Cate Blanchett Tackles Conservative Icon Phyllis Schlafly in ‘Mrs. America’

Mrs. America, a drama series focused on the life of conservative activist Phyllis Schlafly, debuts on the newly established FX on Hulu hub April 15.

Schlafly twice ran for Congress, authored many, many books, published a conservative newsletter and advised lawmakers on defense issues.

Cate Blanchett plays Schlafly, who was wholeheartedly against the Equal Rights Amendment, thinking it would send women to war and bust up the traditional family structure. “She really did sell this notion that the Equal Rights Amendment would break apart the American family,” Blanchett said in a conference call with the media.

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Mrs. America also looks at other feminist icons in the 1970s, including Shirley Chisholm, an African-American who ran for president in 1972, Gloria Steinem and Betty Friedan.

Dahvi Waller created the series and is an exec producer, along with Blanchett, Stacey Sher, Anna Boden and Ryan Fleck. Waller sought to “find the connective tissue between women on opposite ends of the ideological spectrum.”

Telling the story from the conservative viewpoint, she said, was a “fresher” option.

Schlafly, she said, was “unabashedly, unapologetically asking for, demanding a piece of the pie, a piece of the power of the political structure.”

Sher said the idea came from watching coverage of the 2016 election, and how not much had changed for women in politics since the 1970s. “Some of it was pretty misogynistic,” she said.

Tracey Ullman plays Betty Friedan and Uzo Aduba plays Shirley Chisholm. Margo Martindale portrays Bella Abzug, Rose Byrne plays Gloria Steinem and John Slattery plays Phyllis’s husband Fred.

Elizabeth Banks and Sarah Paulson are also in the cast.

Blanchett described Schlafly, who died in 2016, as “always the most overqualified person in the room.”

She said the feminists “underestimated [Schlafly’s] capabilities and her endurance, and her ability to simplify a message.”

At the TV Critics Association press tour in January, Waller called Mrs. America “an origin story of today’s culture wars.”

With many sitting at home, waiting out the coronavirus, Mrs. America might find an audience. “The series is about how people respond to change, and very disruptive change, and fear of change,” said Waller. “What we’re living in right now is a very sudden disruptive force, more than any social revolution could possibly be. All the uncertainty and fear that that’s bringing up, I think you’ll find elements of that in the series.”

Michael Malone

Michael Malone, senior content producer at B+C/Multichannel News, covers network programming, including entertainment, news and sports on broadcast, cable and streaming; and local broadcast television. He hosts the podcasts Busted Pilot, about what’s new in television, and Series Business, a chat with the creator of a new program, and writes the column “The Watchman.” He joined B+C in 2005. His journalism has also appeared in The New York Times, The Philadelphia Inquirer, Playboy and New York magazine.