Elizabeth Marvel on Why It’s Good Her ‘Homeland’ President Wasn’t a ‘Noble Virtuous Hero’

TheWrap Emmy magazine: “The altruistic virtuosic politician really doesn’t exist,” says the actress of the “complicated” President Keane

A version of this story about Elizabeth Marvel appeared in The Race Begins issue of TheWrap Emmy magazine.

After spending her first year on “Homeland” playing a president-elect, Elizabeth Marvel finally joined the ranks of actors to play a sitting U.S. president on screen, with her portrayal of President Elizabeth Keane.

“At this moment, at what is happening in our world, it’s a great honor to play a female president,” Marvel told TheWrap. “I also really appreciated that they did not just paint her as this noble virtuous hero. She was a survivor. She was a very complicated individual that they created.

“The altruistic virtuosic politician really doesn’t exist,” she said. “I appreciate that they really dug into her complexity and that it wasn’t just a two-dimensional hero.”

Marvel is no stranger to playing female roles that have aspirations of reaching the Oval Office. During her two-season run on Netflix’s “House of Cards,” she played presidential hopeful Heather Dunbar. But on the Showtime series, she finally got to sit behind the Resolute Desk.

“Considering the fact that, in America, we have an unrepentant misogynist in the White House currently, it’s important to show a female president in the White House,” Marvel said. “It has a whole new immediacy and resonance at the moment.”

And that resonance extends past her own experience — especially on a show like “Homeland,” which has been led by a female protagonist in Claire Danes’ Carrie Mathison throughout its seven-season run. To Marvel, being able to portray strong female characters in powerful positions is important for young up-and-coming actresses to see.

“I think its oxygen to them. It’s that important,” she said. “It’s absolutely fundamental. It’s that old saying, ‘If you can see it, you can be it.’ When I was a young actress starting, the idea of being at this time of life, looking around and feeling so well nourished creatively in TV. I would have never dreamed of it. There is a desire to write for us, there is room for us, that space is growing. ‘Homeland’ is a perfect example of that — the two protagonists of the season were strong adult women.”

Read more of TheWrap Emmy magazine’s The Race Begins issue here.

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