CBS just ordered up a pilot for a potential series called “Madam Secretary,” a drama centered on the globe-trotting diplomacy and complicated family life of a “maverick” secretary of state.
Hmmm… Sounds a bit familiar.
It’s the latest in a string of small-screen takes featuring characters that just could be inspired by a certain former first lady. So, how close to home (that is, to Hillary Clinton is the latest fictionalized installment — which will star Tea Leoni in the title role, reports Entertainment Weekly.
Official response from Hillaryland: crickets, of course. (Spokesman Philippe Reines didn’t respond to our e-mails).
But for those focused on Clinton’s image in the run-up to her possible 2016 presidential bid, nothing’s too small to overlook. First question is how sympathetically the titular Madam Secretary will be portrayed: Will she be as Machiavellian as Kevin Spacey’s “House of Cards” character Frank Underwood, or as statesmanlike as Martin Sheen’s President Jed Bartlet on “The West Wing”? That’s unclear. The project’s still in the early stages, with casting continuing and shooting slated to begin this spring.
None of the names publicly attached to backing the project is a Clinton donor. They include executive producers Morgan Freeman, Lori McCreary and Tracy Mercer of Freeman’s production company, Revelations Entertainment, as well as writer/executive producer Barbara Hall, who pens “Homeland.”
And it hasn’t yet prompted the kind of outcry that resulted in NBC scotching a planned miniseries starring Diane Lane as Clinton. The Republican National Committee threatened to block the network — as well as CNN, which planned a Clinton biopic that it later pulled — from presidential primary debates in the next election over the series. The GOP feared the screen time for Clinton would amount to positive publicity, well-timed if she does, in fact, run for president in 2016.
Republicans are merely wary that the new show will be a valentine. “Hollywood seems to be getting very nervous about a potential Hillary run, because they are doing everything under the sun to prop up her image,” RNC communications director Sean Spicer said. “What’s next? ‘Dancing With Hillary’?”
It isn’t the first time a fictional character has been associated with the former first lady. The short-lived “Political Animals,” starring Sigourney Weaver as a former first lady turned secretary of state, was clearly Clinton-inspired. And Emma Thompson played a thinly veiled version of Clinton in the 1998 movie “Primary Colors,” based on the book of the same name written by journalist Joe Klein.
Paul Begala, a longtime Bill Clinton aide who’s now a cable TV fixture, says he hasn’t heard much buzz about the project. But he helpfully offered a few casting suggestions before news of Leoni’s casting broke: Meryl Streep for the title role, he thinks, and Robert Redford (with a bit of hair dye) as her husband. Loyal aides, perhaps based on Hillary Clinton confidantes Reines and Huma Abedin, could be meaty parts for Johnny Depp and Eva Longoria, Rashida Jones or Freida Pinto.
“Of course, you’d need a ruggedly handsome former aide who is now a cable news commentator,” Begala deadpanned. “I think Brad Pitt would be perfect, don’t you?”