For a series that is largely centered on the sexuality of one complicated woman (played wonderfully by Kathryn Hahn), I Love Dick sure has a lot of male energy in its title. And that male energy has a character to go along with it. But just who is Dick from I Love Dick and why is it his name in the title of the series instead of a woman's? Kevin Bacon, who plays Dick, the patron saint and beloved professor of Marfa, Texas, explains a bit more about the man, the myth, the legend.
"It’s just not straight down the middle kind of writing and storytelling; I love the character, although, I didn’t really know where he was gonna go," he says, sitting down to talk Dick on a snowy day during the Sundance film festival. The way he talks about his character, it's clear that he knows audiences aren't going to immediately warm to the guy.
"There was a part of me that was concerned about whether or not he was just going to be kind of a jerk and that I was just gonna be used as this tool to see what was going on with [Kathryn Hahn's character, Chris] without having any kind of investigation into who the guy is ... But Jill assured me that we would be exploring him with little bit more complexity as the series evolved and I think we have."
At the start of the series Dick is in fact, well, kind of a dick. All we know of this man is that he seems to think he knows everything, has some enigmatic sexual hold on the women who meet him (especially Chris), and that he's basically amassed a group of adoring fans in his tiny, little bubble in Marfa. Even if he's not the worst, these wrappings certainly paint an unflattering initial picture.
But Soloway's characters rarely stay in the box they start in, and Bacon assures me Dick is no different.
"The character is loosely based on a guy called Donald Judd, who was an artist, he was a sculptor, a successful sculptor in New York, who then found his way to Marfa, Texas, bought up a bunch of buildings because he wanted to have his sculpture in the desert, he wanted it to not be on a pedestal and he wanted to live in nature," offers Bacon. "So we kind of slid him into a little bit more of that world and what that brought up is this idea that I love of not having worked in years and struggling with that that he’s not creating anything. He’s confronting I think for the first time, as people do in my age, this constant mortality and what that does to a man."
Bacon adds that his own life has helped him add even more depth to the character. "Also the nature of celebrity is something that was really I thought was interesting — you know, I don’t get the chance to play celebrities very often, and yet I’ve lived as a celebrity for almost my entire life," he says. "So, to tap into that, even though [Dick is] a big fish in a very small pond of Marfa, Texas, he is a big fish, someone that people look at, look to, are always constantly watching, you know? They’re living in this glass house, in a way."
Of course, despite its name and the name of the book it's based on, I Love Dick is not actually all about Dick. And when I ask Bacon what he loves about the series, he's quick to praise the work of Hahn and Solloway.
"As a viewer, I love this show," says the actor. "I think that the acting, Kathryn and Griffin [Dunn] together is absolutely riveting; I think that the use of these snippets of kind of art films made by women that are tossed in there and the use of music, the camera work, the obvious unbridled sexuality of something is so kind of off the norm of this point that I find it just… I just think the show is fascinating."
And luckily for viewers, the "jerk" at the center of it might just prove to be fascinating as well.
Editor's Note: A previous version of this article mistakenly named Donald Judd as Donald Jug. We regret this error.