didn’t really until we were, like, midway through it. It was difficult. It was a difficult shoot. Oh god, was I in love with this crew and in love with these characters and so obsessed with these actors. I just felt surrounded with such talent and such kindness. I mean, this group is amazing. I love Tanzyn, and I love Quentin [Plair] so much. He was so good. The woman who played our therapist went to Yale at the same time I did; my makeup artist, Emma Burton, worked on Transparent, so everything felt so family. And Private Life — that experience, which had been like four years before — they’re very different women. Rachel and Clare? Such different women. But I could see…Clare’s ghost ship would be to have not had that baby and to have traveled, but I guess there’s another ghost ship where she moved to New York and just met somebody else and never still was fully satisfied and never had that baby.

I love that essay, and I love when Cheryl writes that truly with every decision, you’re mourning every other decision that you could have made. I mean, there’s a thousand. There’s a thousand ships you could have taken, and this is the one, so you can’t live in that regret. It’s there — you can mourn it. She says, “All you can do is salute it from the shore.” And I just love that line, and I never thought about that. I never had that kind of regret or “what if?” Actually, I did. There was one big one where I was going to stay and do a play in New York, and I came out to LA to do Crossing Jordan. And for a long time, I really missed New York, and I really, really wondered if that had been the right call.

Wow. It makes you think. Everything about the show just makes you think so deeply. I think it’s because of these letters at the core. Speaking of that, it does have a lot of voiceovers of Clare reading the letters when she’s not on screen. I’m curious how you approached those and if you feel like your experience doing animation helped prepare you for that at all since you’re also not physically onscreen.

It’s different. You know, in animation, you’re not doing a voiceover — you’re acting. You’re watching yourself, you’re putting those words in mouths that have either been drawn or are being drawn. You come in, and you can play around, and there’s improvising, and most of that stuff is funny. You’re in a booth by yourself with the director — you’re not really acting with the other people. So it’s its own skill. It’s really fun. And I love doing animation. I love the artists. I’m just in awe that it can happen. It’s like, “What?!” [Laughs] It always feels like magic.

But for this, most of them were Liz and our amazing sound department, which was also from Transparent — so crazy. They came into my trailer during lunch or during a break, and we would just record the voiceover for that episode, and the lights were really low, the microphone was low, I was sitting down, and it was very intimate. Liz can speak more to this, but what I recall is that these were recorded as temps so that when they were editing as we were going, it was just something for them to have. But we got so deep in there that they ended up using most of them, and they just kind of fit because I wasn’t doing it to the picture. It felt like we were just honoring Cheryl. And I was in it from the scene. It wasn’t like a weird day months later when it came in with coffee and was like “Hey, guys.” It just had a different tenor to it. So I’m so grateful to Liz for hearing that and using those. I think we did one or two in a recording studio, but that was maybe to edit some stuff that they had moved around or whatever. But for the most part, I think they were done in the trailer.

Kathryn Hahn Reveals What It Was Like to Film ‘Agatha: Darkhold Diaries’

Kathryn Hahn as Agatha Harkness in Agatha: Darkhold Diaries
Image via Marvel Studios

Like everyone else in the entire world, I’m a big Agatha fan and lost my mind at the first footage we recently got.

I’m so excited!

I know you can’t say much, obviously.

I can’t say anything!

I know, I know! I’m gonna try to make the questions so you can answer them. To tie these two projects together, what piece of advice do you think Agatha most needs?

I mean, she won’t take it. I don’t think there’s anything that one can even say. She would politely nod, and then you would never be seen again.

Oh, that’s so fair. I mean, you shot these two projects within a few months of each other.

Which is bananas.

What a jarring turn.

[Laughs] I’m like, “Did Clare prepare me for the witch?”

I’m curious though, is there something you learned or experienced that you do feel sort of helped prepare you to return, if not to the character, to that machine that is the MCU in a way?

You know, it’s interesting you say that because my whole experience with Marvel, starting with WandaVision and then Agathaeveryone talks about the machine of Marvel, but I’ve really felt like I’ve been in this amazing splinter circus that has felt so trusted and so off to the side. Kind of like this experimental theater troupe or the wicked stepsisters. It feels like we’re getting away with murder with what we’re being able to do. It really feels thrilling, and I’m just so grateful to Kevin [Feige] for letting us do our thing and letting Jac do her thing, which is just extraordinary. I would work with Jac Schaeffer for the rest of my life. I just love her voice.

And you’re right, these two projects could not have been more different from each other and could not have asked more different things of me, but a part always takes a little something from you and also gives a little something to you. So yes, of course, there was a call and response between the two of them because it’s me, it’s my life, it’s my humanhood stepping from one to the other. I don’t know if I could exactly say what it was, but she, of course, prepared me for the witch.

Is Directing in Kathryn Hahn’s Future?

Quentin Plair as Danny and Kathryn Hahn as Clare leaning against car in Tiny Beautiful Things
Image via Hulu

You’ve played a few writers, and you’ve started executive producing, too, which is really cool. Would you ever want to branch out into writing or directing as well?

Yeah, of course! Of course, I would. But I feel like those things — it has to come from the bottom. I wouldn’t just want to be like, “I want to direct” and then just try to find something. I think it needs to be something that I have to do from the guts of it and from the beginning. And same thing with writing. There are definitely things brewing, but I would want to be very patient, and thoughtful, and careful. I definitely wouldn’t want to direct unless it was no question that I had to.

I love my job so much. From when I was a kid, my happiest place is between action and cut and being on stage — just hanging out on a stage with actors with no cell phones and just talking and building that kind of safety. And then when a scene happens and it just sings? I feel so blessed. And also to be around artists and craftspeople — departments that I’m in awe of their contributions and their work. I just feel crazy, crazy blessed.

Kathryn Hahn Gushes About Her Favorite Performances of 2023 (Including an ‘Agatha’ Co-Star)

Image via Hulu

You truly gave one of my favorite performances of the year.

Oh my god. I’m gonna cry. There were so many incredible performances this year.

Well, I’m curious to know what some of your favorites are. And then, as a follow-up, is one of them Rachel Weisz in Dead Ringers? Because I’m a fellow fan, and I have to know.

[Gasps] Uhh, yes. She’s incredible in Dead Ringers. She’s incredible. My friend Karyn Kusama directed one of the episodes, and I was like, “What?” I just wanted to know everything about it. She’s incredible. I watched the whole season, and just the seamlessness between those two women — I really forgot that there was one actress. That was one of the most amazing twin performances. And I was in the Wally Lamb adaptation [I Know This Much Is True] with [Mark] Ruffalo, who was an amazing twin as well. But yeah, Rachel was…whew. There were so many this year. Give me some shows that came out because my brain is just…

Swarm came out.

Oh, yeah. Dominique [Fishback]? So good. Dominique is so good. I loved everyone in The Bear.

Oh, I love The Bear. The Chicago of it all, too?

Yes, exactly! Chi-town. So good. I love Elizabeth Debicki in The Crown. Really, really tender and really vulnerable and also kind of manipulative in all sorts of ways. That was fantastic. There are so many. I mean, everybody in the category that I happen to be in, I was like, “Oh god.” Jessica Chastain was incredible. Aubrey Plaza? Forget it. Forget it. I mean, forget it. It was such a pleasure working with her. Love her madly. [White Lotus] is just delish. Incredible women’s performances all across the board.

Tiny Beautiful Things is available to stream on Hulu.

Watch on Hulu


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