If you’re not watching The Politician on Netflix, what are you waiting for?! Created by Ryan Murphy, Ian Brennan and Brad Falchuk, the Netflix series is Election meets The Royal Tenenbaums but with a splash of campy fun mixed in. If I’m not doing a good job of convincing you, here’s the official synopsis: Payton Hobart (Ben Platt), a wealthy student from Santa Barbara, California, has known since age seven that he’s going to be President of the United States. But first he’ll have to navigate the most treacherous political landscape of all: Saint Sebastian High School. To get elected Student Body President, secure a spot at Harvard, and stay on his singular path to success, Payton will have to outsmart his ruthless classmates without sacrificing his own morality and carefully crafted image. The Politician offers a comedic and satirical glimpse into just what it takes to make a politician.
Since the show is one of our favourite series this Fall, we were thrilled to sit down and chat with the show’s stars Laura Dreyfuss, Theo Germaine and Rahne Jones about the fabulous show. The following is a condensed and edited version of our conversation.
Brief Take: Congratulations on the show and on your mesmerizing performances on the show. I kept waiting for all of you to share a scene together where your characters all interacted with one another, and I was so thankful when it arrived close to the end of season one.
Rahne Jones: Especially, I think, with an ensemble show, sometimes you don’t get the chance to work with everybody, but the best part was how amazing everyone was and how kind. We were always waiting for the shoe to drop, but it never did. We just all worked so well together and it was fun.
Theo Germaine: It was fun to look at the call sheet and be like “who do I get to hang out with today?”.
BT: [to Laura Dreyfuss] How was it seeing on the call sheet that you would be working with Bette Midler that day?
Laura Dreyfuss: Yeah that was a really wonderful, wonderful day. [giggles]
BT: I can imagine you’re all looking forward to season two where all of your characters will get to go up against Bette Midler and Judith Light.
TG: Oh my God, yeah.
RJ: Yeah! It’ll be intimidating but I feel like it’s going to be fantastic.
TG: When the premiere was happening, I kept thinking about how I couldn’t wait until shooting for season two started.
BT: I read that shooting for season two is set to begin very soon. Do you have any particular hopes for your characters in terms of the direction their arcs will go?
RJ: Yeah, with a show like this and with Ryan (Murphy) and Brad (Falchuk), it could literally go anywhere.
TG: I love juicy gossip so I’m like “what affairs will unfold this season?”
LD: I think it’ll be fun because they’ve had a few years evolving as people. There’s so much that happens between high school and college so I’m very excited to see how they are as adults. They’re dealing with real life, as opposed to just high school. It’s more of a fun landscape.
TG: I’m excited to see the fashion and the epic costumes. I’ve spoken with the costumers a little bit and they’re like “we’ve done all the vision boards” and I’m like “Oh my God!!!!” It’s Fall, the whole palette is different. The first season is, people have been saying, this heightened Wes Anderson sort of world. There’s the millennial pink that’s the huge colour that’s used. I’m excited to see how everybody’s looks have evolved.
BT: [to Theo] James can break free from all the dark ties and button down tops.
TG: Oh yeah, the button downs and the ties and the tie clips were things that James wore all the time.
RJ: I feel like James is very much like “this is who I am”. [laughs]
BT: Oh yeah, the costumes really did so much to tell the viewer who each of the characters were.
LD: Yeah it was fun for me because my character is so quick and just very brilliant, so it was very easy for me to just be like “this is a very brainy girl”, but then as soon as I put on these really cool suits, I felt like she had this really laid back quality about her as well. So it was fun to have the costume be a part of the person’s personality.
RJ: [to Laura] Your outfits were [gives big nod of approval] bonkers, they were so good.
BT: What have you learned about each other today and on this press tour that you didn’t know previously?
LD: We’ve known each other…
RJ: …for over a year now. Laura has known…
LD: [interrupting] Actually there’s something I learned about Rahne. She’s never seen Star Wars and she’s never seen Friends.
BT: Wait, what?
LD: Yeah, it’s very upsetting.
RJ: Never. [laughs] What I’ll do is go home, I’ll watch all the Star Wars, the 75 trilogies or whatever it is.
RJ: And I’ll binge Friends on Netflix, because I think you can still see it there, and I’ll let you know if they were on a break.
TG: [to Rahne] I didn’t know that you auditioned for Euphoria, I learned that.
