July 15th, 2012 by thetvchick
Political Animals premieres on Sunday and it pulls back the curtain on the polished facade of politics to reveal a fractured family. Despite intense public scrutiny, this dynasty cannot escape the magnetic pull of the high stakes world of sex, greed and politics. Sigourney Weaver stars as Elaine Barrish, now out from under the shadow of her husband (and former President), she proves herself to be a gifted politician with a fierce desire to right the wrongs of the world, whether in international diplomatic chambers or in her own living room. Weaver’s performance is powerful and riveting, as is the show. I recently had the chance to chat with the cast of Political Animals at a media junket. Weaver had some incredibly intelligent things to say about her character, why she chose to go into television and who Elaine is modeled after.
Who did you model Elaine after?
You know I was really delighted to have an opportunity to channel some of the amazing mentors I’ve had in my life, even from grade school. I know that sounds funny, my headmistress Mildred Berenson, my english teacher Florence Hunt, everyone from Mike Posner who now works at the State Department, to Frances Beinecke who runs NRDC. So many people I know who I’ve worked with in non-profit work. It’s much more to me about leadership than politics and about the quality of leadership and the quality of listening and team building. I just feel like Elaine brings a different kind of energy because she’s a woman and because of what she’s been through, what she’s not interested in doing. So she brings something else to politics that to me is much more the spirit of sort of the non-profit world.
What did you go into the project thinking of Elaine and how has that changed?
I think what I’m finding very satisfying is the play between the very effective public woman and the kind of just like the rest of us, sometimes dysfunctional, not quite effective wife and mother, ex-wife and mother. But for me personally as an actor, I realize I’ve been so fortunate playing lots of different things, but I’ve often played characters who are sort of on the periphery of things, who’ve been kind of sidelined because of who they are or what they are, so gosh Elaine is like, really a mainstream woman. And I’ve never had that kind of big, juicy meal. So I’m enjoying how mainstream she is because usually I love playing eccentric people or people who just don’t fit in and I’m very happy in that world. And I wasn’t really looking to play an all-American person like Elaine, yet it’s very interesting for me.
Since this your very first TV mini-series, why did you say yes?
Well, first of all, it just came to me and I worked with Greg for one day and he was so passionate about Elaine and about the show, what he wanted for the show, his goals for the show. And I guess I felt that I had been talking around the world about the environment and this idea of what women bring to leadership and how we do things differently and it’s not so much about hierarchical structure of leadership, it’s much more linear and it’s much more about team building and inclusion and listening and all these other things. That was very interesting to me and I also believe in going where the material is. Frankly, the best material right now is in television. The material that’s the richest and the most interesting and the most layered and I thought that intellectually, now I know it’s true because day after day we’re doing these incredibly rich, demanding scenes. Family, DC, this, that, I mean it’s just like whoa, it’s so cool. But I don’t think I could have talked about it because I didn’t know what I was missing until I started to do it, frankly. It’s interesting to play someone who’s made such a commitment to the political system. And whatever they say about Bud Hammond, he’s a genius and he and she, whatever may push them apart, they are aligned in wanting a better world and a better life for U.S. citizens.
You mentioned people in your life that you modeled Elaine after, do you see any of yourself in Elaine?
Gosh, that’s interesting. I don’t really. I’m so weird. Elaine is so — you know how people in school are elected to office. I was never that person. Elaine was always that person. So I’m like the freak looking at her. If it was Parent Trap or something, she’d be like the girl scout and I’d be like the goblin. So that’s how I look at her, but I love putting on her clothes and going and playing her. I’ve never been anywhere close to that person.
The Elaine/Bud relationship is so interesting and so fascinating and so complex. How are we going to see that play out?
Well, you know, I don’t know. May I say, I just don’t know. I’m glad you think it’s fascinating because Ciaran Hinds is such a magnetic performer and he’s so compelling as Bud. I think they’re going to write up a storm for this man and of course their relationship, I don’t know what it’s like to be divorced to a man who still finds you attractive, and you still find him attractive. I don’t know how that works. I know that it exists, I read about it, but to actually be in that living room, it’s very complicated. I think she really thought that that was behind her and it’s a big surprise to her. And he’s such a wonderful actor. He’s so charismatic. So I love the scenes with him. He’s just so solid. It’s great.
Did you watch Hillary and Bill in their relationship to compare?
No, no. I know there are obvious, superficial similarities with the Clintons, but really, I think Greg Berlanti has been inspired by all the families in the White House. The families who have been in the White House pay a price for that experience. And oddly, because maybe that changes them, they all want to get back in the White House. So it’s inspired by the Roosevelts, the Kennedys, the Bushes, all these different families. And that’s really why he wrote this. I have great respect for the Clintons, especially for her, she was an amazing senator of our state and she really, really listened to the people upstate which is very unusual. And we miss her as senator. But I always consider them private people, maybe because I’m a celebrity. I was like, that’s up to them and of course, all those Republicans who went after him, they all had love children on the side — that’s when the real hypocrisy started in this era and it took our country in such a terrible turn, and we’ve not really recovered from it.
What are your thoughts on women in politics?
It is about what women bring in terms of leadership. I think our leadership is much more practical. It’s much more inclusive. I’ve spent years as a parent watching these women make things work at schools that weren’t working and in communities. If you want to get something done, ask a mother. They get things done. So why can’t we bring that same kind of energy to Washington. Why are we so tragically underrepresented in Washington. That’s the real question. That’s the main reason I think I’m doing this to show an effective woman in Washington who is herself, who doesn’t play games, who does it her way for the right reasons and maybe if we see it, we can help create it. Because we need them. We need us. No offense…[to the men in the room]
Be sure to tune in tonight at 10 PM to USA Network for the big premiere of Political Animals.Tweet