SANTA BARBARA, Calif. (AP) — To hear Ben Platt describe it, producer Ryan Murphy’s pitch for him to star in the new Netflix series “The Politician” had all the planning, precision and vision of a successful presidential campaign.
“He said, ‘OK, the show is called ‘The Politician.’ The character’s Peyton Hobart. This is the content of the character. I want Gwyneth Paltrow to play a mother. The world’s going to look like this. This is going to be eight episodes. If we go this many seasons, you’ll end up here,” Platt said of their meeting.
Platt signed on after hearing Murphy’s description of the character: a “borderline sociopathic-egomaniacal-ambitious witty man.” It’s a departure from Platt’s star-making role, the sweet, socially awkward title character of “Dear Evan Hansen.”
“And so, to me, that was, as an actor, the most delicious possible possibility,” Platt said.
Platt’s Hobart will go to any lengths to achieve his dream of becoming president of the United States. But, first, he must win over voters in his high school election, which is a lot harder than it sounds.
Murphy, the Emmy-winning producer behind “Glee” and “American Crime Story,” offered Platt other enticements, including an executive producer credit.
“(That) allowed me to have some sort of creative ownership over it that I have been able to have in the theater, but not really anywhere else as of yet,” the Tony Award winner said. “And so that was really attractive to me.”
Platt wasn’t the only actor who Murphy wooed with a perfect pitch. Jessica Lange, who has won two Emmy Awards starring in Murphy’s “American Horror Story” series, said the producer knew just how to get her to sign on.
“He reels me in because he knows what I like and what’s going to kind of trigger my imagination right away,” said Lange, who plays the shady grandmother of Hobart’s running mate. “So, then he’ll drop the couple things here and there, you know: ‘She went to Hollywood. She wanted to be Vanna White. She’s from West Virginia. She got pregnant when she was a teenager. She was . ‘ And I can see it all coming. And it’s never a surprise to me, but it’s always tremendously entertaining. So, you know, I end up saying, ‘Yeah, I’ll do it.'”
In addition to Platt and Lange, the series that debuts Friday adds the star power of Paltrow and Oscar nominee Bob Balaban.
Murphy crams the first eight episodes of “The Politician” with so much political scandal that the series could be perceived as over the top.
But not today, Lange said.
“Our politics have somehow devolved into such an absolute (expletive) show,” she said. “You couldn’t make it more absurd than it is in reality. I mean, you couldn’t make this story up that’s going on in America right now. So, you know, as weird as Ryan wants to spin this story, it’s not going to get weirder than what is actually happening.”