Find Someone Who Looks at You the Way Kathryn Hahn Looks at Broadchurch

There aren’t so much chapters of Kathryn Hahn’s life but rather two pivotal eras: before she discovered Broadchurch and after she discovered Broadchurch.

Kathryn Hahn standing in a pool, wearing an orange rain coat, black pants and a white button-up unde...
I Know This Much is True’s Kathryn Hahn emulates Olivia Colman’s character in Broadchurch. Photograph by Marilee Alvin for Wmagazine’s 2020 TV Portfolio. Kathryn wears North Face Jacket. Hair by Marilee Abin.

For W’s 2020 TV Portfolio, we asked 21 of the most sought-after names in television to embody their favorite characters from their favorite shows of the past few months—and to explain why we should all be (re-)watching The Sopranos, Ozark, Schitt’s Creek, and, yes, Floor Is Lava. To see all the images and discover their picks, click here.

It isn’t so much that there are chapters of Kathryn Hahn’s life as much as there are two pivotal eras: before she discovered Broadchurch and after she discovered Broadchurch. If you haven’t heard of the British crime drama, which stars Olivia Colman and David Tennant as detectives, that’s probably because it premiered back in 2013, almost exactly seven years before Hahn made her discovery. But to Hahn, nothing could be more pressing. Escaping to the titular seaside town with Colman (“a goddess”) and Tennant (“grieving-father sexy”) has been “medicinal, medicinal, medicinal,” she gushed on a recent afternoon, over the phone from L.A. Much to her surprise, the series is inextricably linked to her quarantine experience.

Meanwhile, others have been catching up on a more recent show: I Know This Much Is True, a deeply dark HBO series starring Mark Ruffalo as identical twin brothers, Thomas and Dominick. They—and their trauma and misery—are at the story’s center, yet neither can overshadow Hahn’s supporting role as Dominick’s ex-wife. Production wrapped a year ago—“back when people could huddle around craft services and breathe the same air”—but they achieved such a level of intimacy that not even Broadchurch can take it off Hahn’s mind. Here, the actress explains her undying passion for the British drama, from Colman’s performance to the wonders of escapist television.

First off, how bad is it in L.A. right now?

The air quality is not great. It’s really awful. As if things weren’t shitty enough. But doing this [homage] to Broadchurch was a fun bright spot last weekend. I’m always, like, five steps behind everybody else, so I just discovered it at the beginning of quarantine. And it was such a delicious, incredible pleasure. I mean, Olivia Colman. Is. So. Extraordinary. I was in love with her anyway, but just to see her in this role… She and David Tennant are like that type of platonic sexy that’s just my jam. She’s so fantastic, and he’s grieving-father sexy. Just the idea of an English seaside village and going to another country, especially in the middle of this shitshow over here. It was just the best escapist television. It was just a good old-fashioned whodunnit. And it was medicinal. Medicinal, medicinal, medicinal. And I was so sad when it was over. I was really, really, really, really sad. [Laughs] Huge, huge loss. I felt a void when there wasn’t any more Broadchurch.

How quickly did you watch it?

When I realized there were only three seasons, I started to move slowly. I mean, in my humble opinion, nothing could compare to that first season, but I still just treasured it. The relationship between the two of them… I felt like my mother; like I was so invested in these people in a way I have not felt about [characters in] a television show. And also because it was just, like, me. My husband, my family wasn’t in on it. Like I said, because I was so many steps behind everybody on the planet, it was just mine. It was just this little beautiful relationship I had. I felt like it was my secret with these people. I loved it so much. It was nourishment. She’s such a goddess, Olivia Colman.

I forgot how incredible her hair is in it, too.

Her hair is amazing. There’s no way I possibly could have done those curls. She’s so gorgeous, and she’s always got so much mascara on, which is just so amazing. Everything about her in that role is just the best. With her health bars, and her fucking husband—I did not see that coming. It was so weird and great to not have anybody to turn to and scream to about it, to just watch it on my own.

Was your family not interested in watching it?

It was just timing. All of a sudden, I started watching it on some afternoon, and then I was just a bit too far ahead for my hubby to join me. It was the same thing with Breaking Bad. He’s watched all of them, and I’m just screwed because I have to start from the beginning, and there’s so much. I’m waiting for my son to get a little bit older so I have somebody to watch it with. [Laughs] But with Broadchurch, I’m telling you, I loved watching it alone. It was like I was reading my little afternoon novel, which happened to be starring the amazing Olivia Colman and that sexy, sick man David Tennant.

He’s so hot. [Laughs]

He’s so hot. Especially at the beginning of this self-isolation… [Sighs] I was just like, Calgon, take me away. That thick brogue, just laid down. I was like, Oh, forget it. It was so great just to get on a plane and cross that ocean. I was, like, in heaven. Just to be in that little seaside town—that’s all I wanted. Again, just get me outta here.

Are you into any of these other types of dark British mystery shows?

This was my first foray, and I’m very excited to watch more, if you have any recommendations.

You might like The Fall—it’s the one with Gillian Anderson that Fiona Apple named her album after. They have a pretty similar dark vibe.

[Gasps] Oh, that was supposed to be a fantastic show!

It’s a similar vibe.

Okay, then I need to… Because you’re right, it just hits every button, it’s so dark. [Broadchurch is] a classic whodunnit, but it’s so emotional. And it’s emotionally real, so it doesn’t feel like it’s pandering. I love feeling gotten in those ways. Even in seasons 2 and 3, when they have the rhythm down, and I know they’re going to try to shock us, and I know I’m looking at red herrings. But I don’t care, just because it’s so well acted. I really have not been invested in a show like that in a long time. Who would have thought? It’s such a part of my quarantine experience now. It’s so weird to think back to this chapter and also think of Broadchurch. I never would have put the two together.

