In our Jan/Feb issue, Mozart in the Jungle star Lola Kirke poses in tennis whites and sounds off on the perks and perils of personal branding. Below, we’re proud to offer more of Kirke’s unfiltered insights, covering her career (both in TV and music), feminism, social media and more. Enjoy.
ON LIVING THE BRAND
If you’re in the spotlight as a young person now, you have to figure out your brand. Are you just an actor? Are you an actor and an activist? Are you an actor and an activist and a musician? ‘And’ ad nauseam. I feel like I’m still finding my voice. I wish I could say, ‘This is my cause. This is my purpose on earth,’ but at the moment the world is such a mess; anything can be your cause. I don’t feel pressure to present feminism as part of my brand, because it just is. If I say that, though, it sounds like it’s part of what I’m selling, and that gets a little complicated. But there is a commercial side to being an artist, and I’m lucky that people are buying it, at least to some degree. Being politically active is fucking cool. There’s space to be so many different things. Just give a damn.
ON THE NEW SEASON OF MOZART IN THE JUNGLE
I feel grateful to play a character who is walking on path parallel to mine as a young woman and a young creative professional. Being a classical musician in an orchestra shares a lot of same properties of being an actress, in the sense that you are performing other people’s work instead of creating your own. You are relying on other people to notice you and recognize you and give you a job. You are functioning in a much larger machine that you’re a part of, that you’re not necessarily at the helm of.
ON HER BURGEONING MUSIC CAREER
I relate to that dilemma of being passionate about something from a young age and forming an identity about that one thing. It’s nice to know what you want to do early on, but I think that it’s also really limiting. Being open to the idea that you have a lot of possibilities has been important for me. I mean, playing music has always been a part of me. So to elevate it out of the realm of hobby and make it like slightly more professional is empowering. The thread of my work and my music is about self-doubt, love or whatever else. To make art, or to make sounds in this world, is a political act, and it feels good to ally with other women and other non-gender binary voices who are doing the same.
I just got Instagram and it blows my mind. I had an account a couple of years ago and in the time that I’ve been off, it’s transformed from a tool to just show people pretty pictures and gloat about your life into this mechanism for personal branding. There are people who I have no idea who they really are, but I know what they look like from every angle—and so do 100,000 other people.
ON WOMEN’S RIGHTS
There are so many things that do not sit right with me—women’s issues, which bleed into health issues, which then bleed into foreign policy issues. This is a really interesting time to be human, and I think it’s wonderful time to be a woman in how there are so many opportunities. Yes, women are on the spectrum of minorities in this world, but it’s important to be part of the energy seeking to change that. There’s so much creative potential in this transformation women are experiencing as a group. I’m fascinated by it.
ON CHANGING HER BODY FOR ROLES
I’ve been incredibly lucky to work with directors and networks like Amazon that privilege my individuality as a woman and my choices for my own body. I’ve never really been asked to alter my appearance—and that’s probably not going to be the reality for my career. Your art does not get to be your own in this industry, whether you’re an actor or director or any other kind of filmmaker. There are scenarios where I could see changing the way my body looks, like becoming stronger or becoming leaner, that would be necessary telling a story about a certain character. If I’m playing a person in the Army, they’re not going to have a soft tummy like I do. So far, I’ve felt wanted for who I am. And that’s pretty special.
Lola Kirke offers me some of the bread she’s eating. She holds up a croissant and we tear it apart like a wishbone. She’s been given too much, enough for two, yet you get the sense she’d break bread anyway. But the actress also has something else on her mind: The third season of “Mozart in the Jungle” — the award-gobbling dramedy about a sometimes struggling New York symphony — drops on Amazon on Dec. 9.
Once again, Kirke plays Hailey, the aspiring oboist and occasional assistant to flighty conductor Rodrigo (Gael Garcia Bernal). Since last we saw them, the band, as it were, has temporarily broken up. Hailey and Rodrigo have both gone abroad, and before they return to the States, they wind up in Venice, working with a temperamental opera singer (Monica Bellucci).
But of course, Kirke — 26, also of “Mistress America” and the Tom Cruise thriller “American Made,” due next year — doesn’t mind talking Trump first. But we decide to be positive, not negative.
I think we’re at this point where we can still make a difference. What about you?
Like many privileged white people, I was living under the assumption that Hillary would win and the world would be restored to normalcy. A lot of people, mostly people of color, I’ve spoken to have said, “Hello! Wake the f— up! That was never a reality. The things you are fearing now are the things we have always been fearing.” I was doing some minimal work on the Hillary campaign towards the end. Since then, it’s been really important to focus on what I can actually do, instead of getting overwhelmed by the big whole. Democracy isn’t that sexy. It’s just calling your representatives over and over again, or taking Paul Ryan’s health care survey, which everyone should do, by calling his office. I try to keep it really simple.
That might also involve finding a way to talk to Trump voters, in a civil way.
Perhaps this is optimistic, but I think not talking to people who have different political views than you do is what got us here in the first place. Trying to have conversations with people who are different from you — that’s the f—ing essence of life! Everyone’s different from you, even people united by liberalism. Then again, easier said than done. But trying to engage in conversation with people who have different views is a really valuable thing to do.
It’s hard to know how to start the conversation, though. It’s usually one side yelling or flinging names.
There’s this thing called “non-violence communication.” I’m not the master of it; I’ve read a little bit about it. But it does wonders for your interpersonal relationships, as well as your political influence. You ground everything in your own experience and try to remove judgment. And you f—ing listen. People don’t listen.
I’m not sure how to even tie what we’ve been talking to into “Mozart in the Jungle,” but here goes: This is a show about orchestral music, which is already not doing that well, and will be in likely even tougher shape under the new administration that sees no use for the classical arts.
I like that this show is about asking if it’s possible to sustain an artistic practice in more antiquated mediums, like classical music. It shows how f—ing difficult that is. In a capitalist society, things that do not make money get thrown out very quickly. We watched it again last night, and everything post-election has a new meaning. Watching the scene where the orchestra is locked out of their building last night, I went, ‘Wow, this show knew what was going on, in a way.’ It’s about protecting the arts and arts education and the lack of that in schools.
On a lighter note, what was it like working with Monica Bellucci? I only ask because she’s such a goddess.
I share that feeling. She has one of those voices that when she speaks, it makes you feel very warm and tingly inside. Also, she’s a listener. As a dumb American, and obnoxious human that I am, I’ll be like [blabbers nonsense], and she’ll be like [sits still, waits several beats, then lets out a light laugh]. A minute later, she’ll react, as though she’s taking it in. Because she cares. She’s processing what you say.