Dark comedy 'The Politician' brings fun to the un-fun

  • TV
  • Friday, 27 Sep 2019

The Politician. Photo: Netflix

If you browsed through actor Ben Platt’s Instagram account, you’d see that he has amassed quite a number of A-list celebrities as fans. Stars like Beyonce, Emma Stone, Jimmy Fallon, Whoopi Goldberg, Blake Lively and even Hilary Clinton were among the people who had gone to see Platt play a vulnerable teenager in the hit musical Dear Evan Hansen on Broadway.

Although that role won him a Tony, a Grammy and an Emmy – all at the tender age of 23 – Platt is not a household name in this part of the world.

But that’s about to change tomorrow when The Politician premieres on Netflix in which Platt heads the cast which includes Lucy Boynton (Bohemian Rhapsody), Zoey Deutch (Set It Up), Laura Dreyfuss (Glee) as well as Jessica Lange (American Horror Story) and Gwyneth Paltrow (Shakespeare In Love).

Just like the aforementioned luminaries, Ryan Murphy also watched Platt in Dear Evan Hansen and liked what he saw and expressed interest to work with the young actor. Murphy is, of course, famous for creating hit series like Glee, American Horror Story, American Crime Story and Pose.

Netflix has lured Murphy with a US$300mil (RM1.25bil) deal to create various series for the streaming platform. Obviously, Murphy’s debut for Netflix would be as splashy as his deal.

He called Platt to arrange for lunch so that he could pitch an idea to him. “I thought maybe he wanted me to guest star in American Horror Story or something,” Platt recalls of the meeting.

Most of the roles Platt have been offered after leaving Dear Evan Hansen was similar to what he played in the musical. “Anxious, sweet, lovable, heart-on-the-sleeve kinda guy,” Platt notes.

Obviously he wasn’t interested to play the same sort of role. When Murphy showed him the pilot script for the series, Platt was immediately hooked.

“He was the only one who said, ‘I want to very purposefully give you a 180° and turn everything you’ve been doing on its head’ and give me the opportunity to play somebody assertive and aggressive and confident,” Platt told StarLifestyle in an interview in London last week. He’s joined by his co-stars Deutch, Boynton and Dreyfuss for a promotional blitz.

Speech-making is definitely a key skill in becoming a successful politician.
Speech-making (and pretending to listen) is definitely a key skill in becoming a successful politician.

Going forth fearlessly

In The Politician, we see the highly ambitious and slightly entitled high school student Payton who is working his way to become the president of the United States. But in order to achieve that, he has to first win the school election to become class president.

“I think it’s really fascinating to see Payton as sort of the most natural possible point, which is his first ever election, and get to know him as a person who’s still forming.

“And I think in high school, obviously, everyone is still kind of coming together as a person. And the stakes in high school are just so inherently high so that makes for a lot of beautiful fodder, as far as how intense, biting and sardonic we can all be because we take our lives in high school incredibly seriously,” Platt, who turned 26 on Sept 24, says of the eight-episode series.

The Politician. Photo: Netflix
The first step to US presidency is obviously winning the school election to become class president.

Young adult series and films tend to do well on Netflix, what with the success of Stranger Things, 13 Reasons Why and To All The Boys I’ve Loved Before. So, the streamer was indeed welcoming of the idea of The Politician, so much so that it gave Murphy a rare two-season order.

Another rarity was making Platt – who is headlining a TV show for the first time – an executive producer. And the actor took that role seriously. To ensure the cast felt comfortable with one another before filming started, he invited the young actors for a weekend at his family’s home in Malibu.

“I think Ben is actually very good at being the leader in all of this. When we all arrived to LA, he organised a weekend for us in which we all went to Disneyland. And we have these amazing moments where we were able to bond and get to know each other,” says Dreyfuss who worked with Platt on Dear Evan Hansen as well.

Also read: The Politician offers Masterclass in acting for its young cast

I just want you to know that I'm truly sorry about what happened to Iron Man.
I just want you to know that I'm truly sorry about what happened to Iron Man.

Coming well together

The camaraderie is not the only thing the cast loved about working on the series. The chance to be directed by actresses like Helen Hunt (Mad About You) and Janet Mock (Pose) in several episodes was what thrilled Boynton.

“Not to discredit directors (in general), but (to have an actress as a director) just changes the dynamic. Like I had to do a sex scene in the Helen Hunt episode, and just to have a woman looking out for you and knowing exactly what your experiences are (on set) is so important,” says Boynton, 25, who is currently dating her Bohemian Rhapsody co-star Rami Malek.

The Politician. Photo: Netflix
Boynton says The Politican might get the youth to be excited about politics.

While Platt, Boynton and Dreyfuss have starred in TV shows before, it was a new experience for Deutch. The 24-year-old found it challenging to play the role of Infinity Jackson, an ill-stricken student recruited by Payton as his running mate in the election, as she didn’t know the character’s arch.

“I’m so used to breaking down a story of a character in its entirety (in films). So, (doing The Politician) was a complete shift because I had no idea what’s going on with my character. When I shot the pilot, I had only read the script for the pilot. I’m only finding out as I go along.

“And it was difficult, but that’s what made it interesting. It’s much more intellectually stimulating and inspiring when you’re doing something you’ve never done before. So it was definitely challenging for me, as somebody who has slight control issues,” says Deutch who is the daughter of Back To The Future actress Lea Thompson.

There are so many messages that can be found within the series itself, but the cast assures that the delivery is done in a fun manner.

“Issues like gun control, voter fraud, sexuality are dealt with in a digestible, satirical and funny (way) which I find to be brilliant because none of those topics are fun,” says Deutch.

Boynton adds: “I think the goal is to get young people excited about politics.”

Platt agrees saying: “For young people, hopefully the show will get them excited about being involved and using their voices.”

The Politician is now streaming on Netflix.

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