MEGA flies to London to sit down with Ben Platt, Lucy Boynton, Zoey Deutch, and Laura Dreyfuss, stars of the newest comedy satire which premieres today on Netflix.
When Ryan Murphy was conceiving his first Netflix original series, he wanted a political show done in comedic and satirical fashion. The Emmy, Golden Globe, and Peabody Award-winning writer, director and producer enlisted long time friends and collaborators Ian Brennan and Brad Falchuk to create The Politician.
As the opening billboard suggests, the eight-episode series centers on the making of a politician, while simultaneously touching on the themes of wealth, privilege, and sex. Set in the affluent Santa Barbara, California, the show focuses on the lives of eight high school students of Saint Sebastian High School. Full of ambition and determination, these eight will do whatever it takes to become the next president, or worse, be the biggest hurdle of the opposition. While the series is set in high school, The Politician, was not designed to be a teenage show like Murphy’s hit, Glee. “I thought of it as a show for families to watch together, [to] start off conversations about ambition and sex and morality, choices that influence the rest of your life,” he shares.
Ryan Murphy has done it again, because The Politician is brilliant. It is a balanced show with enough family values, hubris, and deception done with excellent wardrobe, sets, cinematography, and music. The pacing is also good, with the right amount of unexpected twists and turns. More importantly, the show touches on relevant issues such as mental health and non-binary gender preferences. The most beautiful part of the story telling is Murphy’s deliberate intent not to hype, glorify or water down these themes; instead, he tells the stories and preferences of the characters as if they were normal, a matter-of-fact so to speak. The result is a series that is absolutely entertaining and is a sure hit.
MEGA sat down with four of the show’s actors in the British capital last week and had a special viewing of the entire season. Here are the characters we think you will love in Netflix’s newest original series, The Politician:
Payton Hobart (Ben Platt)
At seven years old, Payton Hobart knew he wanted to become the president of the United States. The adopted son of Georgina Hobart (Gwyneth Paltrow) had it all figured out: he dressed in second-skin tailored suits, had no hair out of place, spoke impeccably, commanded a room, and had the tenacity that politicians are imagined to be. Like eight American presidents, Payton also wanted to attend Harvard University. His true colors would show in the pilot episode when he discovers he is waitlisted for admission to the Ivy League.
Payton knew that to make his dream of becoming president a reality, he would have to start in high school. He needed to be a straight A student who was well rounded. He also had to win the top political spot at the prestigious Saint Sebastian High School. And so, the story begins.
Together with his three campaign advisors, they set up a strategy that can be perceived as either brilliant or unforgiving, depending on your set of values and morals. These included using the limitations of the less abled, money, and even fabricating broken relationships to win the presidency. What is interesting about Ben Platt’s character is the way he switches from being the perfect gentleman with a giant heart to sociopath-like behavior who displays no remorse for people and things especially when it hurdled his path. “I think it’s for the audience to decide and ultimately will be a greater question through the whole course of the show. I don’t think it’s cut and dry. [Payton] certainly is not a boldfaced capitalist sociopath, he has the ability to feel in the right circumstance. I think it’s more about his difficulty getting in touch with his emotions, if it’s outside of his feeling for himself,” he shares.
Payton is the ideal politician and has all the making of greatness. He is charismatic, intelligent and genuinely cares about the welfare of the students of Saint Sebastian High School. But underneath of all of that perfection are human flaws. He struggles with empathy, morality, as well as his fluidity.
River Barkley (David Corenswet)
You will notice River Barkley for the first time during an opening sex scene with his girlfriend, Astrid Sloan. The dreamy newcomer David Corenswet has superman like features, perfect hair, and the most beautiful smile. But what really gets you is not in his physical appearance; instead, you will learn that River is gentle and kind. He is very honest about how he feels and opens up about suffering from mental illness. You can’t help but fall for his authenticity, too. This is apparent when River is juxtaposed against Payton Hobart during a presidential debate. Payton is looking every bit a president with laser-sharp focus, while his opponent, the relatable River is dressed in a white button-down with rolled up sleeves talking about battling with depression in an emotional speech. You will feel angry and sad after the pilot episode when River takes his own life, but as the season progresses, you will encounter him and everything you feel for him will only grow because of his unique love for Payton.
