News Column

She went to New York and made it

August 6, 2013

YellowBrix

Kathryn Hahn couldn't quite remember how a Midwestern girl from Northwestern University wound up in New York as a struggling actress.

"Blind faith!" she said. "It's so crazy. Delusional! My rational mind said, 'Hey, how do you think this is going to work out?' Maybe it was just the confidence of the young."

Whatever the motivation, the Westchester-born Hahn headed for New York with her actor husband, Ethan Sandler, to become proverbial starving artists stuck in productions that were off-Broadway to the 10th power.

Today, Hahn is a veteran of theater, TV and movies, having appeared in small film roles before nabbing a recurring role in the series "Crossing Jordan" with hubby Sandler.

She starred in the short-lived TV series "Free Agents" and the movies "Wanderlust," "How Do You Know" and "Our Idiot Brother," among other projects.

This week, Hahn appears in a new comedy movie, "We're the Millers," starring Jennifer Aniston and Jason Sudeikis. Hahn plays Edie Fitzgerald, loving wife of Nick Offerman's crusty police officer, who turns out to be much more than he seems.

"I have a deep fondness for the Edie Fitzgeralds in my life, of which there are many!" Hahn said. She explained that an "Edie" is an optimistic, nonjudgmental, patriotic woman who will do anything for the people in her life.

"I think she's an incredible, content human being," Hahn said of her character. "She'll do whatever it takes to keep her husband happy, to keep their marriage hot and active, if you know what I'm saying."

(You'll have to see the movie to really know what she's saying.)

Hahn also stars in "Afternoon Delight," opening Sept. 6 at the Century Centre in Chicago and the Renaissance Place in Highland Park.

The comedy, directed by Chicagoan Jill Soloway, is about a woman (Hahn) who can't stand her perfect life. One night she meets a young stripper (Juno Temple) and decides to make it her personal mission to save her. Jane Lynch also stars.

Hahn's character, Rachel, straddles the comedy-drama divide, showcasing Hahn's versatility.

"I think that I always had a knack for comedy," she said. "At school, I was asked to play those comic roles, grandmothers and whatever. I was sort of the class clown.

"But I've been lucky I've been able to swing back and forth between both worlds. I don't see myself as strictly comedic. I respect the people in comedy so much. I worship them as gods. I really do. I can't believe I'm invited to this party!"

Hahn didn't stay in Westchester very long after she was born."I was only there for a hot minute," she said. (A hot minute here equates to 2 1/2 years.)

Then she lived a year in Minnesota before the family moved to Cleveland Heights, Ohio.

She remained a Midwestern girl, one who swears she can spot a fellow Midwesterner "a mile away."

Really?

"Yeah," she said. "I think there's a manner about people in the Midwest. I do. Like when you're all in a trailer, it's the guys from the Midwest who hang up their costumes at the end of the day. Their trailer is nice. And I think Midwesterners have a fantastic work ethic."

OK, but how exactly does she spot a Midwesterner a mile away?

"Flat footwear," she said. "A little more practical. That's the way to my heart."

Hahn didn't marry a Midwesterner. She married Ethan Sandler, a guy from Seattle, Washington.

"I met my future husband in the cafeteria at Northwestern," she said."I would order everything in the cafeteria so that my tray had every possible dish of food you could ever have."

And?

"I was really impressed with his restraint. He just got what he wanted. I had this huge, sloppy, amazing mess of a tray of which I would eat a third of it and throw the rest away.

"Very wasteful! He always knew exactly what he wanted and only ate that. I was so impressed he knew himself so well."

Today, Hahn and Sandler have two children. She said she couldn't be happier.

"He's a good person," Hahn said of her hubby. "A good, kind person. He cracks a lot of dirty jokes, but he's an unbelievable dad. And unbelievably attractive!"

Sounds like a real Edie to us.

-- Dann Gire

* If you know of someone who would make a good feature story, email Dann Gire and Jamie Sotonoff at dgire@dailyherald.com and jsotonoff@dailyherald.com.

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