The Dueling Talents of Lola Kirke

Now splitting her time between acting and music, the Gemini star is conducting to her own tune.

BACKSTORY: A multi-hyphenate actress/musician from an artistic family (her father is Simon Kirke, drummer of Bad Company; her sisters are singer/songwriter Domino Kirke and actress Jemima Kirke)
FROM: London, England; raised in New York City from the age of five; currently splits her time between New York and Los Angeles
YOU MIGHT KNOW HER FROM: Starring roles in Noah Baumbach’s Mistress America and the Golden Globe–winning Amazon show Mozart in the Jungle
NOW: Playing the lead in Aaron Katz’s neo-noir LA murder mystery Gemini, and touring with Middle Kids in support of her upcoming debut album Heart Head West from Downtown Records, out in August

Twenty-seven-year-old Lola Kirke is the youngest of three successful artist sisters, and the only person in her family who speaks with a different accent. Following a recent vocal cord injury, she’s been considering how her smoky voice functions, or “how we as humans use our voices to assimilate or distinguish ourselves from other people,” as she puts it. “I can’t help but think there’s something to the fact that I’m the only person in my family with an American accent. Jemima nurtures her British accent, so there must’ve been some kind of destruction of mine for some reason.”  

This is in reference to Jemima Kirke, star of HBO’s Girls and big sister to Lola. The two recently played siblings in their first film together, Emma Forrest’s Untogether—the project that Lola received the vocal injury on; she had to scream at Jemima in a scene that later got cut.

“It’s harder for me to believe in myself as a musician than as an actor—but it’s harder to get work as an actor than as a musician.”

Lola has the air and gravitas of a ’70s starlet, more classic than modern, and a sleepy-sultry way of talking. After studying electronic arts and film at Bard College (“I feel very far from an electronic artist,” she quips), she broke onto the acting scene in David Fincher’s Gone Girl as a sleazy opportunist who robs the main character blind at a cheap motel. She went on to star in Noah Baumbach’s Mistress America as an NYU freshman who pals around with her stepsister-to-be (Greta Gerwig) and dreams of becoming a writer—a deeply convincing performance earning Kirke considerable critical praise.

Between these two films, she landed a leading role on Amazon Studios’ Mozart in the Jungle, a drama set behind the scenes of the New York Symphony. Kirke played an oboist who dates her orchestra conductor (Gael García Bernal) and later becomes a conductor in her own right. “It was challenging,” she says of learning how to fake-conduct for the part, “but 
it felt guided by something. My coach was this fantastic conductor, 
Eímear Noone, and she was really excited that there was going to be a woman conductor represented in the media for the first time. She was 
so passionate about it, and that rubbed off on me.”

Kirke now splits her time between music and acting—unsurprising, as her dad Simon is the drummer for Bad Company and her sister Domino is a singer/songwriter, too. “I grew up going to my dad’s concerts,” says Kirke. “I was always fascinated by the music.” She recently released “Monster,” the first single off her “grungy country rock” debut album scheduled to come out in August.

As a kid, Kirke could’ve done with a musical role model like her character on Mozart. “Playing an instrument was something that felt distinctly male to me,” says Kirke. “I didn’t know many women instrumentalists growing up. I could sing, but didn’t feel much agency over my own voice. Then when I was eighteen, I got my heart broken and picked up a fucking ukelele.” That ukulele eventually gave her the confidence to try the guitar.

“It’s harder for me to believe in myself as a musician than as an actor—but it’s harder to get work as an actor than as a musician,” Kirke explains. “As a musician, I can create my own work. That’s one of the things I love about it.” FL

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