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The similarities are striking between Sigourney Weaver‘s character in Political Animals and Hillary Clinton: both lost the Democratic presidential nomination to a younger male rival; both have been First Lady to a popular president with a roving eye; both are tough as nails.
Weaver portrays Elaine Barrish, who becomes Secretary of State after losing her bid for the Oval Office, in the USA drama, which premieres Saturday for a limited run. But the differences to Clinton end there, more or less — spoiler alert — when Elaine divorces philandering husband Budd Hammond (Ciaran Hinds), a former president with a charismatic persona and lilting Southern drawl whose popularity takes a nosedive when America unexpectedly takes her side in the split.
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“She sort of has some superficial resemblance, obviously, to Hillary Clinton but really Elaine has made some decisions that distinguish her from Mrs. Clinton — who we all admire,” Weaver tells THR.
“But she’s a very different kind of person than Mrs. Clinton. And I feel like Elaine is really a lefty in the best possible way. In a time when liberals are being cast out, she is the liberal and passionate and articilate and she wins the day. A lot of times, she has to fight like hell,” she says.
This is Weaver’s first regular gig on TV; she also shares the screen with Carla Gugino (who plays a Maureen Dowd-esque DC reporter), Ellen Burstyn (Elaine’s booze-loving mother) and actors Sebastian Stan and James Wolk as her twin small-screen sons.
In the pilot episode, there’s a lot of sex — a risky departure for USA — and even more soapy family intrigue. As THR critic Tim Goodman notes in his review, “There are obvious Bill and Hillary Clinton similarities throughout, and there’s probably an excellent series about female politicians and the struggles and double standards that confront them, but Animals is not that show. No, what Animals is trying to do is take The West Wing and turn it into Dallas. And if you don’t like Dallas, that can be a real?letdown.”
Still, there are dramatic White House moments as Elaine attempts to manage the events of an overseas hostage crisis amid apathy from an all-male roundtable in the War Room.
“I think the glass ceiling bars so many women from running things,” says Weaver. “And I think the only thing that can save our planet, frankly, is having more representation by women. Because I think women genetically are more practical than men, and we will roll up our sleeves and get things done.”
Check out THR‘s video interview above.
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