‘Private Life’ star Kathryn Hahn talks fertility, midlife and NYC life

Fertility can be a sensitive subject.

For men and women, couples young and old, all sorts of problems can occur, and they’re the sort of uncomfortable, difficult issues that strain relationships.

In “Private Life,” Rachel (Kathryn Hahn) and Richard (Paul Giamatti) are one of those couples. Older (she’s 41, he’s 47) and with some fertility limitations, they’re trying to conceive with no luck; adoption has proved futile.

It’s that kind of drama that drew Hahn to the role.

“I think there’s a lot of shame around infertility for sure,” she says. “And it’s been kind of lurking in the shadows of medicine and womanhood. What I was drawn to in this film was … the specificity of this couple. … Because of that specificity, you feel such empathy for them and I think because it is also funny, through that warmth, people watching it will not feel so alone in their struggles.”

amNewYork spoke with Hahn, 45, about the film, which is now in select theaters and streaming on Netflix.

What’s your take on the film?

It’s a story about a marriage, I would say in a nutshell. A middle-aged marriage. It’s about a couple that is doing what it can to start a family. They are in the throes of what their family would call a baby project, of doing whatever … necessary to start a family. And nothing seems to be working for them.

How do you relate to Rachel? What makes her tick?

I completely relate to Rachel. She’s in her 40s. She’s an artist. I think she’s kind of like a delayed adult, almost — all of a sudden she’s in her 40s and she realizes, “Oh, my God. I’m still in a rent-controlled apartment. All of the things that I had dreamed about when I was in my 20s and 30s didn’t come to fruition. Now I’m trying to become a mother and my biology has betrayed me and I’m not becoming pregnant as easily as I thought. And I’m staring down the barrel of my mortality. And all of the dreams that I had are not coming true.” I think it’s completely [relatable] for women, where all of a sudden you turn around and you’re not as young as you thought. And you can’t believe how fast it goes.

What was it like working with director Tamara Jenkins?

Oh, Tamara is a goddess and I’ve admired her work from afar for so long. “The Savages” is one of my favorite films. Just in how funny and heartbreaking it is at the same time. It hits that pure spot perfectly. It just hits that soul spot for me as a viewer. … It’s exactly the kind of movie that I want to watch. So I wanted to work with her so badly. And it was a real dream working with her and Paul. The three of us really, it was a real pleasure.

Tell me about Paul.

I mean he is like a national treasure. I love Paul Giamatti so much. And I feel like he just makes everyone around him that much better.

Rachel’s apartment is on East Sixth Street in East Village. What was it like filming in NYC?

Well, I love it. I love that city so much. I mean I love Los Angeles deeply, but there’s no place on the planet like New York City. There’s something that was so magical about shooting this film that we were able to really experience all four seasons for some reason in the short amount of time that we were shooting this movie. We got a blizzard, we got spring, we got fall, we got rain. You can either fight it or embrace it. And there’s no fighting that city. So it became as imperative as anything else. It’s a force.

What other roles doing you have coming up?

I’m about to start shooting an HBO series called “Mrs. Fletcher” based on the book by Tom Perrotta, which I’m very excited about. And I’ve got a [children’s] book coming out, which I’m very excited about, called “My Wish For You.” I wrote it for the Lenny Letter originally and it was not for children. It was called “What I Learned from my 6-year-old Daughter About Being A Woman.” And Scholastic approached me and said, “Would you ever consider turning this into a children’s book?” I said, “I hadn’t, but wow! Why not?” And so we very organically and sweetly and gently kind of turned it into a book for girls. 

You did some Broadway back in 2008. Would you like to take the stage again?

Oh, my God, I would love to. Yeah, that was an amazing — I did a play called “Boeing-Boeing” with Mark Rylance, Bradley Whitford, Christine Baranski — the cast is bananas! And it was so fun and hard. My son was itty-bitty. And it’s a real hard gig when you’re a momma. So I’m going to have to wait until they’re a little bit older to be able to do it. Because it’s hard when you’re not in town. So I’d have to wait for them to be a little bit older or a summer, a summer run of some kind so we can circus family everybody in New York City. But, yeah, of course, I’m champing at that bit to get back there. I can’t wait.