“Mrs. America” star Cate Blanchett might be portraying Phyllis Schlafly, the real-life conservative activist famous for outspoken opposition to women’s equality, the equal rights amendment, the right to an abortion, and same sex marriage. But as she told reporters Thursday during the show’s TCA panel, she didn’t set out to demonize her.
Blanchett told reporters how she found the humanity in the late political figure, whose ideologies were in direct opposition to much of Hollywood then and now, Thursday at the Television Critics Association Winter Press Tour.
“I don’t believe in demonizing anybody. My agreement or disagreement, my personal political persuasions — I couldn’t be less interested in folding into a character,” she said.
According to the Blanchett, drama is “a place where you can flesh someone out.”
“Even in Spielberg’s ‘Lincoln,’ there’s a lot of invention there. You’ve got the letters, you’ve got the actual facts of what took place. But what went on behind the scenes you have to invent,” she said. “So at a certain point, you have to go where the character fits into the story, because you are describing a particular movement in time. “
She also pointed out that “no one is perfect.”
“The way you create ambiguity and juxtaposition in a character is to simply borrow two contradictory thoughts or actions, butt them together, and then present them to an audience,” she said. “We’re all full of contradictions and hypocrisies. No one is perfect, including Phyllis — although her hair was mostly always perfect.”
“But it is a challenge, I think, when you’re playing a figure who is so polarizing,” Blanchett continued. “In the end, how polarizing she became was the very thing that prevented her from getting in place in Reagan’s cabinet. It was definitely a challenge to find those nuances and not to play one note. But that comes from the script and the other actors you’re working with because in the end you just have to play those situations in a human way. Because she’s a human.”