In the biggest panel of all 44 shows in Deadline’s Contenders Television virtual event, all seven key female stars of FX’s Mrs. America gathered in different locations to talk about the limited series, which centers on the fight for the ERA as well as the women’s liberation movement centering on those who fought hard to make a change — and one woman in particular who rallied her own troops to defeat that movement.
Her name was Phyllis Schlafly, and she is played by Cate Blanchett in her first major TV project; she also serves as an executive producer of the nine-part show. The two-time Oscar winner joined the panel from London to tell why the series was important to her.
“For me I’m reeling like a lot of us from the 2016 election and trying to reverse engineer how women could vote for the man who currently sits in the White House,” she said. As for the ERA fight in the 1970s, ‘It was a period of history I thought I knew about but I had no idea who Phyllis was and had no idea how polarizing she was and how she put a lot of things in the Republican Party platform that we know now.”
“Apart from playing someone who felt so far away from me, I was trying to understand what was so terrifying about the issue of equality. I felt that it was a timely and prescient thing to delve into.” she said.
Rose Byrne, who plays Gloria Steinem, said she hasn’t met Steinem, but did work hard in getting details about her just right including the distinctive voice. Tracey Ullman playing Betty Freidan said she had to fight hard to get the role. Margo Martindale as Bella Abzug spent two months researching her and called it a “huge responsibility.” Uzo Aduba playing presidential candidate and congresswoman Shirley Chisholm spoke about the show reaching a generation unaware of this movement and these pioneers. As Republican feminist Jill Ruckleshaus, Elizabeth Banks compared that period to the divisiveness in today’s politics.
Sarah Paulson was the only one playing a fictional character, a composite of those who followed Schlafly. She said she was jealous of the other stars who got to play these iconic women.
Check out the panel video above.