Why Phyllis From The Shrink Next Door Looks So Familiar
If you happened to catch the Bloomberg and Wondery 2019 podcast about a deceptive and manipulative Hamptons psychiatrist and the patient whose life he took over and nearly destroyed, you’re no doubt familiar with the real-life story behind AppleTV’s “The Shrink Next Door.” In the upcoming series’ trailer (via YouTube), there’s an extremely familiar face under a headful of impressively-teased ’80s curls. Though her aesthetic in the dark comedy/psychological thriller/true events mash-up is a far cry from that of her most recent television role, the suspicious sister in the series trailer is none other than Emmy-nominated actor and unofficial national treasure, Kathryn Hahn.
“The Shrink Next Door” stars Will Ferrell as the unassuming and guileless Martin Markowitz, a patient preyed upon by Dr. Isaac Herschkopf, aka Ike, played by Paul Rudd. Martin’s sister, Phyllis Shapiro (Hahn), attempts to warn her brother about the good doctor’s possible ulterior motives, but Martin is so far under Herschkopf’s spell that Phyllis’ suspicion falls on deaf ears.
While Hahn kicked her mainstream career off in a series of successful comedies, “The Shrink Next Door” is hardly the first time the actor’s more dramatic side will be on display. Nor is it, as many will note, the first time she’s starred alongside the MCU’s most down-to-earth superhero, Paul Rudd. With the AppleTV series premiere upon us, it’s worth taking a look at Hahn’s prolific yet underrated career thus far.
Kathryn Hahn began her career as The Best Friend
Kathryn Hahn first came to the attention of big-screen audiences starring alongside Kate Hudson in Donald Petrie’s still-beloved rom-com, “How to Lose a Guy in 10 Days.” As the endearing and unlucky-in-love Michelle, Hahn provided a healthy portion of the film’s more relatable comedy and was a lesson in “what not to do” for the film’s practically perfect protagonist, Andie Anderson (Hudson).
Throughout the early 2000s, Hahn would repeat her role as the best friend or member of the rom-com genre’s formulaic gal pal group. After giving Topher Grace some romantic advice as “stock wise bartender” Angelica in “Win a Date with Tad Hamilton!,” Hahn went on to play what is still one of her most memorable, if smaller early roles, that of Veronica Corningstone’s (Christina Applegate) cheerleader and confidante Helen in “Anchorman: The Legend of Ron Burgundy.” Hahn then shone as Amanda Peet’s friend (again named Michelle) in 2005’s “A Lot Like Love,” and as assistant to a workaholic Cameron Diaz in Nancy Meyers’ “The Holiday” in 2006.
Despite the solid gig of bff-ing on the big screen, Hahn continued to work in television — a decision that would later prove fruitful as the second Golden Age of Television eclipsed the appeal of explosion-less and franchise-less feature film genres like rom-coms and ensemble comedies.
The Shrink Next Door reunites Hahn with a long-time comedy cohort
When she was cast as Michelle (the first time) in “How to Lose a Guy in 10 Days,” Kathryn Hahn had already been starring as compassionate grief counselor Lily Lebowski in NBC’s “Crossing Jordan,” a role she would maintain from 2001 to 2007 when the series came to an end. Though Hahn would appear in a number of films between the success of the NBC crime drama and her next big television role — including, perhaps most memorably, as the infatuated Alice in 2008’s “Step Brothers” — it became clear that her star was on the rise by 2011.
That year, Hahn breathed life into the role of Janet, starring alongside Paul Rudd in Jesse Peretz’s dramedy “Our Idiot Brother,” and landed the lead role of Helen opposite Hank Azaria in NBC’s sadly short-lived “Free Agents.” She teamed up with Rudd once again in 2012’s “Wanderlust.” For those keeping count, that’s four Paul Rudd pics in just a handful of years, as she starred alongside the actor in 2010’s “How Do You Know” as well. When asked about her working relationship and real-life friendship with Rudd, Hahn jokingly told Cinemablend in 2010, “I feel like he should write me into his contract from now on, or let me go, because this is getting embarrassing.”