Astrid Sloan (Lucy Boynton)
When Astrid Sloan takes the microphone during River Barkely’s tribute ceremony, you will feel her brokenness at the death of her high school boyfriend. That quickly changes when she announces that she will be running in the place of River for the presidency. This is when the show becomes really good. Astrid becomes the arch nemesis of Payton Hobart who will do everything in her capacity to stop him from becoming the president of the their high school. Astrid Sloan is beautiful, wealthy and well dressed, but she is also smart, cunning and is the most unpredictable character in the entire series. In fact, she is the main driver of The Politician.
Infinity Jackson (Zoey Deutch)
Probably the most moving character in The Politician is Infinity, the cancer-patient of Saint Sebastian High School. Dressed in knits and hats all season, she is gentle and child-like. Upon the advice of Payton’s campaign managers, he woos Infinity into becoming his running mate. With a good set of morals and values, she declines repeatedly because she is aware that Payton is using her illness for sympathy and to win votes. Dusty Jackson (Jessica Lange), her legal guardian and deceptive grandmother, who appears stuck in the 80s, advises her to accept the vice presidency bid and more. Just like Payton, Dusty uses Infinity’s cancer for conveniences such as free meals, admission to theme parks, travel, and money. While she appears authentic, Infinity is also dishonest, going behind the back and wishes of Dusty and other characters. She wants to be a normal teenager who falls for the less privileged Ricardo (Benjamin Barrett). Both Infinity and Dusty are found out early in the season when another less-abled student tips Payton that Infinity and her illness are all an act.
McAfee (Laura Dreyfuss)
It is crystal clear, McAfee is smart and is always spot on with her political strategies. “Do you think she would have made a good vice president?” we ask Laura Dreyfuss. “Oh, yeah. I think she could take over the world. I trust her with it,” she responds. McAfee, Payton’s campaign advisor, is a standout character and is going to be everyone’s favorite. She is a busy woman who’s role is to collect all of the information she can gather and then decide what to tell Payton, when to tell him and how. “Behind every great president, there’s someone very, very smart, who is seeing every possible outcome to every situation. And that’s what she does,” Dreyfuss adds. Apart from her brilliance, you will also fall for her personality and her fashion. Dressed in pastel suits and minimal accessories the entire season, McAfee is the brain of The Politician.
Alice Charles (Julia Schlaepfer)
Alice Charles doubles as Payton Hobart’s campaign advisor and girlfriend. Always so well-mannered and dressed so impeccably in her signature pearls and Chanel-inspired tweeds, she dreams of one-day becoming a first lady, and she is living for it as early as high school. Apart from her perfect blonde bob, what you will like about Alice is her brilliance and camp. During meals and strategic meetings, she and Payton would sit opposite each other in her exaggerated long dining table. There, they would talk about strategies like Alice’s fake breakup with Payton, a move designed to remind voters that while Payton is a politician, he is also human and a teenager. They want the sympathy. Alice’s role is pivotal in Payton’s success or failure. She asks one thing from him during this time, and that is to “look back” when they pass each other in the hallway. She swallows her pride and accepts all the social media hate sent her way, but she does it because she loves Payton. Or does she?
James (Theo Germaine)
The third and final campaign advisor to Payton Hobart is James, played by the Chicago-based trans non-binary actor Theo Germaine. James is the hybrid of McAfee and Alice, and just like both characters, they advice Payton on his next moves following immediate changes in the high school political landscape. What McAfee and Alice lacks, they bring to the table. James has empathy and values. Upon discovering the fraudulent acts of Infinity Jackson, Payton insists on executing a random blood test in school to which James vehemently disagrees. “You can’t do that,” he says. Because of their values, James is constantly questioned with their loyalty. One day they are part of the team, the next day they are fired by Hobart. What is interesting with James is the way that Murphy shows that gender is not the first thing about a person; they are a person first before their preferences.
The Politician is available on Netflix starting today, September 27, 2019.