A new series featuring Cate Blanchett as late anti-feminist and homophobe Phyllis Schlafly is coming from FX on Hulu, and according to the star, the subject matter couldn’t be “more relevant.”
Blanchett’s comments were made last Thursday at the 2020 Television Critics Association winter press tour in Hollywood, where the cable network unveiled a trailer for the upcoming limited series, titled “Mrs. America.” The show documents the fight for women’s rights during the 1970s, and centers on the effort to ratify the Equal Rights Amendment – of which conservative advocate Schlafly was an aggressive opponent.
The Oscar-winning Blanchett, who is also an executive producer on the series, said, “It seemed that every passing day in the development process, and certainly during shooting, right up to Virginia debating the ERA right now, it became like “Groundhog Day.” The literal discussions that were happening during 1971,1972, going through the series, were constantly popping up in the media.”
Her point about the continued relevance of the subject matter was echoed by series creator Dahvi Waller, who said her show serves “as an origin story of today’s culture wars — you can draw a direct line from 1970 to today through Phyllis Schlafly and really understand how we became such a divided nation.”
Schlalfy, in addition to her vehement anti-feminism, was also known for her stance against LGBTQ rights. She believed passage of the ERA would lead to same-sex marriage and unisex restrooms, and said marriage equality was not “about granting equality of human rights” but “about getting rid of the traditional values and institutions that have guided the Western world, including America.” She lamented the de-criminalization of homosexuality, and said the acceptance of transgender people was “just plain nuts.”
Ironically, Schlafly’s son John came out as gay in a 1992 interview with New York’s QW Magazine.
In addition to Blanchett, “Mrs. America” features Elizabeth Banks, Sarah Paulson, Uzo Aduba, Rose Byrne, Margo Martindale, John Slattery, James Marsden, Jeanne Tripplehorn, and Tracey Ullman.
It premieres April 15 on FX on Hulu. Until then, you can watch the trailer below.
PHOTOS: 2022 Baltimore Pride
Annual LGBTQ march held on Saturday
The 2022 Baltimore Pride Parade was held on Saturday, June 25. The march was followed by a block party and entertainment.
(Washington Blade photos by Linus Berggren)
Queer actor on new role: ‘Playing villains is a blast’
Jaye Ayres-Brown returns as a contemptible Londoner in ‘Red Velvet’
Through July 17
Shakespeare Theatre Company
Michael R. Klein Theatre at the Lansburgh, 450 7th St., N.W.
After a five-year absence from the stage, actor Jaye Ayres-Brown (queer, gender fluid, non-binary, and trans-femme) returns to the boards as a contemptible cisgender Londoner in playwright Lolita Chakrabarti’s “Red Velvet” at Shakespeare Theatre Company’s Klein Theatre.
Possessed of presence and genuine warmth, Ayres-Brown, 27, is playing Charles Kean, the smug and dubiously talented son of legendary English actor Edmund Kean. Charles is also the essential antagonist in Chakrabarti’s exploration of the life and career of renowned early 19th century African-American Shakespearean actor, Ira Aldridge (Amari Cheatom).
When Aldridge is tapped to play Othello on the London stage, Charles, who’s slated to act opposite the star as evil Iago, quits the show. It’s 1833 and Charles is deeply opposed to a Black actor playing a Black lead character, and he’s even less pleased that his real-life fiancée Ellen Tree (Emily DeForest) is assaying Othello’s romantic obsession Desdemona in the production.
Offstage, Ayres-Brown is Aldridge’s biggest fan: “He was way ahead of his time. A hundred years before Stanislavsky, Aldridge was introducing a proto naturalist approach to acting. In retrospect, it’s hard to disentangle the public’s reaction to him. He was something so different. But were white audiences reacting to his innovative acting style or were they showing their racial bias?”
“In the play, I’m that bias,” says the New York-based actor.
WASHINGTON BLADE: Joan Crawford famously said, “I love playing bitches. There’s a lot of bitch in every woman — a lot in every man.”
JAYE AYRES-BROWN: Oh yeah, playing villains is a blast. Ira Aldridge was such a spectacularly heroic person, an amazingly gifted and resourceful artist, he deserves a good villain to push against, a meaningful villain who makes us admire the hero even more. And Amari [Cheatom], the actor who plays Aldridge, is a great artist who deserves a strong antagonist too.
