Q&A WITH THE CREATIVE TEAM BEHIND POLITICAL ANIMALS


Where did the idea for POLITICAL ANIMALS come from? Had you been wanting to do a show set in the political arena for a while?

I wanted to write a spec -- my first solo spec since Everwood -- and just check in with my voice as a writer. I knew I wanted it to be in the political arena because that was an area I thought I knew something about. I knew I wanted it to be a former First Family, and I knew I wanted it to have some female characters at the center of it. And, finally, I knew that, in terms of politics, I wanted to write about the personal lives of politicians and the sacrifices they make and the things that affect their judgment. Not so much about the policy behind it, but the personality. - GREG BERLANTI

Political Animals has a very strong cast, led by Sigourney Weaver - who's never been a series regular on TV before. How did the cast come together?

Well, certainly it starts with the writing - and it was thrilling when the script attracted Sigourney Weaver to the role of Elaine Barrish. Sigourney was our ideal choice since the part required an exceptional actress who would be able to convey the power of the position of Secretary of State but who could also convey the gentler maternal skills needed to try to keep this fractured family together. Sigourney is that rare, extraordinary actress who can balance vulnerability and strength in exactly the right proportion. And then look who we got to join Sigourney: the legendary Ellen Burstyn to play her unfiltered, former-Vegas-showgirl mother; the remarkably bold and talented Ciaran Hinds to play her larger-than-life ex-husband and former President; the stunning and charismatic Carla Gugino to play a tough Washington journalist out to get her; two of Hollywood's most exciting, up-and-coming young actors, James Wolk and Sebastian Stan, to play her sons, each haunted by their own quite different demons; and finally, the incredibly beautiful and appealing Brittany Ishibashi to play her future daughter-in-law. A dream cast for sure. - LAURENCE MARK

POLITICAL ANIMALS has some very likable characters and some very dislikable characters. Is it more of a challenge (and/or more fun) to write characters you want people to love, or want people to hate?

I think the goal for a writer is to write characters that feel true and real, and, on a show like this, it's a character show where the real drama comes from all the mistakes the characters make and the different sides to them, and over time, the fun about a show like this is that they slip -- characters that are likable do unlikable things and characters that are unlikable do likable things. I don't think of it as likable or unlikable, but more, who is this character, what makes them tick, and what kind of choices do they make or not make and how does that affect them and the characters around them. - GREG BERLANTI

Where do you shoot the show? How much work went into creating the sets like the White House?

We shot the series in Philadelphia along with some exteriors in Washington, D.C. It's always fun to see the descriptions of places on the page come to life on the screen Each room of the townhouse is important to show how the former First Family lives, and then of course there's the State Department headquarters, the offices of THE WASHINGTON GLOBE, and the airplane set. I suppose the most interesting piece of trivia as regards our set is that we had the good fortune to inherit the same Oval Office as seen in "The West Wing," although we updated it in keeping to some extent with how the actual Oval Office has been re-decorated since then. - LAURENCE MARK

There have been few shows that have had a focus on journalism in this country. Why did you choose journalism as another central theme?

I liked the possible dynamic between Elaine and someone who had written about her and her family for all these years. I sort of liked that as being the outside perspective since so much of the show is about the public and the private and what we perceive to be true and what is actually true. In addition, I think the world of journalism is going through an evolution, a shift, right now, and it's not dissimilar in the shift that's happening in the political arena. The institution is changing. Gone are the olden days and it's becoming something new and everyone is trying to figure out what that means -- so it seemed to parallel well with what is happening in the other part of the show. - GREG BERLANTI

What defines a Political Animal?

"Political Animals are pervasive. There are many breeds and habitats. Look around you, you're bound to find one - and they are certainly not all in politics." - LAURENCE MARK



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