Lola Kirke, the musician and actress from New York City, is running around her Manhattan apartment, gathering her phone, her keys, and making sure she hasn’t forgotten anything, because she won’t be back home for the rest of the day. The 29-year-old has packed her schedule for the next 12 hours to the walls: lunch; then a visit to the smoking hypnotist, who’s responsible for her quitting cigarettes a few days prior and whom she swears by; then, a massage with “a guy who rings bells over my body,” she explains, and finally, dinner at one of her favorite restaurants, Frankie’s 457.
For her, this is a rare day off. A break before the release of her latest music video, for the song Win It, off of her latest EP Friends and Foes and Friends Again, and then a visit to Park City, Utah—where her latest film, “Lost Girls,” premieres at Sundance tonight.
The decor of her apartment, at least, suggests a sort of calm. It isn’t renovated, dorm-like, or minimally decorated like popular interior design Instagram accounts suggest a celebrity’s house should be—it’s got original wooden floors, patterned wallpaper, and all the markings of a lived-in place that’s her own. Her shelves are stacked with records and books—on the record player, which sits front and center in the living room, Lucinda Williams’ Car Wheels on a Gravel Road spins and spins for infinity, having reached the end of the album. A guitar and a mandolin line the opposite wall, which has a large amp propped up against it, labeled in hot pink tape “Lola.” There are palo santo sticks everywhere.
She’s also made a home in the neighborhood. She greets a friend she knows who’s working at the door at a nearby restaurant, then remarks on how beautiful the pancakes look. Although Kirke has a famous family (her sister is Jemima Kirke, her other sister, Domino, is married to Penn Badgley, her father is the drummer Simon Kirke, etc. etc.), and a lengthy résumé of her own, (a starring role on the Amazon hit Mozart in the Jungle, a part in Gone Girl,) she isn’t snobbish or condescending. She speaks to people lovingly, and levels with them. She visibly enjoys making them laugh. Kirke is eloquent and well-read, pedigreed in her speech, but she talks quickly, furiously, as though her ideas and the metaphors she uses to encapsulate them are ones she’s mulled deeply for months, and she can’t get them out fast enough. Sometimes, however, she is measured in the way she talks, the words she chooses. She demonstrates this when talking about the current state of artistry, which she has said in the past depresses her: all the ego of social media, the lack of general interest aspiring artists seem to have in becoming technically strong or learned in their particular forms.
“I am a little saddened,” Kirke says slowly, “about how the byproduct of films is becoming more important than the product itself. It’s great to have the opportunity to go to Sundance and to be in films that get to go. I’m really grateful for that. I just am scared about the trajectory of cinema and acting and everything as a whole.
She thinks about this a lot, she says, ripping off a piece of pita and dunking it into the dish of labneh, then pressing the bread into her mouth. It grazes a strand of her hair on the way, and leaves a dot of white yogurt. But to combat these feelings on the industry, she plunges herself into the work, hoping that her pursuit of technical excellence will inspire others in some way.
When cast in a new role, Kirke says she wholly dives into the character—and for “Lost Girls,” the film based on a true story of murdered sex workers whose bodies were uncovered in Long Island, N.Y., she read the book of the same name by journalist Robert Kolker, then consulted her friends who were more familiar with sex work. Director Liz Garbus gave her space to expand on the real-life woman she played—a family member of one of the women murdered.
“I wanted to have a more nuanced, exciting portrayal of a sex worker who could really be anyone,” she explains. “I just felt like we had an opportunity to change the perspective a little bit on who does this kind of work and why. For me, the pathology of somebody who does that is that they want bigger things for themselves. And they want their life to be more vast and wide-reaching and colorful.”
Full Interview: wmagazine.com