ENTERTAINMENT
01/23/2013 09:35 am ET

Kathryn Hahn At Sundance: The 'Afternoon Delight' Star Did Not Go To High School With You

"Kathryn Hahn was great" are words that, on more than one occasion, I've written to a publicist who was looking for my opinion on a recent movie. It doesn't matter if the movie was enjoyable or not, Hahn -- as we've seen in the last year on television shows like "Parks and Recreation," "Girls" and "The Newsroom" -- always seems to give a great performance. It has gotten to the point that I've always wondered why she doesn't get more acclaim or bigger roles. Now, finally, at the Sundance Film Festival, Hahn is front and center in the comedy "Afternoon Delight."

And, yes, when the film's publicist asked for a reaction, I replied, "Kathryn Hahn was great."

In "Afternoon Delight," Hahn plays Rachel, a woman trapped in a sexless marriage with her husband, Jeff (Josh Radnor, who makes a cameo in this interview). After Jeff purchases a lap dance from a stripper (played by Juno Temple) for Rachel as a joke, Rachel later invites the recently homeless "sex worker" to live at their home -- which leads to Rachel's sexual exploration, as well as a lot of problems. I met Hahn at another makeshift studio (there are a lot of those here) off of Park City's Main Street so that she could explain why, no matter what you think, you did not go to high school with Kathryn Hahn

I was happy to see you in this movie.
Oh my God, thank you.

Is it nice being the focal point of the story? Usually you get to show up, say something funny, then leave.
Exactly! Yeah, this has been a very heady experience. I've never been to Sundance before and last night, at the premiere, I had never even stepped into that theater before. So I walked in and I had to take a deep breath, "Just remember this."

Do you often get offered bigger roles like this?
[Laughs] No. Because, you know, I'm not some big, big, big name. So, I had to really lobby for this. And once I got it, I thought I had an incredible responsibility to the producers and to [director] Jill [Soloway] for not casting a huge star. So, no, I love my job. I love comedy. But I started as a theater actor -- I went to Yale Drama School and I hadn't felt this kind of satisfaction, work-wise, since I was a grad student.

Between this and "Parks and Recreation, "The Newsroom" and "Girls," it's turning into the Year of Kathryn Hahn, right?
That is literally in the Chinese calendar.

You were in "Win a Date with Tad Hamilton," right?
Yes! That's awesome.

So when you were on the set of that, even then you were just waiting for this year because it was so blatant in the Chinese calendar.
Yes! If I can get to there. In season four of "Crossing Jordan," I saw that it was around the corner. Yes, it's been a dream. As an actor, you know, I love not being pigeonholed, which is great. No one really knows who I am. So that's a positive.

But I think people are starting to realize. I mean, I'm sure you get recognized, right?
Yeah, now that I'm with America's Sweetheart over there, Josh Radnor. It's hilarious and amazing. It's like walking around with a Beatle.

With Josh Radnor?
Yeah, it's hilarious. The whole world stops whenever he walks in.

Josh Radnor: I can hear you.

I'm saying positive things about you.

She compared you to a Beatle.

Radnor: Is that right?

Yeah, I'm kind of just basking in your Sundance glory walking down the street.

But, I just love movies. I'm such a movie nerd. Just being here, they were all laughing at me because I wish I could just see the movies. There's so many good things here. So, I am excited that hopefully I will be thought of for other, more invested parts after this.

I don't believe that you don't get recognized. Someone has to come up and at least say something like "Anchorman."
I do. I do. But it's hilarious. It's usually, "Didn't we go to high school together?" They think they know me, but they can't quite place it. And it drives my husband crazy because I'm like, "I don't know ... did we?" Because inevitably if I say that I'm an actor they say, "No, that's not it." But this year has been crazy good because I've worked with some great writers -- I love "Parks and Rec" and Lena Dunham. I was just... [Hahn accidentally slaps my recording device.]

Or you could just throw it against the wall.
[Laughs] "I'm done with this conversation!" Also, I have two small children, so it really immediately puts everything in perspective. You know, I'm so excited that they get to grow up with a mama who loves what she does.

Have you always felt that way? Were there times you felt like it wasn't going well?
No, even if it was that I was always going to be number seven on the call sheet...

Well, not with this movie.
But even if it was, I would still be so happy to be working. And the fact that I am number one, I mean ...

You want more of this, right?
"More! More!" No, but the fact that she trusted me with this -- I'll never forget that August in 2012 when we made this little movie. it was life changing. Really.

A lot of the stuff that you've been in, you get to play over-the-top characters...
And make faces.

Yes, and make faces. So did you catch yourself ever having to tone yourself done for this role?
No, I knew from the beginning ... well, at the beginning it was hard with Jessica St. Clair because the improviser in me was like, "Ohhh." Like, I really wanted to play. But I had to hold back because I really felt that engine going that I wanted to play. And it was definitely hard for me to have that energy because these are such genius, hilarious women. And it's very hard for me not to be part of that ... so that was definitely difficult. But I think I knew what gear and what muscles to use.

What do you want to do next? What's up next for your year?
I've got a couple of movies coming out. "We're the Millers" is coming out, which I actually did which is a really big comedy with Jason Sudeikis, Jennifer Aniston and Nick Offerman ...

He has a movie at Sundance, too.
I heard it's good. We play husband and wife and a lot of improvising. Really big. But the way this movie worked out, I had two weeks of this movie, I went back to L.A. and we shot this movie in three and a half weeks -- six-day weeks -- then the day we wrapped, the next day I flew back to finish the big studio comedy. So it was like an incredible summer to switch gears like that.

But you'd like something big like this again, too, I assume?
Well, of course. I love actors. I love good writing. I love good ensembles -- I couldn't have done this without the rest of the cast. They're incredible.

Were there many moments in the last 10 years when you didn't feel that way? When you thought, What am I doing in this movie?
Yeah. Oh, yeah. There were a lot of times ... I can't afford like a lot of actors, "I'm going to choose this part." That is rarified air. A career, it kind of happens to what you fit in to or what you get.

But, now, do you get to call your own shots at least a little bit more?
Yeah, a little bit more. I think a little bit more. I feel like the last year that has happened. I want to work with people that I respect and I don't want to ever have the feeling like, "don't do that." I just do not want to ever have that feeling again -- and I've had that. Life is way too short. So, yeah, if I could avoid that and still be able to do, you know, put my kids in college [laughs] ... that would be awesome. That would be amazing.

Mike Ryan is senior writer for Huffington Post Entertainment. You can contact him directly on Twitter.

PHOTO GALLERIES
Sundance Film Festival 2013

Subscribe to the Entertainment email.
Home to your favorite fan theories and the best movie recs.

CONVERSATIONS