In recent years, Kathryn Hahn has come to be most closely associated with her role as Rabbi Raquel Fein on the beloved Amazon series Transparent. As Raquel, Hahn is measured and thoughtful, the moral center of a universe in which everyone, depending on the episode, seems to be unraveling at the seams.
In the comedy Bad Moms, out July 29, Hahn is none of these things. As Carla, a single mother who prefers partying to PTA meetings, she is unapologetically raunchy in bedazzled, skin-tight jeans, a tumbler of booze always close at hand. She admires mothers who can remember their kids’ birthdays and counts among her proudest moments having slept with Vin Diesel—or at least a bald man who looked sufficiently like him after a few drinks.
Over the last 15 years, Hahn has become one of the most recognizable faces in comedy, with roles on shows like Parks and Recreation and Girls and movies like Step Brothers and Anchorman. But as she has proven, not only in Transparent but in Revolutionary Road and the one-season Showtime series Happyish, her range onscreen mirrors the full range of human emotion—even when that emotion is the ecstatic abandon of making out with as many PTA moms as possible, and on a week night, to boot.
In anticipation of unleashing Carla onto moviegoers nationwide, Hahn spoke to TIME about motherhood, the dangers of Pinterest and how she gave Leonardo DiCaprio a run for his money while filming Bad Moms.
TIME: How much did the premise of the movie resonate, as a working mom yourself?
Kathryn Hahn: So much. Motherhood has been such a sanctified subject. There are amazing exceptions, Mommy Dearest being one. But we haven’t seen an R-rated comedy focused on motherhood. The whole movie is a cathartic escape, but there was something that felt so dear, which is that we are so tough on ourselves as mothers, and this idea of letting it go. You could almost change the title from Bad Moms to Real Moms.
The movie was written and directed by two men. Did they come into the project understanding motherhood?
No way! But they walked in like, “We don’t know anything, you guys are the experts.” But if I had not seen that it was written by two men, I would never have known, and I think it’s because of their deep, beautiful empathy for the moms of their kids and their own moms.
Carla is amazing—
Carla’s jeans are amazing. Carla’s whole wardrobe.
Did you get to keep any of it?
I did not. But there is something about a real high platform wedge sandal that just makes you feel powerful.
Carla’s lack of guilt and shame about her parenting decisions makes her something of a unicorn. Have you encountered parents like that?
My mom had a couple of divorced pals when I was growing up, and I remember being in awe of their glamor and well-done nails and year-round sun-tanned skin—and we lived in Ohio. I don’t know any moms like that now. Carla just feels like a little bit of a throwback.
The scene in which you guys trash a grocery store and chug White Russians in the aisles: was that as fun to shoot as it was to watch?
There’s something so depressing about grocery shopping for your family, without your family with you. So to have permission to go in and be able to tear through it—it’s just wish fulfillment. And then when I had to guzzle the milk, it took a turn for Mommy.
Was that real milk?
It was soy milk, which does not make it that much better. I was like, “Take that Leonardo DiCaprio. I guzzled gallon after gallon of lukewarm soy milk.”
Did you at least get to guzzle vodka, too?
What was so hilarious about the making of this movie is that for all the parties that happen inside of it, because it was made by a bunch of moms, they would call wrap and be like, “See you in the morning!” There was no time spent on anything but sleeping and being with our kids.
Do you have any memorable good mom moments, where you just felt like, “I nailed this?”
There are definitely nights where we’re all cuddling and they ask me to sing a song—I am dreading the day when they outgrow that—and they’re getting along and it feels peaceful and I just want to blow up and die with gratitude and love. I also feel like a good mom when I see one of my children treating someone else kindly. When I see them being good people, I think, “OK, I’m on the right path.”
A lot of the expectations placed on the moms in this movie come from other moms. Have you experienced that kind of sneering judgment about your parenting decisions?
No judgment is as harsh as the judgment we place on ourselves. But yeah, absolutely. I’m much more mellow about it now, but when I was a young parent, I would take everything so personally. If somebody told me my kid’s head was too big, it would give me tremendous anxiety. I think so much of the judgment comes from everybody trying to justify their own decision-making, because you feel like if somebody else is doing it different, that means you’re doing it wrong.
And social media and Internet culture just exacerbates it.
I keep seeing these gorgeous Pinterest boards and think, “My house doesn’t look like that,” and “I don’t feel this way about my child all of the time,” and “Am I a horrible parent?” It’s like you’re being set up to fail at every turn. That’s what I think is such an awesome message of this movie: let’s just be easy on ourselves and each other. We’re all just doing the best that we can. Let go and enjoy the awesome payoff.
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