RJ: Well I knew I wouldn’t get that one. I left that audition like “Ah. Okay.” [laughs] But it worked out.
BT: I think it was Lucy Boynton who said on this press tour that if you think the audition didn’t go well, you tend to book the gig afterwards.
TG: Oh my God, the day that I sent the tape in..I live in Chicago and I’m constantly sending tapes in to Los Angeles, to New York, to Toronto or Vancouver, wherever stuff is happening, and that day, for me, I was doing a callback for a different tv show. There are a few shows that are very Chicago-based, and it’s kind of a rite of passage for a Chicago actor to get on one of these shows. There’s Chicago Med, Chicago Fire, Chicago P.D…and so I got a callback for one of those shows and then did a tape for this and then went to a theatre audition. Then it was hot and I was biking around all day, and I don’t feel like it was the best audition that I ever had. I tried to do a good job, and they liked it! I was like: “I don’t know why!” [laughs] But yeah, I was kind of blind-sighted by the offer. But I just tried something and it worked, and it goes to show that the industry is so unpredictable.
BT: Did you all have a favourite scene to shoot?
LD: Hmm, I love the ones where we were all together.
RJ: Yeah! I really did. I liked the auditorium scenes like where we did the debate.
LD: And we all love each other so much that it was really nice to have those days where we were all around together.
TG: We would eat together during the breaks.
RJ: Yeah, those were really fun.
TG: Also the first day that I got to work with Jessica Lange. I had two days with her and I think the first one was a scene in episode two, and I was so excited and so nervous. She came in with her script and she was doing blocking, she was talking with Brad, and then the cameras roll and she’s like a hurricane of talent. I was trying to drink up everything that I could because she’s been in the industry for so long and I’ve been watching her do movies since King Kong. When I was little, that was one of my favourite movies. So yeah, it was legendary.
RJ: Someone said that the way that she works is like a cat on a wire – like you don’t really know where she’s going to go.
TG: Yeah! I’ve used the example of [to Brief Take] do you know the movie of Charlie and the Chocolate Factory? So the very beginning, Gene Wilder as Willy Wonka, he’s walking up to greet the crowd and he has his cane with him, and his cane gets stuck in the brick. Then he takes another step forward, and it looks like he’s going to fall, and he does a somersault. He stands up and it was like that! It’s just unexpected.
BT: Someone on this press tour was saying that she’s really funny too.
TG: She improvises too. God, she’s so good.
LD: They had to delete a few scenes from the show because people were laughing so much that it ruined the takes.
RJ: I’ve been watching the press and she said that she’s never really done a comedy, and I was just like: How??. She’s effortless.
RJ: She’s so good.
TG: During the premiere, people were just screaming when she was on screen.
TG: And her name is Dusty.
BT: What do you all like to watch on Netflix?
LD: I’m such a Stranger Things fan.
TG: Yeah, Stranger Things is something that I watch too.
RJ: I recently watched Unbelievable with Toni Collette.
TG: Ooh, Toni Collette.
RJ: It’s a fantastic, really timely story about being a victim of sexual assault and people not believing you. It’s a rough view but it’s necessary. And also Dead To Me, with Christina Applegate. Oh my gosh, it’s so good.
TG: Yeah, someone recommended that to me.
RJ: It’s fantastic!
TG: Also, I love scary movies so I’m always going online and searching “30 scariest movies on Netflix”.
TG: So I recently watched The Ritual, which is about four or five British dudes who are going on this dude trip to Sweden.
RJ: [laughs] Say dude again.
TG: Dude-dude. That movie scared me so much that I had a horrible nightmare the night after I watched it, and then I was like: “that was a good movie”.
RJ: [laughs] Like, I might sleep with the light on, I love it. [laughs]
BT: That movie is legitimately very scary because they don’t show you the monster until the very end and the tension and terror just builds and builds until then.
TG: Right! And then there’s this thing that happens in the movie where the line between being awake and being asleep begins to blur. Oh God, it’s so good. So good.
BT: It was at TIFF last year. Speaking of Toronto, Rahne, thank you so much for your recent Instagram video where you talked about your love of Toronto.
RJ: I love this city! As I was saying, I’ve been here a few times..
TG: Oh cool!
