Cate Blanchett: Drama Needs to Be "Challenging and Impolite"

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Cate Blanchett

The star at a London TV conference spoke about Australian immigration series 'Stateless,' which she co-created, also sharing: "I love zombies, I love vampires, 'Walking Dead' is one of my all-time-favorite series."

Cate Blanchett at a London TV conference Wednesday said that drama should be "challenging and impolite," especially at a time when politics has become a "burlesque." 

The actress spoke at C21’s Content London in the British capital on a panel about Australian drama Stateless, which she co-created, and executive produced, with Tony Ayres and Elise McCredie. Blanchett and Andrew Upton’s company, Dirty Films, is also producing the series.

The six-part drama about four strangers whose lives collide at an immigration detention center in the middle of the desert stars Yvonne Strahovski, Jai Courtney, Asher Keddie, Fayssal Bazzi, Dominic West and Blanchett. It was commissioned by Australian broadcaster ABC and backed by Screen Australia and the South Australian Film Corporation.

Also speaking at the session were Jeff Wachtel, president of NBCUniversal International Studios, Alastair McKinnon, managing director at Matchbox Pictures, the Australian producer owned by NBCU that also made Glitch, and Bazzi.

"As soon as you mention the word refugee, doors close. I mean quite literally for refugees, but also the doors of various television executives," Blanchett said about her experience with pitching a project with a serious subject matter, adding that even when executives call a project "important" or "worthy," that is "the death knell."

She argued that topical shows are particularly important in this day and age. "The world is having a massive, massive problem with nuance” and needs drama that is "elephant-in-the-room programming," which creates conversation, Blanchett argued. "That's what drama really should do."

She continued: "I love zombies, I love vampires, Walking Dead is one of my all-time-favorite series.... But I do think that we are living in a time where our political systems…have become a burlesque," so drama has to step in. Blanchett said programming needs a "lack of compromise" to succeed here. "Drama should be challenging and impolite."

Wachtel, who oversees all aspects of TV development, production and strategic content partnerships for NBCU International Studios and its banners, including Carnival Films, creator of Downton Abbey and Netflix series The Last Kingdom, as well as Matchbox, on Wednesday said that his team is closing in on a deal with "a global distributor," which he didn't name, for Stateless