Lola Kirke is a British-American actor who has starred in Noah Baumbach’s Mistress America (2015), David Fincher’s Gone Girl (2014) and is currently the lead in the Amazon series Mozart in the Jungle. She is the daughter of Simon Kirke, drummer for the English rock band Bad Company, and sister to Jemima Kirke of the HBO show Girls. Kirke will also appear in Scott Hicks’ Fallen and Doug Liman’s Mena.
Charlotte Lieberman is a Brooklyn-based writer whose work concerns self-acceptance, feminism, meditation, mental health, relationships and sex. She contributes regularly to Cosmopolitan and the Harvard Business Review, among other online and print publications. Lieberman’s poetry has been published in the Boston Review, the Colorado Review, Nat. Brut and The Feminist Utopia Project.
When I met Lola Kirke, we were seven years old. For one year we rode the school bus together every morning from Greenwich Village up to our prep school on the Upper East Side. Neither of us seemed to fit in: we were the artsy, creative and “weird” downtown kids. After that year, Lola and I fell out of touch.
I was fortunate to re-encounter Lola just over a year ago, after getting my own start as a freelance writer and becoming aware of her burgeoning acting career. Despite Lola’s unsurprising success as an actor thus far, she hasn’t changed much from that seven-year-old girl I met years ago. She is at once jovial and sharply intellectual, ethereal and grounded, ironic and earnest, goofy and glamorous. To me, these apparent paradoxes add up to one thing: authenticity.
Charlotte Lieberman: You’ve said in other interviews that you were always serious about acting as a kid. It seems like child stardom could have been available to you—was there no chance of that?
Lola Kirke: I wonder if being a child star would’ve actually been available to me. I certainly tried! I went on so many auditions and never got any parts. Obviously getting jobs as an actor is really fucking hard. But I didn’t end up going down the route many aspiring child actors take, which involves being in commercials, catalogs or whatever comes their way. Honestly, I’m relieved that being a child actor didn’t happen because I got to have a childhood that was really my own.
CL: That has me wondering about how you eventually did get your start, which happened relatively recently. I imagine you, like all of us, kicked into career-anxiety mode after graduating from college—though certainly that looks a little different when it comes to trying to be an actor. Was there a conscious moment when you finally felt ready to pursue professional acting?
LK: I can’t remember one day waking up and saying, “OK, I’m going to actually do this.” Perhaps I was so confident or so delusional as a child, but it always just seemed like being an actor would eventually work. People told me I was charismatic as a kid, that I was “such a character.”
At the beginning of college, I decided not to study theater. That felt like a big deal because you know, if you want to be an actor, of course you study acting. I did filmmaking instead because I really wanted to work with my hands and do something really cerebral.
“I want to play sexy roles.
I am sexy. I feel sexy, and I don’t think
that to be sexy means one thing.”
— Lola Kirke
Getting started recently was actually the continuation of a longer process. When I was growing up, I had planted some seeds back in New York because my mom had friends who worked in the industry. As a kid I’d often talk to them at dinner parties and tell them, “I want to act!” They would give me advice and offer to talk to me, so I ended up having these connections that were really amazing at following through.
I had also signed up to work with a manager when I was 17, and she would try to send me auditions throughout college. At some point I just started blowing her off because I wanted to do my thing. I wanted to make movies of my own and be in plays of my own and read. Then one day she sent me an email that said, “If you don’t reply to me in a week, I’m not going to work with you anymore,” and that scared the shit out of me. We’ve been working together ever since, and she’s wonderful.
CL: You come from a privileged family of artistic people. Did that dynamic create certain expectations about what you’d be doing career-wise as an adult?
LK: The specific bourgeois culture I grew up in is problematic in some ways. My parents and all of their artistic friends basically told me that being an artist was how you exist in the world. The idea of being a doctor or lawyer always struck me as boring when, in reality, both professions are probably fucking fascinating.
I think if I were unartistic and grew up with the same parents—a drummer and a designer—I would be fucked. Luckily, I love telling stories and expressing myself, so acting really does feel right.