Kali Hawk says the makers of “Fifty Shades of Black” weren’t ready for the level of nerdishness she brought to set. In the parody — of “Fifty Shades of Grey,” of course — she plays Hannah, the analog for the book and movie’s Ana: a submissive lit student who finds herself involved in an S&M relationship with a creepy billionaire (Marlon Wayans, who also co-wrote). The version played by Hawk, 29 — of “Black Jesus,” “New Girl” and “Couples Retreat” — is even brainier, just as the movie, she says, shows up the romance as powerfully creepy and disturbing.
So you wound up adding more to Hannah than had been written?
I don’t think anyone could write it. I think they had an idea of a girl and she’s smart and she’s studying literature — and that’s where it stops. Unless you’re a really nerdy girl, you don’t know how deep that rabbit hole can go. Every day on set I would show them how deep down the rabbit hole I can go. They liked it. It’s exactly who the character is. It was even more colorful than they could have imagined. I felt more encouraged to be myself in that role than I ever have. They wanted to see what other weird stuff was going to pop out of my head.
You’re also adding a female voice to a very male-dominated film.
Even Amy Schumer has a toughness to her comedy [to help her] stand out in a male-dominated industry. Even if your focus isn’t on how male-dominated it is, you’re coming up against obstacles and facing different expectations. It does cause you to change certain elements of your humor. With me, I’m basically an introvert, so almost all my contributions tend to be intellectual. No one was expecting Hannah to be like Larry David in the body of a young Raquel Welch. That’s what made it even funnier, that he falls in love with a girl like that.
“Fifty Shades of Grey” gets a lot of bad press, but some of it is good. Dakota Johnson is subtly funny in it.
I love Dakota Johnson in the movie. I wanted to make sure my portrayal of this character wasn’t taking anything from her, but that I was doing a more extreme version. Marlon and I were improvising and I told him I was going to take him to the Stephen Hawking exhibit and f— him till there was a tear in the time-space continuum. This is someone who thinks about science and literature, bringing those into conversation with the creepy billionaire who wants to abuse you, essentially.