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Keira Naughton on ‘Hunting and Gathering,’ Klonopin, and Calling Ethan Hawke Gay

Naughton in Hunting and Gathering.Photo: James Leynse

In some ways, actress Keira Naughton differs from Ruth, the couch-surfing, house-sitting, semi-happily lost soul she plays opposite Meryl Streep progeny Mamie Gummer in Hunting and Gathering, Brooke Berman’s buzzy new dramedy playing at 59E59 Theaters. In her New York tenure, Ruth has lived in several dozen apartments; Naughton lived in only about three before she bought her own Hell’s Kitchen one-bedroom six years ago. But Ruth is also freaked out over a bad breakup, and when Naughton settled down post-yoga with her cell phone in a Park Slope café to talk with us this morning, she found herself in just that scenario. So that’s where we’ll begin…

So you’re in Park Slope right now?
I spent the last two nights out here with my best friend, who’s got a huge fantastic house right next to the park. She cooks nice meals for me and her little 4-year-old twins, who are my godchildren. I’m going through a horrible breakup so she’s taking care of me.

Oh, we’re sorry. When did the breakup happen?
It’s hard to say. It sort of happened Wednesday. I’m on drugs right now. I called in and got some Klonopin. It’s amazing, it’s really helping me. I’m actually very wary of prescription drugs, but it’s a crisis and I needed help. I also have the aid of the show. I can have my own little catharsis in moments of the play. I have to stop dating men who are completely insane. If I could just find someone who’s slightly insane!

How much are you like your character, Ruth? We loved her, but she also drove us sort of crazy because she was so all over the place.
She drives me crazy, too. I’m personally more grounded, but I still have a lot in common with Ruth in that there is sort of the fun and the adventure and romance of being kind of a drifter, or wanting to explore and experience life and getting yourself in trouble. Not entirely taking care of yourself. Look at me right now!

Your dad, James Naughton, is a pretty well-known actor himself. Did you grow up thinking acting was special and magical or just your father’s job?
It was a little bit of both. When I was 5, we moved back to Connecticut from L.A., so we could play outside. But one of my first memories was when my dad was doing the TV series Planet of the Apes, and being on the set. These apes would be waving at me and trying to cuddle me and I was freaked out. Then when I was 4, my dad took me to a shoot of a movie he was making with Lindsay Wagner called Second Wind, about runners. They were shooting the big race at the end of the movie. I’d go, “Did my dad win?” and they’d say, “Your dad won!” It was confusing.

Has Meryl come to the show?

Were you nervous?
Not extra nervous. I get nervous if I know there are critics in the audience, and the night they were all there, it was very apparent. They were totally quiet and writing. It’s hard to do a show if you feel like you’re performing it for no other purpose than to be judged.

You and your friends also have a folk-rock band called The Petersons, and you have a song called “Ethan Hawke,” which is basically about spotting Ethan Hawke making out with a guy in a gay bar in Chelsea.
[Band member] Adam [Stein] wrote that song. The point of the song, if you listen all the way through, is that Adam’s just projecting. Ethan Hawke, he’s not really gay. He’s dated a lot of women friends of mine. It’s a libelous song. Ethan and I had a very unfortunate introduction at a bar where a friend thought it would be a great opportunity for us to meet [and told Hawke about the song]. Ethan was not so thrilled. He told me in no uncertain terms to go do something obscene with myself. He did apologize to me profusely afterward and said it had nothing to do with the song, that he was just going through hell in his life and he didn’t need to hear that somebody was talking about him in an unkind way. Personally, I wouldn’t have written the song.

So, what’s next for you after this show?
Unemployment, destitution. I’m trying to get a life plan together. I’m planning to take more Klonopin. —Tim Murphy

Keira Naughton on ‘Hunting and Gathering,’ Klonopin, and Calling Ethan Hawke Gay