Equally adept at playing disarmingly sweet and comically ferocious, Kathryn Hahn found a national audience early in her career as the darling of the forensic procedural drama "Crossing Jordan" (2001-07). An NBC executive spotted the Cleveland-raised Hahn doing regional theater and vaulted her in due course to the role of big-hearted Lily Lebowski on "Jordan," whom she would play over six seasons and some soapy story arcs. Meanwhile, she found a character niche in feature films, playing devoted BFFs to female leads in by-the-numbers romantic comedies like "How to Lose a Guy in 10 Days" (2003) and "A Lot Like Love" (2005), as well as gave aggressively ribald turns in "Step Brothers" (2008) and "The Goods: Live Hard, Sell Hard" (2009). She became a frequent support player to Paul Rudd, with the pair co-starring in four films, including "Our Idiot Brother" (2011) and "Wanderlust" (2012). Hahn took her talents to Broadway in 2008 in the hit revival of the French farce "Boeing-Boeing." She undertook some big-ticket comedy projects in the 2011-12 television season, landing the lead in NBC's ill-fated "Free Agents" (2011) and, upon its cancellation, reuniting with Rudd again as his delightfully mercenary campaign advisor on the network's "Parks and Recreation" (NBC, 2009-15). Wielding a seemingly innate capacity to steal scenes from bigger stars, Hahn made herself a versatile talent producers pine for, while perhaps logging more screen-time as a pregnant woman than any other actor.
Hahn was born July 23, 1974, in Chicago, IL, though the family soon moved to Cleveland Heights, OH. She grew up with an active imagination that would develop into an early longing to act. Just eight years old, she began taking classes at the famed Cleveland Play House, establishing a foot in the door for juvenile roles when productions called for them and, when they did not, serving as a curtain-puller for the theater. Hahn also snared some work with a local TV station's children's show. After high school, she studied theater arts at Northwestern University in Evanston, IL. There, she met and began a relationship with aspiring actor-writer Ethan Sandler. After graduating from Northwestern, the couple moved to New York in search of work. She furthered her studies at the Yale School of Drama and built her bona fides during the summers by becoming a regular player at the Williamstown Theatre Festival in Massachusetts. While at the famed festival, Hahn won roles in a flurry of productions both classic and original, including the 1998 premiere of David Rabe's "Corners," Darko Tresnjak's "The Blue Demon" and revivals of Shakespeare's "Hamlet," John Guare's "Chaucer in Rome" and Ibsen's "Hedda Gabbler."
It was at the Williamstown Festival that Steven O'Neill, vice president of casting at NBC, reportedly took note of Hahn's talents and brought her to the attention of television producer Tim Kring, then developing a new procedural drama for the network, "Crossing Jordan." The title character, played by Jill Hennessey, was a wiseass maverick forensic pathologist, the narrative largely focusing on her role in solving crimes with the help, and sometimes hindrance, of a quirky array of colleagues. Kring reportedly created a character specifically for Hahn, Lily Lebowski, the sweet-natured intake administrator for the ME's office. In spite of mixed reviews, the show performed well enough in the 2001-02 season to become a fixture in NBC's line-up. The next season, Lily's empathetic ethos was given a proper outlet with her promotion to grief counselor. Sandler and Hahn married in 2002, and, in something of a blessing on their union, producers cast Sandler in the recurring role of Assistant District Attorney Jeffrey Brandau. Brandau began an onscreen romance with Lily, forming a triangle with another medical examiner, Bug (Ravi Kapoor). The long-running B-story saw her second-guess her season six engagement to Brandau and jilt him at the altar, only to find out she is pregnant with Brandau's child.
Much to the delight of fans, Hahn was pregnant in real life with Sandler's baby. In the off-seasons, Hahn began picking up small feature film roles, typically in a variety of comedies. She played best friend to Kate Hudson in the boilerplate romantic comedy "How to Lose a Guy in 10 Days;" a pep-talking bartender secretly enamored with Topher Grace in "Win a Date with Tad Hamilton!" (2004), best friend to Amanda Peet in the long-distance romantic comedy "A Lot Like Love," and Cameron Diaz's employee in the life-swapping comedy "The Holiday" (2006). With a small part as an office denizen of a dysfunctional TV station in "Anchorman: The Legend of Ron Burgundy" (2004) - the Will Farrell-vehicle co-starring Paul Rudd, co-scripted by Farrell and director Adam McKay, and produced by Judd Apatow ¬- Hahn established a footing in Hollywood's ascendant comedy clique.
