With Her Acting Career On Fire, Lola Kirke Is Now Turning To Music

Photographed by Lauren Perlstein, Styled by Jenna Igneri, Hair by Blake Erik and Make up by Regina Harris, Props courtesy of ACME Brooklyn

“Picking up a guitar and playing it is actually kind of like a tiny political act”

Late last month, Lola Kirke took the stage at Baby’s All Right in Brooklyn, New York, to celebrate the release of her debut, self-titled EP. Flanked by five other musicians (including her boyfriend, Wyndham Boylan, who also produced the record), she played bleeding-heart, country-dusted rock, marking her official foray into a professional music career. In that world, Kirke is still a relative unknown. For the tour she just completed—an 8-stop jaunt between New York and Los Angeles—she traveled in a small van with friends and collaborators, playing at intimate clubs along the way. And yet two weeks prior to the show at Baby’s All Right, the 26-year-old performer found herself on the cover of The Village Voice. That’s because, in Lola Kirke’s other life, she happens to be an actress on the cusp of stardom.

Kirke, who grew up in New York City to artistic parents (her father is the former drummer for the rock bands Free and Bad Company; her mother owned a popular clothing boutique in Manhattan's West Village), wanted to act since she was young. But when she left the city to study at Bard College in New York's Hudson Valley, other artistic pursuits began to take hold. While majoring in film theory, Kirke took up music, guitar, and singing with friends, and eventually formed an alt-country band, She Rose. But when Kirke returned to the city after graduation, with her sister Jemima a star thanks to her role on HBO’s Girls, the acting bug took over, and Kirke quickly found work, first in a small but pivotal role in David Fincher’s Gone Girl, and then as one of two leads in Noah Baumbach’s well-received indie, Mistress America.  

Now, Kirke sits at the top of casting lists across Hollywood and is one audition away from the role that will launch her to rarified movie stardom. But until that happens, Kirke is thrilled to follow her artistic muse wherever it leads her. She just wrapped her third season as the ambitious oboist Hailey on Amazon’s Mozart in the Jungle, and will next star opposite Jemima in writer Emma Forrest’s directorial debut, Untogether. We recently spoke with Kirke, who splits her time between New York and Los Angeles, about why she felt the need to start her music career now, how her college experience changed her life, and what she’s learned about Hollywood. 

Photographed by Lauren Perlstein
Styled by Jenna Igneri
Hair by Blake Erik
Makeup by Regina Harriss

Props courtesy of ACME Brooklyn

Photographed by Lauren Perlstein, Knit jumpsuit by Ryan Roche, Props courtesy of ACME Brooklyn

When was the moment you felt you had broken through in your acting career? Was it Mistress America?
That movie actually took a really long time from its conception and shooting to it coming out into the world, so I think Gone Girl was the moment where I was like, "Oh, this might happen."

Now that you’ve seen how Hollywood works from the —and how so much of the work you get is predicated on work that you’ve already done—insidewhat has surprised you the most about it?
That’s the business. I always thought that I’d be exceptional to those bizarre rules, just because everybody feels like they’re exceptional to a certain degree, and then when you get older, you realize that like you aren’t. But talent doesn’t matter, necessarily. I mean, it does, and it’s an amazing thing to have, and by god, if you do have it, run with it and be grateful and do everything that you can with it.

As someone who grew up in New York City, it must be a trip to find yourself on the cover of the Village Voice.
It is and it isn’t. I try to stay really grateful, and I’d never be jaded by that type of stuff, but I also try and stay off the internet as much as I can because otherwise, I’d get too obsessed with myself, and I don’t need to be more obsessed with myself than I already am. Also, people are people—I think that gets forgotten a lot. I think the media wants us to forget that, and make people into these other things that we can shit on or elevate, and I don’t want to forget my own humanity nor anyone else’s.