“Historically, people were famous because it was a by-product of being really good at something,” says actress Lola Kirke during an interview in a private dining room in New York City's Crosby Hotel. "Now, people are famous because it's a by-product of being able to take a great selfie."
Her succinct analysis of fame is one of the many times during our conversation that the 27-year-old actress—now starring in the indie film Gemini opposite Zoe Kravitz—eloquently describes today's society, simultaneously breaking down cultural themes and spurring listeners to re-consider their views on a variety of subjects (on the fascination many feel towards the United States, she says: "Why are so many people so captivated by what this place is? I am too and I think it has a lot to do with freedom. My fascination with freedom and independence and the struggle to be those things. I feel very drawn to it.")
The actress and musician, who is putting out a record this summer, still retains fragments of optimism and hopefulness that a person so attuned to the problems currently faced by society might not necessarily boast. When prompted to give advice to up-and-coming artists, she delves into thoughts about appearances: "I've been thinking a lot about bodies recently," she says. "I think that there is a tremendous pressure to look a certain way in order to participate. You are told that if you look a certain way you will be able to participate in whatever art form that you like. Now that we have Instagram and social media, the way that you look becomes a lot more important and I often feel pressured to change my body so that it's more in line with the bodies that I see and then I think: Maybe the world should just change instead of me?”
To some, that might sound like wishful thinking. To others, like Kirke herself, who comes from a family of artists who have been at the forefront of changing cultural norms in the entertainment industry (her sister Jemima starred in the culture-defining HBO show Girls; her other sister, Domino, is a successful musician and her father, Simon, is a member of Free and Bad Company), that might seem like an average Monday thought.
Kirke took some time to chat about her role in the noir film by Aaron Katz, the concept of fame in the era of President Donald Trump and her endless passion for music.
What compelled you to take the lead role in Gemini?
I’ve always liked that genre of film: The thriller noir. I think that those genres have a place in our culture because people are drawn to the shadow self and they like to see what people are capable of doing without actually doing those things themselves. [Also], something that was just pointed out to me was that the protagonist in the noir/thriller is typically a world-wary man and I’ve always loved those world-wary men and it was very fun to get to embody that in my own way.
The film focuses on the concept of fame. What are your thoughts about it, given your own level of fame?
Doing [press] all day long is probably the only way my celebrity feels real because when I walk down the street I’m pretty anonymous, which is pretty amazing because I think the privilege of living is your own privacy. But I think that a privilege of living is also getting recognized for what you love to do. So there are sacrifices and I’m glad that I haven’t yet had to really make them.
I think it’s really interesting to see a movie that’s about the dark underbelly of fame and the way that people create gods out of celebrities in an age where we have created the leader of the free world out of the star of a reality TV show.
Do you find yourself to have contributed to this celebrity-infused culture by placing importance and devotion on other famous people?
I was watching The Crown—that show is so brilliant—and one of the things that I think it did really well was affirm society’s need for role models or famous people. A monarchy, essentially. I think that is true in one sense. It’s been incredible for me to be able to escape to musicians and artists and actors that I love my whole life, to be able to find heroes in them. But, at the same time. I think that there is this other way in which we assume that we are not all created equal and that pedestal becomes really, really dangerous. For both the people on the pedestal and off.
Has the Internet contributed to this rather modern sense of hierarchy?
You won’t even be casted in a movie unless you have a certain amount of followers. That’s just so problematic for so many reasons but I think that social media is this brilliant way in which we can hear voices that wouldn’t have been heard before and it’s also this way in which we amplify voices [that] we are already hearing to the umpteenth power.
Given the artistic family you come from, was it inevitable for you become an actor and music?
I think that I was very lucky to live in a house where it was always an option to explore my artistic capabilities. I guess I never really thought of doing something else.
How is the dynamic among you three sisters?
Domino and I are both musicians and Jemima and I are both actors. There was a long time when Jemima wasn’t acting and she was [doing] more painting and she probably couldn’t talk to me about painting the way that I could talk to her about acting but now that she is an actress and is very passionate about the craft, it’s really amazing to get to talk to someone within the family about that. Similarly with Domino about her music.
Speaking of music, how is your musical persona different from your acting one?
I’ve always felt that I was a much better actor than I was a musician and I have a lot more confidence as an actor because I’ve been doing it for longer. That being said, acting still totally confounds me and I do think I have a lot of room to grow. I think that what is really interesting about music right now is everyone has a shtick: “Oh, I only wear this color” or “I have some one-word name that is my alter ego.” Whatever it is. I have struggled to find what my shtick is as a musician and what my personality or character is and I realized that I spend a lot of time playing characters on TV or movies or whatever so, as a musician, I’d like to just be able to actually be a more authentic version of myself and maybe my shtick is just being.. Me.
Who are your musical influences?
I realized that most of my favorite artists fall into some kind of genre that involves the word America and I always thought that that was really interesting because I was born in England, my whole family is English, everyone has an English accent except for me and, somehow, I found myself gravitating towards these really American voices because I think that, through people like Gram Parsons and Gene Clark, The Band and the Grateful Dead, I found my own kind of independence and I think that’s what loving music gives you: It gives you this outlet, this escape.
I also think that it’s a very interesting time to be making music that involves and is heavily influenced by America because America is completely fraught but I think that what it always represented to us and why we have to fight to keep it so alive is it is the land of opportunity. Or it should be that way.