RJ: The last time was for Pride a few years ago when the U.S. legalized same-sex marriage, and everyone was so kind. They said “Congratulations!”, and I know in their minds they were thinking “we’ve been doing this awhile now. Way to catch up!”. But everyone was just so happy. I remember going to dinner and getting a receipt, and on the receipt the waiter had said “congratulations! we’re so happy for you!”, and I was so happy.
LD: Oh wow.
TG: I’ve never been here, it’s my first full day.
RJ: I want to live here.
TG: I’m already like “when can I come back?”.
RJ: When can I come back and stay?
RJ: Yeah yesterday, as I was driving in, traffic was held up, and I was looking up and wondering what was going on. It was the Global Solidarity rally and it was happening in the streets, and everybody was marching and I was thinking “you can’t get out of your car and march with everyone right now. You’re here for work”, but it was really cool.
BT: I’ve heard a rumour that The Umbrella Academy cast participate in marches while they’re here filming.
RJ: That’s amazing.
TG: Oh, that’s another show that I’ve been watching. I love Gerard Way, who’s the creator of The Umbrella Academy, so that’s another show that I’m late to but I’m halfway through it right now.
LD: And Emmy (Raver-Lampman), who plays Allison, her and I came to Toronto when we did the Hair tour ten years ago.
TG: She was also in Hamilton.
BT: And Wicked.
TG: That’s so cool. Oh my God.
TG: Okay, I learned something new about Laura today too.
BT: A large portion of your ensemble have tremendous singing talent. Did any karaoke nights happen?
RJ: We had the treat of hearing Ben riffing away.
TG: He and Laura are such good singers, and I’m like eh.
LD: Rahne is a great singer.
RJ: Stop it. No.
LD: I took videos.
TG: Come on Rahne, we know what you’re good at.
BT: Do you have a go-to karaoke song?
LD: Probably ‘Here You Come Again’ by Dolly Parton.
TG: You know improv and karaoke are two things that I’m terrified of, which probably means I should do them. It can be really hard for me to learn song lyrics, but you know I would love to do karaoke with everybody.
RJ: I would say my greatest karaoke moment was doing ‘Baby Got Back’.
LD: Oh I’m very good at that song. [to Rahne] Duet?
LD: [laughs] We’ll get there.
BT: I completely got off topic from the show but this was so much fun. Getting back to the topic at hand, with the election coming up, which issues do you hope candidates address?
LD: I think gun violence is a very important one. Voter suppression is another.
TG: That’s something that’s happening in too many parts of the U.S.
RJ: I think equal rights.
LD: Climate change. I just hope that leaders are thinking of everybody, and not just making life better for a select few, but how to make life better for everyone in our country.
TG: And who’s going to follow through with what they are standing for. Candidates sometimes say stuff to get voters, we know that’s happening. I think the smarter you get about that, you can start thinking “who can I really trust? who can I hold accountable?”
BT: And in your industry, what do you hope changes in the near future and how exactly do you hope the industry leaders implement change?
TG: Yeah. I think wanting diversity and hoping that it’s not just a phase.
RJ: And thinking outside the box.
LD: The shows that I watch and the movies that I see, I want those to reflect the world that I live in. I hope that more people continue to be seen and heard.
RJ: Yes. One hundred per cent.
BT: Do you have role models in the industry and in your daily lives?
TG: Oh God.
LD: My Mom.
RJ: My Mom, yeah.
TG: Garcia, he’s a new actor on Tales of the City, who I’m actually friends with. I idolize him so much because he’s so fantastic.
BT: Yes! I thought his scenes with May Hong were so tender and beautiful.
TG: It took me such a long time to get through the show because I was just crying. I was just so happy for him. And Billy Porter is somebody else who I totally idolize. Basically everybody from the cast of Pose. I vote for all things trans. I look up to everybody who’s come before me.
RJ: For me, it’s my Mom and my Dad, most importantly. And Lena Waithe, seeing her presence on screen makes me realize there’s somebody in the industry who’s a person of colour, a black woman…
TG: …There must be some way of getting you two to meet. There’s got to be a Chicago connection.
RJ: I would die. And Viola Davis is just a supreme talent. I would actually die. Angela Bassett – Queen.
LD: My Mom and my family. Then of course Hillary Clinton and Michelle Obama.
RJ: [claps] Yes. There’s a laundry list of role models.
LD: Just being unapologetic about your opinions and then, at the same time, just having so much empathy for the world and the people in it.
The Politician is currently streaming on Netflix