Kathryn Hahn is a familiar and always welcome face on the screen, easily crossing between comedic and dramatic roles in movies like Anchorman, Step Brothers, Revolutionary Road and Our Idiot Brother, along wth TV series like Parks & Recreation, Girls and the new Happyish. In The D Train, she plays Stacey Landsman, the wife of Jack Black’s Dan, who must try to keep her household and sanity together while Dan pursues his obsessive goal of bringing popular high school star Oliver Lawless (James Marsden) back from Hollywood for their 20-year high school reunion.
Dan’s pursuit ends up going in some very unexpected directions that test both him and his wife, with Hahn bringing resilience, compassion and humor to the role. We sat down with her at the press day for The D Train to discuss the story, working with Black and why high school reunions can be hell.
What appealed to you about Stacey?
Stacey is not like the wife roles that I've encountered. She’s like got a complexity and a mystery about her that I really was excited about exploring.
One thing I liked about her is that she’s not judgmental, which is a way I think a character like that could go in a lot of movies. There’s a scene where she comes into the kitchen and James Marsden is there with a girl he brought home the night before, and Stacey doesn't blink an eye about it -- she’s not like, “Who’s this girl in my house?” She’s very accepting of people.
Well, look at who she’s married to! He’s a piece of beautiful work in progress, and so I think that she’s really had to -- yeah, that’s who I think she is. She’s a good, good person, a good bird, and a nurturer for sure, like any little chicks in her kitchen, she’s going to feed. And he’s like, in effect, I think Jack is -- or Dan Landsman, my husband in the movie -- is definitely like a third child, you know. Like, she’s got three kids she’s taking care of.
Did you think up your own back story for how they met?
Yeah, I had to, ‘cause there’s a lot of questions about like how -- ‘cause when we meet them together, he’s in such a spiral, like the darkness has descended. I mean, he’s in a deep depression. And she has a new baby, like the age difference between the kids is really weird -- we were like, “What’s happening? What’s going on?” And I think she was like a really charming, popular, awesome, friendly, sweet girl in high school, that he was kind of on her radar, she was probably nice to him but like they didn't really know each other certainly. And I think she stayed on in the town and, you know, sparks…we kept saying she was a dental hygienist, and maybe she was working on his teeth.
Which is always such a great way to attract people.
Yes. Just a big, open mouth filled with fillings.
So in real life, do you ever run into people with their spouse, man or woman, and wonder, “How did that happen…?”
Oh yeah, yeah, yeah. It’s mysterious. And then they've been together for like a really long time. And I think it was like a slow decline for him too. I think this reunion is obviously bringing up a ton for him, a lot. He’s got a lot of anxiety about it. I think that’s the reason why she’s kind of hands off and she’s giving him this project, ‘cause I think that ultimately (Stacey) would be much better at putting it together and getting people to come to a reunion than, I think, Dan. But for sure, it’s been a spiral. He’s not in a great place.
Why do you think people put such pressure on these high school reunions? Have you been to one?
I have been. I've been to one. I mean, I think there’s a ton of pressure because, wow, it’s a chance to reinvent yourself. It’s a chance to show your idealized self to the people that know you at your, like, most vulnerable, youngest, core center. Like it’s a way of, I mean, it’s horrifying. It’s a ball and it’s horrifying. That’s how mine was. I mean, it was so great to see everybody and it was also like, I couldn't wait to get out of there, because you just meet all your former selves basically. You’re like, “Oh my god…” Like, you can’t help but go right back to that vibe, and unless you've had the most perfect high school experience -- which I've yet to meet that person -- at that age, I just don’t know how you can look back and be like, ‘Yep, I had it together.” Like, you can’t, even if you were the captain of the football team, it’s still like a vulnerable time in a human brain’s (laughs) life. So I think it’s just reconciling like where you've become. It’s a horrible thing, ‘cause you have to look back and think of all those dreams and everything. It’s a reckoning, your high school reunion, really.
Can you talk about working with Jack?
I mean, he is just a wonder, and I think that his…when he goes to that dark place, it’s one of the most -- I love it. I loved him in Bernie. I think he’s such an incredible actor. He made it so easy. We really didn't have a ton of time to figure out like any sort of physical texture or history together. It just happened so fast, because he’s so safe and game and, you know, I just feel when you’re acting with somebody like that it just makes you better. He’s awesome. He’s so good.
All his life, Dan Landsman (Jack Black) has never been the cool guy. That’s about to change – if he can convince Oliver Lawless (Marsden), the most popular guy from his high school who’s now the face of a national Banana Boat ad campaign, to show up with him to their class reunion. A man on a mission, Dan travels from Pittsburgh to LA and spins a web of lies to recruit Lawless. But he gets more than he bargains for as the unpredictable Lawless proceeds to take over his home, career, and entire life. Showcasing Jack Black and James Marsden's most intoxicating performances to date, D TRAIN serves up the question: how far would you go to be popular? Co-starring Kathryn Hahn and Jeffrey Tambor.
The D Train is directed by Jarrad Paul and Andrew Mogel; produced by Mike White, David Bernad, Jack Black, Priyanka Mattoo, Ben Latham-Jones, Barnaby Thompson, and stars Jack Black, James Marsden, Kathryn Hahn, Mike White, Kyle Bornheimer, Henry Zebrowski, Russell Posner and Jeffrey Tambor
The D-Train is now open in limited release..