What was the last show that got you this much?

In a completely different way, another British show. I’m also beyond, beyond can’t stop thinking about it, mouth on the ground with I May Destroy You. I cannot wait to watch it from the beginning again, knowing what we know now. [Michaela Coel] is another wonder. A wonder, a wonder, a wonder.

She really is. But it was so heavy to watch, so I was glad it came out on a weekly basis.

Me too.

Have you found that with either of these shows, especially right now?

Broadchurch seemed very bingeable to me because it just felt like a heavy cake. My imagination runs dark anyway, I suppose, so I think I could take it. It always seems to be able to walk a line, especially with their relationship. There was enough levity in there. But with I May Destroy You, I’m with you. I appreciated it coming, but it needed enough breath between [episodes]. It was something to look forward to, and also to muse upon and dream about, to have settle into your bones. It really, really stunned me. It just shattered me. And also just filled me with such crazy hope and inspiration and just fucking joy that that person exists.

When did you finish filming I Know This Much Is True? That’s also quite a heavy series.

I think that was a year ago in July. That was awhile ago—back when people could huddle around craft services and breathe the same air. But it bizarrely does feel in my memory like one of the last gigs I had before the pandemic, because it was so intimate in the way that Derek [Cianfrance] works. Just being with Mark [Ruffalo] and that material and that kind of intimacy is really bittersweet to think about. But I’ve been in L.A. with the fam since whenever it all went down, the end of February.

When were you last on set? Do you remember?

Oh god. I guess January or February was the last time I was on set set.

So what is a workday like for you now? Are you finally getting a break?

I’m about to start back with work, but I don’t think I can talk about it yet. But yes, as we all have had, there has been a break. [Laughs] My kids are 11 and 13, so I was joking with my friend that there’s kind of a reverse latchkey-kid situation, where they’re just stuck at home all day in front of screens. It’s so strange. We’re fostering kittens currently. This is our third litter. My 11-year-old convinced me it would be a good thing to do since there are a lot of shelters that need help. But, you know, you walk into my guest room, and it’s urine-town right now, for sure. [Laughs] But it’s cute as hell. And it’s all on her, all her responsibility. I’m very proud of that lady. It’s a good place to put the ridiculous amounts of anxiety that this chapter is, of course, breeding in this generation. I’m just trying to stay upright and insane and get these people out of the White House. [The election] is really kind of barreling down upon us.

Have your kids started back at school? It can’t be easy being a parent right now.

Yeah, they started online school last week. Listen, my kids are a little bit older, so it makes it a little easier. They’re pretty self-reliant. My son’s a teenager, so if I open the door even a crack, he’s like, Get out of here. But it’s just not the same thing. I just feel bad for them. This is the time when they should be, like, having crushes or running around and getting in trouble. We’re the only things to rebel against within our four walls, so I get it. We’ve become the virus, in a lot of ways, for these kids. [Laughs] I just don’t want this chapter of their lives to be weighted down and so crazy heavy. So no matter what we’re feeling, we’re trying to make sure that they experience joy. Because it’s still a lot. I mean, this is crazy. I was talking with my friend and was like, Do you remember when they said 10 days, and we were like, what? It was inconceivable that we would have to put a pause on anything. And then it became kind of like a little bit of a giddiness, like a forced pause. And I cannot believe where we are right now, all this time later. It’s just absolutely bananas. So thank god for Olivia Colman.

Are you going back to set soon? Are you excited?

I mean, when it can happen, of course, it will feel very tender and strange, like a newborn baby. But I’m very, very excited for when that can happen, yes. I mean, it will feel very different and very new to make sure that everybody feels as safe as possible. And for everybody that works anywhere that’s sort of intimate, even if you just have to stand next to each other and breathe the same air, it’s going to feel very new. But we’ll all make it work.

Do you miss red carpets and events like the Emmys, which are coming up?

I have such a soft spot for fashion. I love looking at fashion. I want to see something beautiful. It just takes my breath away when I see somebody taking a risk of any kind in those ways. So I’m very excited and curious to see how people stay creative with these limitations. I mean, humans are humans, so we’re gonna find a way. I mean, I’m so curious [about the Emmys]. I will absolutely be peeking. It’s pretty fascinating. I hope to see a lot of fancy pajamas.

I was talking to Shira Haas from Unorthodox earlier, and she pointed out that everyone will be in different time zones. She’s in Tel Aviv, so the Emmys will be around midnight for her.

Oh, that’s another show I devoured. She’s incredible. But yeah—oh god, I didn’t even consider that! What if you oversleep? What if you have to rush and are in your pajamas and can’t brush your teeth? Well, again, it’ll be interesting.

The last thing I wanted to ask you is how much Mrs. Fletcher, the character, has stuck with you.

So, so much. That whole experience. I’ve never been one of those actors that can just, like, say with clarity—like, I can leave it at the door, or whatever. I loved her optimism and her just saying yes. Just her courage, unabashed… I always feel like a lot of the stuff I play is aspirational. So I think there’s much in her that I wish I had a little bit more of, like her willingness to bust into something new after all these chapters in her life. I love that part.

Well, if it’s any comfort, more than any of your roles, I definitely associate you with her the most.

Oh my god, that’s so awesome. I have such a soft spot for Eve Fletcher, I really do. I have such a soft spot for her and for anyone who’s willing to take a risk. Especially someone whose whole life had been defined by other people and labels, for her to just get to the underneath. Anyway, I’ve got to go take my son to a skateboard shop. [Laughs] That’s where my life is right now.

Related: Kathryn Hahn on Mrs. Fletcher‘s Cathartic Finale