FX has released the trailer for its forthcoming series Mrs. America, which will debut on Hulu in April thanks to the network's new streaming deal, and based on the first footage, it looks like an early contender for one of the best series of 2020.
Mrs. America tells the story of the push to ratify the Equal Rights Amendment (ERA) in the early 1970s. Cate Blanchett, a two-time Oscar and three-time Golden Globe winner starring in her first series regular role, appears in the series as Phyllis Schlafly, the grassroots organizer who became known as the "first lady of the conservative movement" and helped to defeat the ERA by galvanizing women and using the media to amplify her platform.
At the Television Critics Association winter press tour on Thursday, Blanchett, alongside the show's producers and her fellow cast-mates, said the nine-episode limited series asks pertinent questions that are still very much relevant today. "It really is about justice," Blanchett said. "It's a very interesting thing to ask: What was so terrifying about the notion of equality?"
The show features a star-studded cast portraying some of the major players in the feminist movement of the 1970s. Orange Is the New Black's Uzo Aduba plays pioneering politician Shirley Chisholm, Rose Byrne is Gloria Steinem, Tracey Ullman portrays Betty Friedan, Margo Martindale appears as Bella Abzug, and Elizabeth Banks steps into the shoes of Jill Ruckelshaus. Through all them, various conflicts and rifts about how to best advocate for women's liberation emerge, with Schlafly their slippery, media-savvy opponent.
Despite the fact that Schlafly almost single-handedly stopped the ERA, which would've guaranteed all citizens equal rights under federal law regardless of sex, Blanchett told reporters she didn't approach playing her with disdain, but rather a desire to capture her humanity. "I don't believe in demonizing anyone," Blanchett said, noting that we as humans are all full of contradictions and hypocrisies. "It is a challenge when you're playing a figure who is so polarizing. It was definitely a challenge to find those nuances and not play one note. She's a human."
"I think I related to her as a working parent," Blanchett added. Learning about Schlafly, who died in 2016 and was a Donald Trump supporter, Blanchett said the woman she portrays was "profoundly influential." She also revealed that she was "gobsmacked by [Schlafly's] ability to inspire, galvanize, and mobilize people through various tactics," even if some of the ways she got her message across have been derided as misleading and mean.
Mrs. America is produced by Dahvi Waller, an award-winning writer-producer (Mad Men), and Stacey Sher (Django Unchained, Erin Brockovich), and they said they took great care to present the story as layered and nuanced and intersectional. "It was very intentional to show shades of gray," said Waller. "What struck me about this period was how messy they were -- how they were contradictory, they quarreled. I wanted all the characters to have multitudes."
Mrs. America debuts with three episodes on Wednesday, April 15 on FX on Hulu. New episodes will air each subsequent week.
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