Stars of Mrs. America Share Challenges of Recreating the Voices of the Women's Rights Movement in Emmy
Nearly 50 years after the struggle to pass the historic Equal Rights Amendment made headlines across the country, FX on Hulu premieres Mrs. America, a thoughtful exploration of what many have called the second wave of feminism. Emmy, the award-winning official publication of the Television Academy, which hit newsstands May 4, talks to Cate Blanchett and the stellar cast of the new limited series who give voice to the leaders of the fight over the ERA.
Mrs. America is centered around the proposed amendment to the U.S. Constitution intended to guarantee equal legal rights for all Americans, regardless of sex. While the amendment was approved by the House of Representatives in 1971 and the Senate the following year, it was never ratified by the required 38 states. "I keep thinking of this as the origin story of our culture wars," says Dahvi Waller, the series' creator, showrunner, writer and executive producer. Waller explains that she and co-executive producer Stacey Sher were determined to present the story "in a non-confrontational way." She adds, "We have to start talking to each other as humans. It was very important to me to tell the birth of the intersectional feminist."
In the emmy cover story "Right-Minded," Blanchett discusses her process for portraying staunch conservative Phyllis Schlafly, the author, political activist, wife and mother who promoted traditional values while vigorously fighting against the ERA and other feminist causes. The aim, Blanchett says, "was to present her in complexity. There were a lot of things she hid from herself." The Oscar-winning actress, who also served as an executive producer on the series, did not want to shy away from exploring the challenges that plagued the women's rights movement. "There is a lot of doctrinaire, binary thinking on both sides," she says. "These are extremely messy, smart, hilarious women. And we see them from different perspectives. It is interesting to see the contradictions within them."
The series also stars a host of talented actresses who portray the multi-dimensional characters behind the movement. The cast includes Rose Byrne as the iconic Ms. magazine founder Gloria Steinem; Tracey Ullman as author and feminist activist Betty Friedan; and Uzo Aduba as Shirley Chisholm, the groundbreaking Brooklyn congresswoman and first African-American woman to run for president. Each actress was tasked with embodying the complexities of her character. In preparation for her role, Byrne donned the nails and grooming that she described as the beautiful and effortless style of Steinem. While Steinem was criticized in her time for daring to be glamorous, Byrne says, "Isn't feminism about choosing what you want to do?"
Elizabeth Banks, who plays the socially progressive Republican Jill Ruckelshaus, says the series is about hard-fought victories: "One of the show's jobs will be to remind people that women's fundamental rights are not guaranteed." Many of the topics addressed in the series—including equal pay, reproductive rights, workplace harassment and sexual violence—remain hot-button issues today. "You have to be hopeful," says Sher. "What other choice is there?"
Additional feature highlights from the new issue include:
- In "Shooting the King" emmy talks to the directors of Tiger King to take readers behind the scenes of the wildly popular Netflix docuseries.
- Turner Classic Movies has long been the destination for timeless Hollywood films. In "Class Acts" emmy speaks with the network's five hosts—Dave Karger, Jacqueline Stewart, Alicia Malone, Ben Mankiewicz, and Eddie Muller—all movie masters in their own right, who came together for an exclusive photoshoot at Hollywood's American Legion Post 43, a private club popular with military vets and stars since 1929.
- Kirsten Dunst opens up about her role in Showtime's series On Becoming a God in Central Florida. "In the Land of Hope and Hair Spray" examines the pyramid scheme at the heart of the show and explores what people will do to achieve the American dream.
Emmy, the official publication of the Television Academy, goes behind the scenes of the industry for a unique insider's view. It showcases the scope of television and profiles the people who make TV happen, from the stars of top shows to the pros behind the cameras, covering programming trends and advances in technology. Honored consistently for excellence, emmy is a six-time Maggie Award winner as Best Trade Publication in Communications or the Arts and has collected 52 Maggies from the Western Publishing Association. Emmy is available on selected newsstands and at TelevisionAcademy.com for single print and digital copies as well as subscriptions.
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