After the cancellation of "Jordan" in 2007, Hahn would be brought back for Farrell and McKay's next Apatow-produced feature, "Step Brothers" (2008), easily eclipsing co-stars with her over-the-top performance as an affection-deprived, obsessively randy sister-in-law who seduces Farrell's new sibling rival-by-marriage (John C. Reilly). Also that year, she delivered an understated performance in "Revolutionary Road" (2008), playing the dutiful housewife-next-door to discomfited protagonists Winslet and Leonardo DiCaprio. In spring 2008, Hahn made her Broadway debut in a revival of Marc Camoletti's romantic farce "Boeing-Boeing." She took one of the female leads, a vivacious American flight attendant, in the story about a Paris-based American (Bradley Whitford) craftily orchestrating three concurrent affairs with different "air hostesses" coming into town on different schedules. The play went on to a successful run through the rest of the year, though Hahn left in the fall as other projects called. She went over-the-top again as part of an impressive comic ensemble gathered around Jeremy Piven in "The Goods: Live Hard, Sell Hard," with Hahn playing his sexually predatory, car-selling cohort.
She meanwhile verged on a rare lead, via an even more unsavory character. She won a shot at an Americanization of Jennifer Saunders' classic narcissist, high-fashion slag in a proposed adaptation of Saunders' "Absolutely Fabulous" (BBC, 1992-2004) for Fox, but the show did not make it past the pilot stage. In 2010, pregnant again, she nevertheless did a daring three-episode arc of "Hung" (2009-11), the HBO comedy with Thomas Jane as a reluctant suburban gigolo. Shot semi-nude for some scenes, Hahn turned in a bittersweet performance as one of Jane's clients, a young soon-to-be-mother whose husband has walked out, leaving her desperate for affection. Her pregnancy also figured into her return to big-budget comedy fare with James L. Brooks' "How Do You Know" (2010). Hahn, opposite Reese Witherspoon, Rudd, Owen Wilson and Jack Nicholson, played Annie, faithful (and very pregnant) friend and secretary to Rudd's young executive, going to great lengths to help him escape a cloud of corporate chicanery actually perpetrated by his father (Nicholson). The performance drew raves from critics and not a few observations that she stole the show from her above-title co-stars. She worked with Rudd again in 2011's "Our Idiot Brother," playing the fed-up girlfriend to his character, a man too earnest and trusting for his own good.
Producers finally found a lead vehicle for Hahn in 2011 with another U.S. adaptation of a British sitcom, "Free Agents" (Channel 4, 2009). She and Hank Azaria starred as office co-workers, her character still mourning a dead fiancé; his still devastated by a divorce. The show kicked off with them trysting on a drunken night of commiseration but instantly regretting it and attempting to remain professional at work. In spite of some fanfare from NBC, "Free Agents" was widely derided for watering down the wit of its Brit inspiration and lacking chemistry between the two leads. It lasted four episodes. Hahn returned to scene-stealing supporting parts in Apatow's repertory with two projects bowing in 2012: a militant Green and (again) randy member of a remote commune to which frazzled New Yorkers Rudd and Jennifer Aniston flee in the box-office disappointment "Wanderlust," and a New York yuppie repressing murderous dreams on the Apatow-produced brats-in-the-big-city series "Girls" (HBO, 2012- ). That spring, she picked up a key recurring role on the NBC sitcom "Parks and Recreation" amid the show's building political arc. Hahn played a ruthless yet amiable campaign manager brought in from Washington by the small Indiana city's reigning aristocrats to help their spoiled scion (Rudd) defeat central character Leslie Knope (Amy Poehler) for a city council seat.
By Matthew Grimm
Cast (Feature Film)
Music (Feature Film)
Feature film debut, the comedy "Flushed"
Discovered by an NBC casting director at the Williamstown Theater Festival; series creator Tim Kring created role of Lily for her on "Crossing Jordan"
Played supporting role in romantic comedy "How to Lose a Guy in 10 Days"
Appeared in "Anchorman: The Legend of Ron Burgundy" opposite Will Ferrell
Once again acted with Ferrell in "Step Brothers"
Co-starred on never-aired pilot for U.S. remake of "Ab Fab"
Co-starred with Hank Azaria on short-lived NBC romantic sitcom "Free Agents"
Guest starred on NBC's "Parks & Recreation" and HBO's "Girls"
Landed bit part in "The Dictator" as a woman who gives birth with the help of Sacha Baron Cohen's Aladeen