July 10th, 2012 by thetvchick
Are you going to tune into Political Animals this Sunday? I’m here to make sure you do! It’s a fantastic story that focuses on an ex-first family and how media attention and political motivations affect them. At the center is Elaine Barrish (played by Sigourney Weaver) whose story is slightly similar to Hillary Clinton — she tried to run for President, lost the nomination and became secretary of state. And did I mention she’s married to an ex-President with wandering eyes? In the first minute of the first episode, Elaine asks Bud for a divorce. But does she still love him? Did she only stay with him through affairs because she wanted to achieve political success? I recently had the chance to talk with the cast of Political Animals at a media junket. Ciaran Hinds (who plays Bud) talked about who he modeled his character after, the complex Elaine/Bud relationship and what the most fascinating thing he’s learned in preparing for his role.
Did you start as a new character or did you take it as a composite of different presidents?
Well, because it’s me doing it, I wasn’t doing an impersonation of anyone. With Greg’s help, because Greg has read an awful lot, he knows American politics very deeply. When we were talking about how we would approach it, the behavioral pattern of the man would seem to mirror Bill Clinton, but his speech pattern and his use of language, Greg said they sort of mirror Lyndon B. Johnson. They’re just a bit more southern, they’re a bit more earthy, they’re a bit more of Johnson in his private life. In the public persona, there’s a whole different way of being and because this story is played out in the public and in the private, you get the two cents of Bud should be a global statesman when he takes these people on and yet underneath that, there’s this conniving, scheming, loving, compassionate man as well.
Bud and Elaine have a really complex relationship, so how are we going to see that develop?
We’re all still finding out. But I think at the core of it, the very beginning, it was the second scene where they have a talk and she says “I want a divorce.” That’s the beginning of their relationship, is I want a divorce. They get the divorce, the divorce goes through, and he says at one stage that he’s lost his rudder because he genuinely believes, which I think he says at the end of the first episode, that we were meant for each other. Whatever goes on, whatever things that I can’t deal with, he genuinely believes that he’s not going to give up on her. He’s always going to be around, even though they’re divorced. But the thing is, he couldn’t do that unless he knew deeply, profoundly, even if she won’t say it, that she still feels that. She doesn’t have to say it, she can deny it, as we do, but the feeling is what it’s about. And I think he recognizes that. He certainly recognizes it himself. No matter how many women he’s been with, or spent time with, deeply and profoundly, there’s one person in this world that makes him as whole as he is, and that’s Elaine Barrish. And I think he believes even though he keeps winding her up and says “Come on, there had to be some good times” through the bad behavior and our connection with the family and he can see in her there’s still a chance. She’s saying “No chance in hell,” he’s still reading oh, there’s a little chance.
They kind of need each other. They use each other.
In episode three or four, he’s done his due term, but he still misses the glamour, the chutzpah, the joy of taking on the problems and he genuinely believes that she is proper presidential material. He wouldn’t waste the time just for the family. They believe in the country’s good and he believes that she is the right person to lead the country. So that gives him credence to what direction he goes in. She says “You just want this for you. You just can’t do without being in the limelight” and his answer to that is almost like “Do you have a problem with that?” And that is weird, isn’t it? The family’s always been in it.
You base your character on different political figures — you mentioned Clinton and Johnson. What was the most fascinating thing you learned when researching for your role?
I didn’t research it that much, I only took from what I knew and what I saw. But there were a few things about Johnson, things I had no idea about. He was the guy that put the tapes into the White House for the first time. That was the next president was then found out. But he had said what’s great about these tapes is when you do deals, politically, and you’re on the phone doing deals, I need your vote for this, if anybody reneggs on that, at the time of the vote, he says we got the tape. Do you want this to go public that you lied? It’s kind of scary, but then, politics is. Politics is scary and putting pressure on people for agendas that you have to fill. So I was amazed that it was Johnson. But there are tapes of him talking to his tailor about making a bit more room because my nuts are bigger than most people’s. This is weird to me, it should be personal and private, but it’s taped on the same tape that he’s using in his office.
Why do you think people will relate to this story?
Well, we hope they will relate to it. The first family’s always been very important, as far as I can see from an outsider, in the psyche of the American people. I can see parallels with the English royal family. Those kids that are born into it, they didn’t ask for it. They’re stuck in whatever’s gone on with the generations before them. What I think is interesting about the way Greg has written this, he’s written this with a lot of compassion for kids who grew up in the White House and what are they expected to be. This unreal world. And yet while their parents love them deeply, the kids got left behind a bit.
Does Bud still love Elaine?
Oh yeah, he’ll never not love her. He thinks, he hopes that she always has the heart for him even though his behavior has made it very difficult for her. Very, very difficult. He’s still turning it on, and she’s looking at him like Jesus, get out of my life, but at the same time her eyes are betraying a mixture of the good times. Life is a huge composite of the good, the bad, the indifferent.
Do you think there’s a vulnerable side to Bud?
I think there will be at some point in the storyline. Done in private. Because he’s still got to keep the face up. But there is a scene in fact, we’re about to shoot it, where he’s just alone in a hospital room with his son. That’s where you see the softer side, if you like.
Will we change our view on how we see Bud from the first episode to the last episode?
We just got the sixth episode and he’s still at it. He’s still egging her on…to run for President.
How can we expect your character to defend his legacy?
Somebody told me this thing that Clinton said, which I think is so human and so brilliant, “I don’t know if I was the best President that America ever had, but I sure as hell enjoyed it the most.” And I think that’s an extraordinary thing to say. To admit through all this difficult time, to still get the sense of enjoyment and the buzz that he gets. There’s a scene Greg wrote where he has the latest girl on his arm, who’s one hot chick, there’s a scene where they get out of a car together and she’s a well known soap opera [star] and they’re all looking for her autograph. And he gets out with her and goes hi everybody and no ones paying attention. Anybody? Oh there’s somebody. Those are the little moments that you want to add into the richness of the overall pattern of the person.
Be sure to tune into Political Animals on Sunday at 10 PM on USA.Tweet