Alumnae Kathryn Hahn and Sarah Gubbins explore the explosion of female desire in new Amazon series


Source: Amazon

Kathryn Hahn (Communication ’95) and co-star Griffin Dunne star in the Amazon series “I Love Dick.” The show’s screenplay is written by Sarah Gubbins (Communication ’97, ’08).

Kelley Czajka, Assistant A&E Editor


Chris Kraus loves Dick.

Kraus, portrayed by Kathryn Hahn (Communication ’95), is the lead character in the epistolary novel-turned-TV series “I Love Dick,” adapted and written by Sarah Gubbins (Communication ’97, ’08). The pilot is currently available for streaming on Amazon Prime, and the rest is expected to come out in spring 2017, Hahn said.

The series follows the story of a struggling married couple that moves to the small but intellectual town of Marfa, Texas, where Kraus and her husband meet Dick, a charismatic man who becomes the object of Kraus’ growing obsession.

When presented with the project by director Jill Soloway, with whom Hahn had collaborated on Amazon’s “Transparent,” Hahn said she was immediately “obsessed” with the prospect of playing such a crude, complex character.

Her character writes Dick hundreds of letters, and through her unashamed projection of desire becomes the series’ focus amid constant male oppression.

“What I was so excited about was the hot, hilarious, messy, complicated interior life that you get a glimpse of — a woman that puts herself in these horrible scenes of abjection over and over again and is unapologetic about it,” Hahn said.

Hahn, who attended Catholic school when she was younger, found this unapologetic messiness striking, as she said it completely defies her learned expectations of how women should act.

“I raised my hand dutifully for most of my life, and I was so polite,” Hahn said. “So there is something that’s so reckless about a woman to not be polite, to be loud, to be complicated and to not worry about how you are seen at all because at the end of the day, it does not matter in any way.”

Although Gubbins jokes the show’s cast and crew have to get through the first season before thinking about what’s next, she said she definitely sees a future for the show.

“This is not a subject and these are not characters that are containable,” Gubbins said. “So I just think it’s about really digging deep with who they are and what they want and where they’re going and just staying on that ride with them.”

This project is Gubbins’ first time working on a television show. A self-proclaimed “theater geek” during her undergraduate career at Northwestern, Gubbins studied acting, performed in shows and was friends with the founders of Vertigo Productions, a member board of the Student Theatre Coalition that exclusively produces student-written work.

Three post-graduation auditions later, Gubbins realized she was “just not that good” at acting, she said. She was a literary manager, dramaturg, playwright and teacher before breaking into the world of television writing with “I Love Dick” this year.

The show has been a “tremendous” experience, Gubbins said. It was picked up for the completion of the first season, which is in production right now, and has received critical acclaim from publications including New York Magazine and Slate.  

A New Yorker article piqued Gubbins’ interest and prompted her to read “I Love Dick” in May of 2015, she said. Around that time, she and Soloway had been working on a feature project, and their mutual fascination with the novel lead them to adapt it into a pilot.

“What the book was doing in terms of charting the explosion of female desire and the journey towards really finding one’s voice, moving from being the object of a narrative to the subject of a narrative … I just found it so compelling,” Gubbins said.

Radio, television and film Prof. Brett Neveu was one of Gubbins’ teachers while she was in the Writing for the Screen and Stage MFA program, but he met her in the Chicago theater world long before then. Neveu said she has always been a great writer and that her writing for the “I Love Dick” pilot reflects her personality.

“It’s great; it’s very funny, and it has her vibe — a cool and quirky but serious vibe,” Neveu said. “It has a big heart and is really engaging.”

But Gubbins alone isn’t responsible for the show’s success. She credited her collaborators for creating an environment of passion and desire to make the show unique.

The remainder of the first season is currently in production and will likely consist of nine half-hour episodes.

Gubbins added that the creation of “I Love Dick” has been a tremendous experience through which she has learned much about TV production. But it hasn’t altered the direction of her career, since we live in an era where you don’t have to stick to just one style of writing, she said.

“I’ll hopefully write more plays, features, television — storytelling is storytelling,” Gubbins said. “But it has definitely given me a big appetite for making television and writing television and envisioning what a show can be.”

Email: [email protected]
Twitter: @kelleyczajka