Why Zoë Kravitz Wanted to Reinvent ‘High Fidelity’ for a New Generation
This past Valentine’s Day, Hulu debuted its original series High Fidelity, a reimagining of the 1995 Nick Hornby novel and 2000 John Cusack comedy. High Fidelity follows the life of a romantically frustrated record-store owner Rob (Zoë Kravitz) who revisits a few past lovers — what she refers to as her Top Five heartbreaks — in the hopes of better understanding why she’s still single. While the Hulu series depicts a gender-flipped lead and diverse cast set in 2020 Brooklyn (compared to the book’s mid-Nineties London and flick’s early-2000s Chicago), the themes of love, loss, and a good playlist are more prevalent now than ever.
Rolling Stone spoke to Kravitz about her connection to High Fidelity, her own history with music, and how she and her co-stars developed their in-store rapport.
What drew you to the update of High Fidelity?
The idea was brought to me by Sarah [Kucserka] and Veronica [West], the creators. I’m a huge fan of the book and the movie. To be completely honest, when I heard that they were making a remake, or a reboot — however you want to call it — I had two reactions. One was “Ooh!” and the other one was “Oh” [laughs]. Because I’m such a fan of the book and the movie, I’m very protective of [them]. And there are a lot of remakes happening right now, and when you love something, it can — it’s easy to feel protective. So [laughs], part of the reason I wanted to do it was to protect it.
I wanted to make sure that it was done with the right intentions. There was a punk spirit and an angsty, punky tone to this romantic comedy. That’s part of why we’ve all fallen in love with that world. I felt like I had a responsibility there.
Did you read the book or see the movie first?
I saw the movie first. I didn’t see the movie when it came out, because my mom [Lisa Bonet, who played Rob’s love interest Marie DeSalle in the 2000 film] wouldn’t let me see it — I was a little bit young. I saw the movie, I think, when I was maybe around 16, and then I read the book later. I read the book in my early twenties. I fell in love with the movie, and fell deeper in love with the world through the book. It just allows your imagination to go even further, and Nick Hornby’s tone and language are so wonderful.
Has the material resonated with you differently over the years, from seeing the movie at 16 to immersing yourself in its world now?
Yeah. There was something more romantic about it when I was younger, about this character that just couldn’t get it together, and the way that Rob saw the world, and saw herself, himself. There was something that I thought was really cool about that angst. Approaching it now, as more of an adult, there’s something really beautifully sad about it — maybe after just coming out the other side of being that person who just can’t get their shit together, and can’t allow themselves to be loved the way they want to be loved, and can’t allow themselves to love other people the way that other people need to be loved in order to be in a relationship with them.
As a young person, I thought, “Oh, cool, record store, and he’s angry, and he smokes cigarettes, and that’s so cool.” Now, I’m seeing the other side of that, and feeling the journey. It’s just less — it’s less pretty [laughs]. It feels less pretty. It feels less cute. It feels less romantic.
I would imagine, too, that the more time that you have to tell the story in a series, as opposed to a movie, allows you to dig into those feelings as well.
Yeah, absolutely. Someone today asked us why we left out certain things, but the only reason that everything’s not in the series right now is so that we have more things to draw from if we do future seasons. So, yeah, it’s cool to be able to dedicate one episode to going back to the Top Five, and dedicating certain episodes to [Rob] obsessing about Lily, her ex’s new partner. Especially when you’re dealing with a character who is obsessive, it’s a nice way to share that.
Being at a store all day leads people to develop a lived-in rapport with each other. How did you develop that relationship with [co-stars] Da’Vine Joy Randolph and David H. Holmes?
We attempted to spend a lot of time together before we started shooting. I would invite them over, and I would try to put together a lot of dinners and stuff. It does make a huge difference, how comfortable you feel with each other. And it’s funny: We ended up doing just a few reshoots for the pilot by the end, and you could see and feel the difference. You just can’t fake it; some things just take a little bit of time. I was really happy that we got the opportunity to go back and reshoot some of the stuff that we had together, because now everyone was so much more comfortable in their skin. Everyone had stepped out of the idea of playing a character and playing some version of themselves, and the friendship really does come through. We really do love each other, and by the end it felt like we did work in the store together.
You grew up around music [Kravitz’s father is the guitarist-singer Lenny Kravitz], and you sang in Big Little Lies. Were you ever in bands, or did you ever play any instruments, in your youth?
I’ve dabbled with instruments. I played the drums for a little bit in high school, and piano. But I never had the discipline to stick with anything. I was in a band in my early twenties, and now have been kind of, when I have time, attempting to write some new music. Making music is something that I love to do. Because it’s not my main focus at the moment, it almost feels like a vacation, you know. I’d rather go make music in a studio when I have time off than go sit on a beach. I like being active and creative in that way.
Do you have any all-time favorite record stores?
Amoeba’s always been a home away from home. There was a store in New York — it’s gone now — called Kim’s Video, and they also had CDs and some records. That was one of my favorite places. I went to Virgin and Tower when I was a kid.
Are there any records hidden in the Championship Vinyl stacks that have a particular resonance for you?
There were a lot of records that we didn’t know, so we would go look them up and listen to them. There are some really wacky, crazy record covers out there, and we would develop these relationships with the people on the covers. They would change out, too. [The production staff] would constantly be rotating them so it felt like a real place, and so we’d make all these new discoveries. It was a real record store. All the records were there, they’re real, and we could actually browse and discover new music, too, which was really cool.