I don’t want to be secretary of state: Téa Leoni

  • Shweta Mehta Sen, Hindustan Times, Los Angeles
  • Updated: Jan 10, 2015 15:19 IST

Best known for films such as Jurassic Park III (2001) and Hollywood Ending (2002), Téa Leoni has been missing in action since her last release in 2011 (Tower Heist). But now, the Hollywood actor is all set to return — this time to the small screen — with the show Madam Secretary, which goes on air on AXN on Saturday.

At a press conference in Los Angeles, USA, we caught up with her to learn more about her turn as a fictional US Secretary of State on the show.

What did your research for the show entail?

I’ve been asked if I met Hillary (Clinton; former US secretary of state), but honestly, the first person that I thought of was not a particular female secretary of state, but my grandmother, who founded the US Fund for UNICEF. She was the volunteer president for almost 30 years and raised five kids and 27 grandchildren. I thought about what it was like for her to be travelling around the world and coming home and being a mother. I also thought about my friends who are working mothers. I did have coffee with Madeleine Albright (first female Secretary of State), she is amazing, and she told me some funny stories.

What excited you most about this role?

The US has had three female secretaries of state. We have women in great political positions, but what we see on the news is the final decision — not how it was made or being struggled with. We see people come to the mic and say, "This is what we’re going to do," or "This is where we made a mistake". For instance, I really was curious about Hillary’s life, because there is a glint in her eyes. That woman has got something, some warmth and charisma and I was curious about that. So, I thought it was a really interesting idea to have this woman, and see her come home, burn eggs, miss soccer games and have horrific struggles with her daughter.

Barbara Hall (show creator) thinks you could be a real-life secretary of state.

I’m very flattered. And, although I enjoy diplomacy, figuring out how we can all be heard and coming up with the best solution, I can tell you that after playing the Secretary of State on TV, I do not want that job in reality. I could send the US into Depression in a weekend (laughs).

Tell us about Elizabeth’s equation with her husband, Henry McCord (played by actor Tim Daly). When the woman is the more powerful one of the two, does the portrayal of the relationship change drastically?

One of the things that attracted me to this role was actually the character of Henry McCord. Here’s this husband who has the strength, confidence and power to stand alongside a powerful woman. I am very impressed with how much TV today shows powerful women; and I am slightly less impressed with what they do with their male partner. If I were a man, I would be offended by those portrayals. It’s about time we saw a man step up to the plate, love that role, and be successful at it.

(The writer’s tripto Los Angeles was sponsored by AXN India and hosted by CBS Studios.)

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