Actor Richard Thomas is having a very Washington moment. You can see him on TV in FX’s excellent, espionage-filled wigfest “The Americans” and, over at Arena Stage, playing Jimmy Carter in the world premiere of the play “Camp David.”
Inspired as we are by this turn of events, we’re going to pretend to be Wonkblog for a second and tell you everything you need to know about actors who have recently portrayed—or are portraying—U.S. presidents in one chart! Our POTUSes: Daniel Day-Lewis in “Lincoln” (2012), James Marsden and Rob Lowe as John F. Kennedy (in “Lee Daniels’ The Butler” and last year’s “Killing Kennedy” respectively, Alan Rickman as Ronald Reagan (also in 2013’s “The Butler”), and Bryan Cranston, now starring as Lyndon B. Johnson on Broadway in “All the Way.”
Actor stats vs. POTUS stats: DDL is two inches shorter than the famously towering Abe. That said, he was 55 at the time of filming, the same as Lincoln’s age in the movie (which deals with events in January 1865.)
Make you do a double-take? It’s Daniel Day-Lewis, so, yes, obviously.
Most compelling pro-POTUS cred: He would actually text-message his co-stars as if he were Lincoln, which was probably really annoying from a logistical POV (“Hey DDL, want to get a pizza? Half-cheese, half-pepperoni?” “A house divided against—” “You’re going to do that every time?”) but he did win an Oscar for the role, so, wash.
But there’s just this one thing…Birthplace of Daniel Day-Lewis: England.
Electability? TOO BRITISH. Sorry, DDL.
Actor stats vs. POTUS stats: From a biographical perspective, these two have virtually nothing in common. Marsden wasn’t even 40 during filming; he portrays Kennedy from his inauguration until his death, at age 46.
Make you do a double-take? If you mean “would I look twice at either of these gents because they’re both so handsome?” Yes, definitely. But if you mean “Does James Marsden look even remotely like JFK?” then . . . no, not so much.
Most compelling pro-POTUS cred: Pretty much just the handsomeness. Marsden does a not-too-shabby Massachusetts accent, too! Apparently he used to fall asleep listening to podcasts of JFK’s speeches to get the hang of it.
But there’s just this one thing…Marsden replaced Matthew McConaughey in the role. At the time that seemed like a smart move, but now that we’re mid-McConaissance, we’re left to wonder what might have been, and also whether time is a flat circle.
Electability?Marsden didn’t have enough screen time to prove he could hold the highest office in the land. (Everyone knows the ability to play a president in a movie is the best predictor for one’s ability to govern.)
Actor stats vs. POTUS stats: Both were famous faces (and/or related to famous faces) by the time they hit their twenties.
Make you do a double-take? Again, handsomeness alone does not a Kennedy make.
Most compelling pro-POTUS cred: According to Lowe, he “always sort of felt like maybe one day I would play one of the Kennedys.” Another point: He and John Jr. used to be buddies.
But there’s just this one thing… His accent is more Mayor Quimby than Mr. President, alas.
Electability?For whatever it’s worth, I’m 100 percent sure Lowe would be a better POTUS than the current TV commanders-in-chief, Fitz and Walker.
Actor stats vs. POTUS stats: They’re the same height. Other than that, I’ve got nothing, unless Rickman has a weakness for jelly beans.
Make you do a double-take? You wouldn’t think so, but holy prosthetics, Batman!
Most compelling pro-POTUS cred: Rickman can break down exactly how Reagan structures his sentences. Nothing says “I’m all in on this role” like close syntax analysis.
But there’s just this one thing… Born and raised: London.
Electability?Too British! Ten points from Slytherin.
Actor stats vs. POTUS stats: Cranston has described his own family issues as mirroring those of LBJ’s, specifically their difficult financial circumstances as children.
Make you do a double-take? To quote Cranston, he and LBJ share “squinty eyes, thin lips” and wrinkles.
Most compelling pro-POTUS cred: He made multiple treks to the LBJ Presidential Library in Texas for research.
But there’s just this one thing…Unfortunately, he couldn’t get Robert Caro, renowned LBJ expert and biographer, on the phone for a consult.
Electability?Nope. Still not over everything he did to Jesse.