Within the first minute of Hulu’s new show Dollface (out tomorrow), Jules (Kat Dennings) gets dumped by her boyfriend—over soggy huevos rancheros...rough—and realizes that her sense of identity was completely wrapped up in her former couple status. The rest of the 10-episode series alternates between reality and Jules' (Instagram-filtered) imagination as she re-enters girl world, starting with winning back the BBFs she'd ghosted during her relationship (the supremely cast Brenda Song, Shay Mitchell, and Esther Povitsky). For the 33-year-old 2 Broke Girls actress, who also acts as executive producer, putting authentic female friendships on-screen was paramount...and personal.
Marie Claire: The show explores feminism, female friendship, and the tropes that surround the two. How did you approach that material?
Kat Dennings: I think we are seeing a lot more female-led projects now, which is great, but I've definitely never seen anything like this show and its tone and the devices it uses on TV before. I think the positive way that Dollface differs from the stereotypical female friendships we've seen is it’s not the catty relationships that people love to pretend women have. I’m happy that younger audiences get to see a show like this and realize that other women are not an enemy.
Part of what drew me to this project is that I’ve always struggled with identity. I was homeschooled in the socializing years of my life, from age 13 to when I graduated high school. I didn’t have your typical, trope-y, “girlfriends” thing. The show was like a social experiment for me. My friends don't really exist in a group. I don't really have a squad. I do not have a squad. I'll just clarify that. I don't: I have a lot of great friends who are close, who are all different from each other and in different places. I was interested in breaking down what having a close group of friends looked like.
MC: Have you experienced anything similar to Jules?
KD: I have been Jules. I’m 100-percent guilty of [ditching friends for a guy]. I messed up so badly with my friends during one of my biggest relationships, and thank God, my best friend and I have gotten through it, and we can laugh about it now. I have been a person who, for better or for worse, has been the closest to the relationship I’m in with a man. That’s been one of my patterns, and I have consciously tried to stop doing that. I'm 33, so it's about time that I started looking at myself. My female friendships have been the touchstones in my life—they’re like our longest love affairs.
MC: The show feels genre-bending, vacillating back and forth between the real world and a the magical realism of Jules' imagination. Why use such a device?
KD: The magical realism style enters the show when Jules is overwhelmed, or has a decision to make. I call it the Calvin and Hobbes effect. For the people who don't know, Calvin and Hobbes is a comic strip from my childhood that is brilliant. It's about a little boy and his stuffed tiger toy that comes to life when he's alone. We wanted to throw you into kind of the Alice in Wonderland magical world.
MC: You’re also the show’s executive producer—your first time in that role. What was that like?
KD: I have to say it's completely different [from acting]. When you're an actor only, you don't really feel like you have much of a say. I think that's partially up to how your confidence level is with the people around you. I'll usually speak up no matter what. If I feel like if I'm being bumped by something, I'll always say something to the director. But in general when you're an actor, you do your thing and trust everybody else to do their thing.
But after 2 Broke Girls, I felt like I’ve had enough experience to lend something positive to the process. The casting process felt especially rewarding because I know it can be brutal. I wanted to make the cast feel they could come to me with any issue.“Executive producer” is definitely a thing that some people like to just slap their name on and it’s part of the deal. But I was very involved. I really enjoyed it, especially working with Margot Robbie's company LuckyChap, which produced the show.
MC: How does the friendship in Dollface compare to the one in 2 Broke Girls?
KD: Beth [Behrs] and I had such a close friendship while shooting 2 Broke Girls, and the cast of Dollface was also very close—especially me and Brenda Song. She's one of the closest people in my life now, and it happened almost instantly. I'm kind of a little grandma, and I’m very into knitting. Interestingly enough, so is Brenda, so we brought knitting to set. Real friendship like that shines through in the material, no matter what we're seeing.
For more stories like this, including celebrity news, beauty and fashion advice, savvy political commentary, and fascinating features, sign up for the Marie Claire newsletter.