BLADE: Are you enjoying your stay in London 1833?
AYRES-BROWN: No, I hate it! But my character loves it. Charles enjoys tremendous privilege – racial and professionally. He’s a cisgender white supremacist committed to the patriarchal power structure of the time. But me, Jaye as a person, is less than charmed by it.
BLADE: But aesthetically, it’s quite fine?
AYRES-BROWN: Yes, You-Shin Chen’s sets are impeccable, and the period costumes are beautifully rendered by Rodrigo Muñoz. Sometimes, I do feel a little bit like a drag king in Charles’ attire. It’s a performance of masculinity.
I have an expansive experience of gender in which I include masculinity and I think I have something interesting to say and a unique perspective. Language about gender nonconforming identity didn’t exist in 1833, but the people existed, getting by the best way they could. Everyone was either a man or a woman. Who knows today how any of these characters would identify?
My objective is to cram as much humanity in the character as I can. The play is deeply considered with questions about who gets to play what roles. And I try to bring as much of myself to each role regardless of their gender.
BLADE: Charles is very far from who you are?
AYRES-BROWN: For me, the work of playing a character like this is derived largely from the racist lessons all Americans learn. The stereotypes are things that I’ve been exposed to as someone who grew up white in America. There’s the initial desire to distance and highlight contrasts, but ultimately you must mine your own experience even if it’s uncomfortable.
BLADE: How is it to be working in live theater again?
AYRES-BROWN: Like Christmas morning! It’s my first play in five years, and still my training kicks in. I re-balance on my bike and it’s like I’ve never stopped riding. But mostly, I’m trying to have as much fun as I can.
BLADE: And how was working with young director Jade King Carroll?
AYRES-BROWN: Wonderful! The play deals with some difficult moments, harmful language and ideas. Jade created a space in our rehearsal room where people could be playful while engaging with that. Dealing with concepts of history requires the seriousness it demands, but there’s also a need for humor and lightness, and Jade made that possible.
BLADE: Any thoughts on “Red Velvet” being stuck in time?
AYRES-BORWN: No, I think this play is a shockingly contemporary telling of a lost history that feels overwhelmingly resonant as it’s related to identity politics and the push for representation. I hope the audience sees a period but appreciates the present-day dynamics, discussions, and language. It’s also surprisingly human and very entertaining. To me it’s a very funny show. Anyone interested in laughing at posh British folks being stupid might agree.
Olympic champion Tom Daley ‘furious’ about bans on trans athletes
“Anyone that’s told that they can’t compete or can’t do something they love just because of who they are, it’s not ok”
Olympic diving champion Tom Daley said he is “furious” about FINA, the world swimming body, banning some transgender athletes from women’s swimming, diving, and other competitions.
“Anyone that’s told that they can’t compete or can’t do something they love just because of who they are, it’s not OK,” Daley said to iNews at a press conference. “It’s something I feel really strongly about. Giving trans people the chance to share their side.”
Earlier this month, FINA released the new policy on eligibility, banning athletes who have experienced male puberty from women’s competitions.
FINA President Husain Al-Musallam said the new policy intended to protect athletes’ right to compete but also ensure competition fairness.
FINA intends to create an open category for athletes whose birth sex is different from their gender identity.
“This has not been done before, so FINA will need to lead the way. I want all athletes to feel included in being able to develop ideas during this process.” Al-Musallam said.
The new policy was condemned by the Human Rights Campaign, which said that requiring athletes to transition before age 12 was unrealistic and unlikely. States such as Alabama regulate young people’s access to age-appropriate gender-affirming care.
“This sudden and discriminatory decision is a blatant attack on transgender athletes who have worked to comply with longstanding policies that have allowed them to participate for years without issue,” said Joni Madison, HRC’s Interim President, “This policy is an example of swimming organizations caving to the avalanche of ill-informed, prejudiced attacks targeted at one particular transgender swimmer.”
The new policy will impact the career of trans swimmer Lia Thomas, the first trans woman to win a NCAA Division I Women’s Swimming Championship, and may prevent her from participating and competing in the female category.
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