By Sugandha Rawal
New Delhi, April 10 (IANS) “Madam Secretary” creator Barbara Hall says telling a political story in the present “highly charged atmosphere,” in the US comes with challenges, but she is determined to build on that world and help everyone be part of the larger debate.
Taking notes from the real political sphere, “Madam Secretary” stars Tea Leoni as Elizabeth McCord, the determined Secretary of State who drives international diplomacy and negotiates global issues while creating a balance between her life at the White House and home. It is being aired in India on AXN.
“We are telling a political story in a highly charged political times here in the US, and that has its challenges,” Hall told IANS in an email interview.
“But it also means a large number of people are engaged in a political debate and they share a vocabulary with us. Stories that might have been unfamiliar to them before, are very recognisable. I always said I wanted to do a show about politics that wasn’t so polarised and polarising. I wanted everyone to come to the discussion. And I feel we’ve been very successful with that,” she said.
The show, which premiered in 2014, is known for tackling timely issues like #MeToo movement, foreign policy and ethics within the White House.
According to Hall, the thing that sets the show apart is that it’s about the Secretary of State.
“The State Department is a world, which has been woefully under-explored in popular culture. I also think it’s a departure to tell a story about a powerful woman who has a functioning marriage and family life. The trope in the past has been that if a woman is successful, the rest of her life is broken. I wanted to fly in the face of that,” said Hall, the showrunner and executive producer of “Madam Secretary”, which is in its fifth season.
Apart from running the critically-applauded show, Hall is famous for her writing skills. She has written novels like “Dixie Storms”, “A Better Place” and “Charisma”. She has also released two solo albums — “Handsome” in 2005 and “Bad Man” in 2013.
She was the showrunner of the “Judging Amy” that ran from 1999 to 2005, and created “Joan of Arcadia”, which ran two seasons from 2003 to 2005. She was also a co-executive producer on “Homeland”.
Talking about her inspiration for “Madam Secretary”, she said: “The inspiration was really all three of the former female Secretaries of State. I think the arena of the State Department was a natural fit for television.”
On the question if McCord is an idealised version of former US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, she said, “It’s true Secretary Clinton was one of the people whose approach to the job I explored. But I also looked at all of their experiences.”
“However, it was also important to add an element of fish out water, which is why this character didn’t come from the world of politics. As far as it being idealised, I’m definitely interested in creating an aspirational tone for a political drama,” she said.
Replying to a question if working on the show changed her perception about women in politics, Hall said, “I don’t think it has changed my mind about women in politics, except to make me even more aware of how many strides we still need to make. Right now we are fortunate to have a record number of women entering the presidential primary and that’s certainly helping to normalise the image of women in positions of authority.”
On the Indian politics finding a place in the narrative, she said: “My ultimate vision is always for worlds coming together rather than colliding. We have featured stories with India and women in positions of authority there, and I’m sure we’ll do more.”
What’s next? “It is ‘Madam Secretary’. I do have some ideas for other arenas I’d like to explore down the line. I might stay in the world of politics for a bit.”
(Sugandha Rawal can be contacted at [email protected])