While we all remember Geena Davis' big-screen outings — including The Accidental Tourist (for which she won an Oscar), Thelma & Louise, A League of Their Own — her TV series have been as forgettable as her lips are memorable. Well, not anymore: Davis is commanding on ABC's new hit Commander in Chief (Tuesdays at 9 pm/ET). As the United States' first female president, Mackenzie Allen, she has to handle foreign and domestic enemies, not to mention her domestic duties as a wife to husband Rod (Kyle Secor) and mother to three kids. TVGuide.com spoke with Davis about playing prez, juggling her own job with motherhood, meeting George W. Bush and more.
TVGuide.com: So this is what Thelma might have grown up to be if she hadn't driven over that cliff.
Davis: It's pretty funny to think that Thelma is president.
TVGuide.com: It's also kind of funny that a onetime store-window mannequin is now commander in chief.
Davis: I invented that when I was a salesgirl at Ann Taylor in New York. I stepped into the window, and when they noticed that a big crowd had gathered, they hired me to be a mannequin in the window every weekend.
TVGuide.com: You've come a long way. Did you ever want to be president?
Davis: [Laughs] I still want to be a ballerina. I want to go to the Olympics. [She once tried out for the U.S. Olympic archery team.] I dream big!
TVGuide.com: You're a Mensa member with a high IQ, and you probably did better in school than George W., or John Kerry for that matter. You're theoretically as, if not more, qualified to be the president of the United States.
Davis: I won't comment. [Laughs] Not President Clinton, though. He's a pretty brainy guy.
TVGuide.com: You've had three kids in three years and yet have chosen to do a one-hour drama, which has the longest, most draining schedule.
Davis: Tell me about it! [I have a] 3-year-old girl and twin 1-year-old boys. I'm completely insane. I told my agent, "Don't even talk to me about hourlong dramas." Then I got a call about playing the first female president. I said, "Do I have to read it first, or can I just say yes now?"
TVGuide.com: What's President Mackenzie Allen like?
Davis: Extremely independent, resourceful and strong. She really is a maverick and will think of unusual approaches that tend to make her staff quite nervous. They always want to pull her aside and say, "What are you doing?" But she knows what she wants.
TVGuide.com: Are you modeling her after anyone?
Davis: No. I always feel like I'm my best resource. I'm finding the parts of me that suit the character and her development.
TVGuide.com: Do you think you're saying something important with this part?
Davis: Not necessarily. Obviously I have experience in touching a nerve with people, as Thelma & Louise did, [but] I don't like to take social responsibility for the things I do. I will say that seeing a woman in the Oval Office week after week might help get Americans more comfortable with the idea.
TVGuide.com: Allen has to deal with old-fashioned sexism, some of it from Donald Sutherland's character, the Republican speaker of the house.
Davis: Absolutely. He's very dismissive and old-school about it. He says things like, "A woman as the leader of the Free World is an impossibility. Muslim countries won't talk to you."
TVGuide.com: Doesn't he remember Maggie Thatcher, one of the toughest leaders England — or any country — ever had?
Davis: Exactly. It's past time that this should be happening, but we'll get there.
TVGuide.com: Do you consider yourself a political person?
Davis: I'm quite interested in politics, yes. But [Commander in Chief] is not a show about my politics, it's about this character's.
TVGuide.com: Are there any issues you've told [series creator] Rod Lurie you would like Allen to deal with?
Davis: Rod has said that one of the things that will distinguish this show from The West Wing is that it is only going to concern itself with issues that would cross the threshold of the Oval Office. The West Wing is often concerned with the goings-on of the supporting characters, but this is really about the president.
TVGuide.com: Is Allen an equal-opportunity offender?
Davis: There are going to be good guys and bad guys on both sides. As Rod said: It's not attacking all Democrats or all Republicans; it's attacking the two-party system where people feel too constrained to have original ideas.
TVGuide.com: What's the show's take on controversial issues that the president faces in real life?
Davis: We will take them on. My character came in halfway through the presidential term, [so] in one episode they have her saying, "Look, I'm not going to get elected in two years," so I can take on the tough issues and not have to worry about my party, since I don't really have one.
TVGuide.com: What's up with her personal life?
Davis: It's really fascinating to me to see how you actually have a family when you're in the White House. I remember the Clintons were constantly talking about trying to give Chelsea a sense of normalcy in the face of this incredibly bizarre situation.
TVGuide.com: Like yourself, President Allen has three kids.
Davis: Yes, and she happens to have twins as well. The girl's way of rebelling is that she's a Republican; the boy is going to be the John-John figure. He's pretty cute.
TVGuide.com: What's the take on the first gentleman? Early on, Allen's husband was given the traditional first lady tour.
Davis: What should his role be? That particular predicament is endlessly rich. [Laughs] He's still got to be the father; he's still got to be the husband, but he's thrown off his feet at first.
TVGuide.com: Did you get any tips from Washington politicos?
Davis: President Bush was the host of a benefit [I attended] that included a reception at the White House. So I said to him, "You know, you might not have heard that I'm becoming the first female president in September." He said, "I've heard that. Good luck with that." Then he said, "Well, stick around, get the feel of the place."
TVGuide.com: And did you stick around the White House?
Davis: I did. I got a whole tour — the real Oval Office, the whole West Wing and everything. It was very instructive. I also told the first lady's chief of staff about the show, and she said, "Oh, that's wonderful. I'll be sure to tell Mrs. Bush to watch." She offered her services, which I think we'll definitely take her up on. Insiders like that have wonderful little details of life in the White House.
TVGuide.com: How about the style of Madame President? Allen looks pretty good in that "I'm a strong, working woman who wants to looks good" kind of way. Will you wear a particular designer?
Davis: Not unless one of them wants to start giving us free clothes! I'd be happy to favor them then.