'Grace and Frankie' Star on Being Inspired by "Wake-Up Call" Donald Trump for 'Represent' Book
'Long Shot' actress June Diane Raphael co-authors a women's guide to running for office with policy wonk Kate Black.
For those who think Hollywood figures should keep their political opinions to themselves, June Diane Raphael has a book to recommend: Represent: The Woman's Guide to Running for Office & Changing the World (Workman, $20), which the Grace and Frankie actress co-authored with policy wonk Kate Black, formerly of the pro-choice Democratic PAC EMILY's List. "I totally disagree with the idea that actors or writers or directors or anyone who works in the entertainment industry shouldn't speak on these issues," says Raphael, who was galvanized to develop the book — larded with statistics and testimonials from the world of politics as well as a lively exchange of ideas between her and Black — by the "wake-up call" of Donald Trump's election.
The podcaster (How Did This Get Made?) and co-working entrepreneur (she co-founded L.A. workspace The Jane Club) was politically engaged and had even worked on a few campaigns before that fateful 2016 night. But, like many in Hollywood, she didn't see Trump's win coming or understand the forces and issues behind it. "I was in a place of, 'Well, Hillary will win, of course. And I'll just hand over the keys to her and I'll see y'all in four years,'" she says. "I don't think I understood, well, like many white people, what my role in the world was and how I was upholding systems. It forced me to engage in a different way."
Raphael's grief over the election quickly turned to anger and she began to think of running for office herself. "I felt that if Donald Trump could be the president then I could be too," she says, adding that, after doing some research, she realized that the reality of running for office is shrouded in a kind of secrecy, especially for women. Raphael played consigliere to Charlize Theron's presidential contender in May's Long Shot, which "highlights some of the very real barriers women face running for office," she says. "Charlize brought full humanity to Charlotte Field — we saw her flaws, humor, intelligence and desire — and I think seeing full and flawed women run onscreen models leadership for all of us offfscreen."
In other words, representation matters. "So many of us have this idea of a politician being older and male and white and a lawyer and having degrees and we usually don't consider ourselves," Raphael continues. "So I really set out to answer my own question of how this could work in my life."
The can-do tone of the book is set from the opening page's "I'm Running for Office" checklist, which previews everything the following chapters will address — from setting fundraising goals and maintaining campaign supporter spreadsheets to mitigating a dicey social media past and deciding what to wear. (The section on dress, one of the shortest in the book, reckons with the disconnect between the fact that women shouldn't need to worry about what they wear and the fact that they are held to a different standard than male candidates. Or as Raphael puts it in the book, "…this chapter is a sexist Bermuda Triangle and by including it ... we are intentionally flying right into it.")
Single-page profiles of women who are already in office bookend every chapter, providing more encouragement, under the header, "She Believed She Could, So She Did." They include one of the first two Native American congresswomen elected to office in 2018, New Mexico representative Deb Haaland; Minnesota representative and newly elected "Squad" member Ilhan Omar, one of the first Muslim women in Congress; transgender state legislator Danica Roem from Virginia; Kentucky lieutenant governor Jeneen Hampton; and California's Nancy Pelosi, the U.S.' first-ever woman speaker of the House.
While researching the book, the co-authors spoke about whether Raphael might run one day and what aspiring candidates could learn from people in Hollywood — like how to roll with inevitable rejection. "I could really connect with that [fear]," says Raphael. "I felt I could offer something about working without a net and just going for it."
Also versed in working without a net: the titular characters of Raphael's Netflix series. So who would make a better candidate, Jane Fonda's Grace or Lily Tomlin's Frankie? "Grace probably started off as a Republican and now I think her views have probably changed, in large part from being in such close proximity to a radical character like Frankie," Raphael says. "But I ultimately think Grace Hanson would make a better leader, I've got to say. And not just because she's my [character's] mom." And if they happened to run as a team? "That's an unbelievable ticket!"
A version of this story first appeared in the Sept. 4 issue of The Hollywood Reporter magazine. To receive the magazine, click here to subscribe.