Zoë Kravitz explains why High Fidelity reopens the debate about Michael Jackson and Kanye West
What would your favorite music artist have to do before you delete them from your Spotify playlist? That question is at the center of a heated argument early on in Zoë Kravitz’s new Hulu series High Fidelity. Sure, maybe you’ve read the 1995 book of the same name, or seen the 2000 film with John Cusack, maybe even the Broadway musical in 2006 that closed in 10 days, but the Big Little Lies star, who’s also a co-executive producer on the show, made sure to lay down a track that spoke directly to music lovers today.
“We have a conversation on the show about Michael Jackson and Kanye. I had a little bit of a worry of ‘Is this going to still be interesting to hear when the show comes out?'” Kravitz tells EW. “But I think it is! I think with pop culture, even though it’s constantly changing and evolving, if the question is interesting, if the debate is interesting, it doesn’t really matter how relevant it is in terms of time.”
Kravitz plays Rob, a loveless record store owner who works along with her friend Cherise (Da’Vine Joy Randolph) and an ex-turned-friend Simon (David Holmes). To kick off episode 1, Rob smashes through the fourth wall to break down her top 5 all-time heartbreaks, including her most recent with the jaw-dropping Mac (Kingsley Ben-Adir). She battles to get over him by trying to date new men, including blooming love interest Clyde (Jake Lacey), but something isn’t quite playing Rob’s tune. Through the conversations we see at or outside the record store, the show’s soundtrack becomes a backbone that carries Rob and the audience through bliss and absolute dread. Kravitz tells EW she hand-crafted the playlist to fit the tone of the show. The music itself never drowns out the drama, but lifts it up like a raft through the rapids of scorned lovers and tired, hot takes.
In episode 2, aptly titled “Track 2,” Rob is dragged out of her office while listening to “Loving You” by Minnie Riperton to make a ruling on the record store floor: A twentysomething blonde is trying to buy a Michael Jackson album for her boyfriend. Cherise is perturbed at the notion, calling the lady someone “who clearly has never been on the internet before.”
“How does it benefit society to hold Quincy’s genius hostage just because the dude who sang over his s— ended up being a full-blown child molester?” Rob tells the crowd at full attention. The argument veers into other controversial music artists, including Charles Manson (yup, it’s a thing.) The back-and-forth is a nuanced acrobatic act that could have fizzled, but instead opens up a conversation to have with our own problematic faves.
Yes, High Fidelity is a show about finding love, but it’s also a celebration of our intimate relationship with music as a representation of who we are and what we stand for: The ultimate vibe check. EW spoke with Kravitz on what it’s like to be on a project with a link to her mother, Lisa Bonet, as well as how she got Debbie Harry of Blondie fame to make an appearance.
ENTERTAINMENT WEEKLY: I was really surprised you guys got the rights to so many great songs. Were there any songs on the soundtrack that you were especially happy ended up on the show?
ZOË KRAVITZ: A lot of the music that ended up on the show came from a very, very long playlist I made. As we were writing the show, I was just constantly adding to it. It kind of became the soundtrack of the show, of the character. Specifically, “I Believe When I Fall in Love,” which was the closing title song in the movie and that was a big inspiration for me. The Ann Peebles song “I Can’t Stand the Rain.” Paul McCartney and Wings with “Arrow Through Me” was on that playlist. Prince’s “So Blue.”
You already had a link to this project since your mother, Lisa Bonet, was in the 2000 film. Did that connection draw you in?
It felt serendipitous and wonderful. The funny thing is that I was a huge fan of the movie not because of my mother being involved. My favorite movies growing up were Empire Records and Reality Bites — these angsty movies that talk about almost nothing and everything at the same time. Those kinds of projects are made less and less now. And so it was a lovely coincidence.
The soundtrack feels really personal as well. There’s the idea that if I relate to it, other people will too. I’ve been Rob. I feel like we’ve all been Rob or will be Rob again. There’s those moments where we all really have to stop and question everything.
Blondie’s Debbie Harry has a surprising and sweet role on the show as your conscious. What was it like to get someone like her on the show and on set?
In the  movie, you have Bruce Springsteen who plays Rob’s mentor in his mind. There was a question of who was going to play that role now. Someone who feels like just as exciting and important as Bruce. Debbie Harry was the first person that we thought of. We share a manager. And so it was surprisingly easy. I think we all kind of thought it was a really long shot. We sent the script to her. The response was something along the lines of “Cool, sounds fun!” [Laughs] She came to set and was so sweet. She’s a little nervous because you know, she sings. Acting is different for her. It was just so human to see her be a little nervous. She brought so much charisma to it.
High Fidelity drops the needle on Feb. 14, Valentine’s Day.