Kathryn Hahn stole the show on the small screen
As career mom (and wife to a nanny-eyeing husband) Katherine Lavoyt in HBO’s “Girls” and the “pot and gun-obsessed man-eater” Carrie (via Slate) in “The Newsroom,” Kathryn Hahn once again demonstrated a comedic and dramatic range that would serve her career and audiences well in the coming years. In 2013 alone, Hahn starred (finally) as the leading lady in “Afternoon Delight,” as the comedic foil to Jennifer Anniston’s character in “We’re the Millers,” as atypical love interest Jenny Widgeon in Jason Bateman’s “Bad Words,” and as Ben Stiller’s free spirit/train wreck of a sibling in “The Secret Life of Walter Mitty.”
Her big-screen comedic success notwithstanding, Hahn was still lighting up the small screen as Mikey’s Mom in “Kroll Show” and as the scene-stealing, fast-talking, child-hating, designer suit-and-poncho-wearing Jennifer Barkley in “Parks and Rec.” The character was the campaign manager for Leslie’s (Amy Poehler) opponent Bobby Newport, played by — you guessed it — Paul Rudd. As Barkley, Hahn delivered some of the season’s most memorable one-liners and mastered the art of the deliciously condescending smile. She continued to appear in the occasional episode in later seasons, including a cameo in the series finale.
Hahn showed her range in everything from Transparent to Bad Moms
Kathryn Hahn then went on to head-up recurring and memorable characters Lee Payne and Chris in Showtime’s “Happyish” and Amazon Prime’s “I Love Dick,” respectively, but it was her turn as the truly unrepeatable Carla in “Bad Moms” (2016) and “A Bad Moms Christmas” (2017) that crowned her as the unofficial queen of the off-beat comedy for the modern era.
All the while, from 2014-2019, the actor was wooing television viewers everywhere with her Emmy-nominated role as Rabbi Raquel Fein in the critically-acclaimed dramedy “Transparent.” The role cemented her place in the hearts of TV audiences everywhere and propelled her into her first leading small-screen role since “Free Agents,” that of Eve Fletcher in HBO’s limited series “Mrs. Fletcher.”
Hahn would then star as Dessa Constantine alongside the MCU’s Mark Ruffalo in the dramatic mini-series “I Know This Much is True,” which earned Ruffalo a much-deserved Emmy for Outstanding Lead Actor in a Limited Series or Movie. The following year, Hahn would star in a project that would ultimately lead to her own Emmy nomination.
Kathryn Hahn was the reason to watch WandaVision
If you’re one of those poor, unfortunate souls who somehow missed the inimitable Kathryn Hahn in all of her many memorable film and television roles prior to 2021, odds are there’s one series for which you’ll undoubtedly recognize the “The Shrink Next Door” star. That is, of course, Marvel and Disney+’s smash-hit spin-off, “WandaVision.” As Agatha Harkness/Agnes, Hahn put her comedic range, ability to command a scene, and irresistible charm to exquisite use, in many ways becoming the real star of the sitcom-situated story of Wanda Maximoff (Elizabeth Olsen) and Vision (Paul Bettany).
Hahn was nominated for Outstanding Supporting Actress in a Limited or Anthology Series or Movie for “WandaVision,” but the Emmy ultimately went to Julianne Nicholson. (In part because Nicholson gave an incredible performance in “Mare of Easttown,” and in part because, as many completely objective and in no way biased fans believe, awards shows famously disregard superheroes unless they are very dark and sad, or made by Christopher Nolan.)
Now that Hahn is slated to show off her dramatic skills once again in “The Shrink Next Door,” (oh hey, Paul Rudd of the “KHU,” or Kathryn Hahn Universe) it’s hard not to wonder if this might finally be the year she gets formally recognized for her talents.