In John Green’s seminal work of sad teen fiction The Fault in Our Stars, he writes a particularly apt description of the onset of young love: “I fell in love the way you fall asleep: slowly, and then all at once.” Cutesy? Yes. Realistic? Also yes, but so too is the reverse, the erosion of love that slowly eats away at you over time without you really even noticing. Imagine going to yet another weekly brunch with your S.O. and inquiring about their huevos rancheros, only to be met with an abrupt and devastating declaration: “I don’t love you anymore!” (Talk about all at once.) This earthquake of a wake-up call hits Jules, Kat Dennings’s character in the new Margot Robbie–helmed Hulu comedy Dollface, within the first 30 seconds of the pilot. It’s clear from the get-go that she’s going to be in for a bumpy ride of finding herself and her place among her friends post-breakup.
Dollface is the endlessly amusing gift that results when Haruki Murakami–style magical realism meets the Millennial Pink, Goop-ed world of today. (The first person Jules encounters after her brunchtime breakup is a literal Cat Lady—Beth Grant in CGI cat face, whom Dennings calls “an absolute legend.”) Think a more bubblegum Sex and the City but 10 years younger and in L.A.—with cats, dreamlike interludes, a Gucci belt in a silverware drawer, and, of course, a formidable girl gang: Dennings, the heartbroken-ish leading lady, alongside her estranged besties, played by Shay Mitchell and Brenda Song, and a co-worker turned confidant, portrayed by Esther Povitsky. All of them are scene stealers at one point or another.
While looking for a unique project, Dennings got the Dollface script from LuckyChap, Margot Robbie’s production company. Naturally, “If Robbie gives you something, you just say yes to it,” she confesses, so she signed up to star and be an executive producer. Plus, Dennings saw the potential in the show, which gave her a chance to play a character different from herself and the previous roles she’s had (notably, as Max in CBS’s 2 Broke Girls).
Post-breakup, her character, Jules, struggles with finding her way back to her friend group, which she neglected during her relationship with her ex. Losing touch with friends is a universal result of aging and occasionally an unfortunate side effect of being in a relationship—people get married, move away, have kids, become vegan; it’s something Dennings relates to on a personal level. “I’ve been a career girl and been really focused, and all of a sudden I’m like Where did everybody go?” she says. “My closest friends are all over the map. My best pal has two kids now and is married. And it’s still the same person, the same love, but you just stand there and you’re like Did I just miss all the things?”
On the flip side, friendship was easy to come by on the set of the show, and Dennings had no trouble establishing a rapport with the rest of the cast. “There’s no better friendship environment than working on a set together because you’re basically at sleepaway camp,” she tells me. “You start at the crack of dawn, you get ready together, you get coffee together, you eat your breakfast together, you huddle in your little set, you find your little space. It was kind of magical in that way because the four of us got very close.” That closeness supports the characters in their various struggles—Jules’s struggle to show her friends she appreciates them, the group’s struggle to find its footing, everyone’s struggle to identify what feminism means in 2019. (Keep your eyes peeled for episode nine; it’s special.) According to Dennings, “It felt very emotional because there’s so much love there. I think viewers will feel that.”
Throughout the series, Jules’s particular struggle gets lessened somewhat by her fairy cat mother, the Cat Lady, who takes a staid old stereotype and flips it on its reductive head. Benevolent and hilarious, the Cat Lady magically pops up to zap Jules out of many an inward spiral, dispensing advice and necessary reality checks along the way. “I really liked calling her the Cat Lady because what it begins as is a culmination of Jules’s worst fears, which is like ‘Oh, society says if I don’t do this and this by this time, I’m going to be an old crazy cat lady,’” Dennings says. “We’re all told this, and it’s so ridiculous when you think about it. I don’t know, I have a cat, and she’s the best. What’s wrong with being a lady who has a cat?” (For the record, Dennings’s cat, Millie, is adorable.) “It starts there, but it becomes more of a symbol of strength and independence,” she continues.
The Cat Lady is something Dennings would like to explore more in the show, and as executive producer—aka she has a hand in casting, show notes, and production meetings—she has the power to help steer the show in that direction. “I had a decent amount to contribute from my experience,” Dennings says of her EP role, “but then I enjoyed sitting back and learning from other departments when I hadn’t dealt with something before. I also wanted to be an ally for the actors, to make sure they knew they could come to me with anything and everything.” She also literally gave the show its name. An ex used to call her dollface, which she never liked, but she did think it could make for a punchy title for the series. Clearly, she’s got good instincts.
Dennings was also heavily involved in her wardrobe and collaborated with Costume Director Ernesto Martinez on paring back Jules’s looks. “I had to kind of fight against the fashion aspect for Jules a little bit,” she says. “The temptation with a show with four female leads is to really have fun with it, which is so great and definitely works for Brenda’s character and Shay’s character, but for Jules, I didn’t want her to seem extremely confident at work and at life.” However, there is a monochromatic maroon moment in episode three (above) where Jules is in head-to-toe Norma Kamali that’s very F/W 19, and we should all take notes—just saying. And she may or may not have also worn a dangerously sheer floral D&G top that I wanted to snatch right off the screen.
Day to day, Dennings herself is more of a black-Amazon-leggings kind of girl—aren’t we all? “I really honestly wear black leggings from Amazon every single day,” she confesses. “I got inspired by that fashion lady with the glasses—Jenna Lyons. She’s a fantastic woman who wears black leggings and a blazer and her glasses and loafers, and she always wears some version of it and looks amazing. I was like, I’m going to be like that.” Maybe one day she’ll wear one of the hats she’s knitted lately too; it’s a hobby that doubles as stress relief (one she and Song share; they used to be neighbors and go to yarn shops together). “Knitting is one of those things where it keeps my hands busy and my mind busy, so it’s definitely a calming thing for me. At times I just need to make a scarf that just has one kind of a stitch so I can zone out,” Dennings confides.
She gets way more into beauty, to tell you the truth, and couldn’t say enough good things about the makeup looks Dollface makeup artist Mary Klimek created for her. “We had a lot of really exciting lip looks in the show,” Dennings exclaims. “One was Lime Crime in Red Velvet. That was one I wore in the Christmas episode; it’s a great red liquid lipstick. Then we mixed a lot of Rituelle de Fille. We used Rituelle de Fille in almost every single episode. My makeup artist, Mary Klimek, loves to combine shades. It was two to three per look, but we used pretty much any Rituelle de Fille. The brand is pretty awesome. I’m going to preach for it all day. It also has a balmy hydrator that we used every episode as well.”
Personally, I can’t wait for season two of Dollface—the more explorations of female friendships the better, I say. Dennings is hopeful too, but for now, she’s concentrating on her next project for Disney+, WandaVision. “I am not allowed to say a damn thing—I signed 700 NDAs,” she laughs. “But I’m very excited!” Same, girl.
Dollface premieres on Hulu on Friday, November 15.
Next up: Kat Dennings’s Dollface co-star Shay Mitchell is a master traveler and shares her packing tips.