Political Animals star gets her "Alien" role on playing secretary of state

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The new USA Network TV show “Political Animals” features Sigourney Weaver portraying the secretary of state who is ready to kick some bad guy butt just as she did playing Ellen Ripley in four Alien films.

Veteran actress Sigourney Weaver, 62, stars as Elaine Barrish in the “Political Animals” six-hour miniseries – that premieres Sunday, July 15 at 10/9c on the USA Network – while most fans remember her playing the role of Ellen Ripley in four Alien films; while also receiving world recognition for her other science fiction roles including “Avatar." In fact, Avatar director James Cameron recently confirmed that Weaver will be returning in “Avatar 2,” with Cameron stating in an interview that “no one ever dies in science fiction.” Hence, it’s no wonder that Weaver has gained the nickname of “The Sci-Fi Queen.” Still, this starring role in Political Animals – as a divorced former First Lady and the current secretary of state – marks Weaver’s first starring TV role; with the added challenge of portraying a character on a path similar to that of Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton.

In addition, all these links to Weaver’s science fiction past is in juxtaposition to “Political Animals” adding to the already long list of current and past TV shows that mirror real life in politics and the White House, say TV critics who are having a field day speculating on just how far the six-episodes of this TV miniseries will go to remind viewers of real politics goings on today.

Sigourney Weaver hasn’t had work done

Robert Redford once said one of the real horrors of Hollywood today are actresses who’ve had “work done,” and look “like they’re wearing a mask.” In turn, the 62-year-old self-proclaimed “Baby Boomer” Sigourney Weaver is proud to say that she hasn’t had “work done” on her face to hide her wrinkles. Such an admission is rare today with the recent air-brush controversy where teens have complained about “the perfect image” that the media likes to portray of both younger and older women today.

Thus, Weaver really does look the part of a divorced former First Lady who, at age 62, is perfectly cast as an older woman who’s lived a lot of life and, hence, is ready to kick some political butt in the same fashion as this actress did when playing the legendary role of Ellen Ripley in Alien, Aliens, Alien 3 and Alien Resurrection, for which she received an Academy Award nomination.

In fact, Weaver has been nominated for three Oscars, two Emmy Awards and six Golden Globe Awards; wining two in 1988 for “Gorillas in the Mist,” and “Working Girl,” thus becoming the first person ever to have won two acting Globes in the same years.

Moreover, her 1986 Academy Award nomination for “Aliens,” is viewed as a landmark honor in the recognition of the science fiction and horror genres; as well as a major step in challenging the gender role in cinema, states a biography of Weaver that’s now being marketed by the USA Network to highlight Weaver’s starring role in the new Political Animals TV miniseries.

What’s Washington thinking about politics on TV?

A July 12 story in the political savvy Washington Post, states how “Washington should feel flattered by the attention it’s been getting from television in the past few months, most of it surprisingly good.”

For instance, the Post report points to the recent HBO TV movie “Game Change,” about the 2008 election with McCain-Palin trying to win the White House. And, then there’s the political comedy TV series “Veep,” that also has HBO trying to show viewers life for a female vice president. Also, there’s the ABC TV show “Scandal” that the Post states “turned the dark art of political crisis-management into a soapy form of camp featuring that rarest of broadcast creatures: the strong, black female lead.”

At the same time, Political Animals also has a funny side. “You know, I am just sick of it all,” confesses Elaine Barrish Hammond, when the Post calls her “the Hillary-esque secretary of state and former first lady played with delicious determination by Sigourney Weaver.”

“I am sick to death of the [B.S.],” Elaine confides to her chief-of-staff son, Douglas (James Wolk), behind closed doors. “The egos and the men. I am sick of the men. Just one time — just once — I would like to accomplish something in this city without having to spend all my energy navigating the shortsighted, selfish, self-involved and oh-so-fragile male egos that suck up all the oxygen in this town. It makes me so sick, Douglas, so sick I could puke for days.”

Political Animals “Pilot” explained

Tune to the USA Network Sunday evening for the pilot of “Political Animals,” that is explained as “Secretary of state Elaine Barrish agrees to allow a journalist to follow her for a week; a hostage crisis prompts a momentous decision.” Beyond that, the USA Network also details the pilot episode as “Barrish must also try to keep her family together and fend off a hungry journalist who wants to destroy her political career.”

In turn, the Washington Post report explains how “that’s the character Weaver is playing here — Hillary with a strong dose of Lt. Ellen Ripley from ‘Aliens’ vulnerable but fierce, and reliably smarter than all the hapless men around her.”

Also, the Post explains how “Political Animals avails itself of a broad timeline, from Elaine’s past as a deceived and heartbroken first lady (‘Mao gave that to Nixon!’ her husband pleads as she prepares to hurl a Ming vase at him) to her present apogee as a global peacekeeper. It opens during the last presidential primary, when candidate Elaine must swallow her pride and concede to a more charismatic challenger (Adrian Pasdar as the president), who eventually appoints her as his secretary of state.”

Hollywood fascination with the “Hillary Clinton” character

Political Animals also is a big page one TV story in the July 12 edition of New York Times with the tag line: “Remember those die-hard Hillary Rodham Clinton supporters? The ones who donned “Hillary” buttons and waved placards long after it was clear Barack Obama had sealed the deal? Now, imagine if one of those Hill-raisers, as they were known during the 2008 campaign, was also one of Hollywood’s most prolific television writers. Enter Political Animals, the six-episode drama that begins Sunday on USA.”

“I sat very clearly on the Hillary side of the aisle” in the 2008 presidential election, Greg Berlanti, the show’s executive producer, said over coffee at the Crosby Street Hotel in New York during a recent Times interview; while the story noted how “he donated $6,900 to Mrs. Clinton’s primary campaign, according to the Center for Responsive Politics. And of his latest show he said, ‘I wrote this in part to prove my point.’”

In addition, a preview of the “Political Animals” pilot episode – premiering Sunday on the USA Network – has the feel of “real life” with Weaver and company playing their roles as serious as possible; while Weaver even sounds and acts like Secretary of State Clinton.

USA Network delivers “meat and potatoes” TV stories

The Times also calls the USA Network “a meat-and-potatoes basic cable channel that is home to lighthearted TV series like ‘Burn Notice,’ ‘White Collar’ and ‘Royal Pains.’ But it wanted ‘Political Animals,’ to appeal not only to politics fans but also to the hordes of viewers who flock to soapy family dramas.”

“It’s politics as theater,” said Laurence Mark, a film veteran and an executive producer of “Political Animals.” “There’s a stage, and then there’s backstage.”

Also, the Times reported how during a recent day shooting at soundstages inside a former warehouse in Philadelphia, “cast members passed around an article about Mrs. Clinton in The New York Times Magazine. Several parts of it -“Hillary Clinton’s Last Tour as a Rock-Star Diplomat” - read like plot points in “Political Animals.”

Image source of Sigourney Weaver case in the role of Elaine Barrish in “Political Animals,” premiering Sunday, July 15, on the USA Network. Photo courtesy Wikipedia

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