Showtime's 'The Circus' Enlists MSNBC's Steve Schmidt

Steve Schmidt - 2012 Tribeca Film Festival - Getty-H 2018
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The former John McCain campaign manager is joining as a contributor for the show's third season.

When Showtime's campaign docuseries The Circus returns on Sunday for the second half of the show's third season, it will have a new contributor: veteran political strategist and MSNBC news analyst Steve Schmidt.

Schmidt, a Republican political strategist, formally renounced his membership in the party in June, further endearing himself to the progressive audiences that have welcomed his commentary and criticisms of the president on MSNBC.

He will appear in several of the show's nine more episodes this season, which bowed in April and took a break after May.

In an interview with The Hollywood Reporter, the show's co-hosts, journalists John Heilemann and Alex Wagner and political strategist Mark McKinnon, were mum on what viewers should expect when the show returns.

The show "lives in the moment," Heilemann said, generally filming each episode during the week before the Sunday it airs. But, he said a huge focus will be November's midterm elections, which he called "an existential drama for Donald Trump."

"We were conceived as a campaign series in 2016, and we're really excited about getting back out on the road and covering races for the House and the Senate, gubernatorial races, seeing how Trump plays out in America," Heilemann said. "We're going to be coast to coast, all over the country, trying to give to give people a sense of how these midterms are going to play out."

"We're going to be looking at how Trump and Trumpism has affected and shaped both parties," said Wagner, a CBS News correspondent who replaced Mark Halperin as a co-host for the third season after he was ousted for sexual misconduct.

McKinnon, who has worked on several presidential campaigns, credited Showtime, which he said has given the show the resources to "go places and do things that most other platforms or organizations just don't have the opportunity or resources to do."

He said he originally conceived the show, which launched for the 2016 election, to be a "one and done," perhaps returning only for the 2020 presidential election: "One week into the administration, David Nevins, the head of Showtime, said, 'Hey, The Circus hasn't stopped. Get back out there.'"

Asked if there's a plan to return for a fourth season, Wagner said, "If you know what's going to happen in American politics in the next year and the year after that, please let us know."

"God laughs at our plans," Heilemann said. "Your question assumes that there's going to be a 2019." Wagner added, "Will there be an America in 2019?"

Then, Heilemann answered more directly, saying, "If Showtime lets us keeping making a show, we'll keep making a show. It's a pretty big story."