Lola Kirke cares. This is the immediate impression one receives talking to the 26-year-old multi-hyphenate. She cares about upending the “vapid culture” of celebrity. She cares about using her platform to funnel goodness into the world. She cares about making movies with her friend and collaborator Zia Anger. She cares about her music (which she describes as “country-inspired rock and folk”). She cares about being serious and silly, often at the same time.
Most recently, you can see her particular brand of giving a damn in Gemini, a slick, jazzy caper about a personal assistant who transforms into an amateur detective after discovering a dead body. Set in the heart of Hollywood, the film is essentially a contemporary, female-driven take on The Fugitive: The story of a woman tasked with proving her innocence.
The film made its world premiere at SXSW, where Kirke is also doing a set. When she sat down with Vogue in Austin, Kirke opened up about how she navigates Los Angeles, her reluctance to call herself an artist, and why, in 2017, celebrities have a responsibility to speak up about politics.
Considering Gemini is so deeply rooted in Los Angeles, what did you make of the city after graduating from Bard in 2012 and living in New York?
When I first started going out there for work, I was like, “What the fuck is this stupid town?” But I think when I moved to [Los Angeles], I was just excited that it was sunny all the time. Then when it rained for like a week, I was just miserably depressed. What I realized is that L.A. is one rhythm, and it’s your rhythm. You’re in your car, it’s your house, it’s one weather.
You can make it as busy or as not busy as you want.
Exactly. But what I love about New York is how demanding it is of you. You are constantly being asked to adapt—or forced to adapt—to all these different rhythms that are going on around you. As an artist—and I’m not saying myself as an artist, but in general for artists—it’s really important to know what rhythm is and to experience different rhythms and experience a variety of things. In that way, I lean towards the reality of New York more than L.A. But, whatever, I also really fucking love doing things on my terms.
You’re doing a lot these days. Do you have a personal assistant?
No, I fucking wish I had a personal assistant. Full disclosure: I had a personal assistant for a week and it was amazing, but I’m a control freak and deep type-A personality, so I actually spent so much time designing the schedule of my personal assistant that I may as well have done it myself.
Do you often think about career goals and such?
I think that it’s hard not to. I just want to make really good work, and I want to do the best work that I can possibly do as an actor. I think I spent a long time being really embarrassed that I was an actor, which is weird because . . .
I still sense some of that.
A little, yeah. Earlier you didn’t want to categorize yourself as an artist.
Because it’s weird! I don’t like the “as a [blank]” way of introducing a sentence.
Too self-aggrandizing . . .
Right. I think there’s some trepidation about defining myself as an artist. You have to be accountable as an artist. You can’t just say, “I’m a fucking artist.” But I think as an actor, I’m just beginning to feel excited. Like it’s a really worthy contribution to the world.
Do you find the self-promotional part of this to be difficult?
Yes and no, but it’s so normalized, right? I mean, on Instagram everybody is selling themselves all the time. I don’t mind talking about myself. I’ve been in therapy since I was ten years old, so I’m kind of used to it.
Ten! As a public figure, do you think you have a responsibility to talk publicly about politics?
I mean, in this fucking day and age, yeah, I do. For me, it’s really important to elevate voices and causes that don’t get as much attention with whatever attention I get. I totally understand why some people won’t do that; I definitely think that there are certain celebrities who really could offer more help to grassroots movements with their power—and don’t.
People with a huge platform.
Yeah, like Taylor fucking Swift, who may as well have voted for Trump, as far as I’m concerned, by not doing anything.
I’m still baffled about Tom Brady, too.
I think that the age of celebrity is so confusing and weird, and everyone is a celebrity, and everyone has this weird power that they got because they know how to take a picture of themselves.
Are you good at that, by the way?
Eh. After like 40 tries, yeah, I’ll get one or two good ones. I think it’s a vapid culture, but we can do something profound with these outlets and platforms. You can imbue everything you’re doing with meaning. I believe that life is meaningful and I believe there are things that are important that are not getting the attention that they deserve.
It’s pretty clear right now that there’s a lot surrounding reproductive rights that is pretty insane. Environmental issues . . . I don’t even know where to begin on that one. Basically, human rights at large are in jeopardy, and as somebody that is part of celebrity culture, I would rather not be an agent in detracting from that attention. I would rather not be part of the smokescreen that makes everybody think, “Eh, it’s fine,” because it’s not fine.
I feel a lot of gratitude, and gratitude to me is the shortcut to happiness.
Oh, good line. Is that yours?
[Laughs] Yep. I’m kind of like a poet. I’m kind of a big deal.
Lola Kirke’s Concrete ‘Jungle’
As Mozart in the Jungle continues to hit the right notes with fans and critics, its 26-year-old star Lola Kirke takes Billboard to her real-life Big Apple haunts.
The Manhattan native and current Los Angeles resident, photographed Dec. 28, 2016, in New York, is the daughter of 67-year-old drummer Simon Kirke (Free, Bad Company) and younger sister of Girls star Jemima Kirke, 31.
Lola Kirke as Hailey Rutledge in Mozart. The show’s symphony scenes are filmed at the State University of New York in Purchase.
A1 Record Shop, 439 E. Sixth St.
Growing up in the West Village, Kirke frequented Bleecker Bob’s and Bleecker Street Records, but A1 — its ceiling quilted with album covers — is her go-to “for vinyl LPs,” she says. “I don’t buy CDs, but does anyone anymore?”
Kirke once ran into Mozart co-star Gael Garcia Bernal in Alphabet City while she was jogging: “I see this gaggle of dudes kicking a soccer ball around in the middle of the street, and I get closer, and it’s Gael,” she says. “He’s kind to everyone, and so brave with his choices.”
TR Crandall Guitars, 179 E. Third St.
The specialty shop is co-owned by Kirke’s pal Alex Whitman. “I feel like an idiot every time I go there … I never know what I’m looking at,” says Kirke, who started playing guitar at age 20.
C’mon Everybody, 325 Franklin Ave.
Kirke used to attend music shows “wherever young assholes go” in New York. This Bed-Stuy cocktail lounge, with a performance space that nods to ’70s Manhattan, is her current must-visit.
Kirke admits she only recently fell in love with the uptown performing-arts complex that features prominently on the show. “This past season of Mozart gave me a great window into opera,” she says. “I’ve been enjoying listening to it, especially with breakfast. It’s very decadent.”