'West Wing' Star Richard Schiff Returns to Politics in 'Chasing the Hill' (Exclusive)
The forthcoming web series will explore the complicated process of running for Congress in a fictional story that plans to take a docudrama approach.
In the year of a presidential election, with a wave of political dramas soon to hit TV screens and theaters, indie filmmaker Brent Roske is hoping his upcoming modestly budgeted web series designed for pay per view distribution will get on the viewer’s ballots as well.
Chasing The Hill, scheduled to hit the web on May 15,will star Richard Schiff, the veteran actor who played White House communications director Toby Ziegler for the seven seasons on the heralded NBC drama West Wing, which ended its run in 2006. He will be joined by a cast of familiar and new faces. Schiff, who is also a producer on the project, is busy with a new TV series pilot and several upcoming movie roles, but decided to take on Chasing The Hill in order to “take something (being distributed) on pay per view and see what we can do with it.”
“What interests me is the trail people have to get on to be successful in politics today,” says Schiff, “which is very different than even five or ten years ago because of the Supreme Court decision (Citizens United). It’s all about Pac money now. It’s about how much you can raise to spend on TV advertising and negative campaigning.”
The fictional plot will feature appearances from real-life politicians, adding a kind of docudrama feeling to accompany the series' guerilla-style approach to give the series a sense of realism. Many scenes will be shot on location with hand-held cameras.
Among those from the political world who are participating are former Virginia Governor and Senator Chuck Robb, former Alaska Sen. Mike Gravel, California Rep. Mel Levine, Libertarian party chairman Mark Hinkle and community organizer Marcy Winograd.
The 46-year-old Congresswoman, who will have a family and political life, will portray a independent-minded Democrat. The show will reflect that it is a presidential election year, but Roske insists it isn’t partisan. He says it is “party agnostic,” and that it will mainly focus on "campaigning and the ins and out’s of the strategy involved.”
The first episode will also feature Current TV talk show host Cenk Uygur, who recently celebrated the 10th anniversary of his show The Young Turks. He will do an interview on the actual set of his Current TV show in Culver City with the fictional Congresswoman running for re-election. “I'll be playing a fast-talking news anchor who challenges politicians and asks them questions the mainstream media won't,” says Uygur, who in the past has also been an actor. “I would have been offended if they asked anyone else to play that part. That's the role of my life.”
Schiff is playing what he describes as a “political operative,” which is part political consultant and part pollster.