COSMO got a chance to sit down and chat with Ben Platt, who stars as Payton Hobart in Netflix’s new series, The Politician. You might remember Ben as Benji in Pitch Perfect and Pitch Perfect 2. He also won a Tony Award for Best Leading Actor in a Musical for Dear Evan Hansen in 2017.
The Politician follows Payton Hobart, who has known, since age seven, that he’s going to be President of the United States. But first, he’ll have to navigate the most treacherous political landscape of all: Saint Sebastian High School.
About the character
When asked why he was drawn to the character, Ben said, ‘I think that he’s a very complicated and layered guy. He’s fully formed and also very different from the characters that I have been used to playing. I played pretty anxious, mild-mannered, meek sort of characters that like to take up as little space as possible, and who wear their heart on their sleeve. So it’s pretty easy to root for [them] in terms of their kindness and empathy.
‘And Payton is a much more aggressive, assertive, self-serving, confident person compared to other characters I’ve played before, which was sort of frightening. But it was also a great challenge.’
About the similarities between him and his character, he admits that they are both driven.
‘I’ve been working since I was nine years old as an actor, and it’s always been what I wanted to do. I had an innate desire (like my character does) and he never really made a conscious choice to be the president – he just always knew he wanted to do it. And I also feel similar to him in terms of my ambition, although, he is able to compartmentalise his emotions in favour of his ambition, which is not something that I can do. I don’t think you can push my feelings inside.’
About The Politician
The Politician, from producers Ryan Murphy, Brad Falchuk and Ian Brennan, will be streaming on Netflix from today. Murphy, Falchuk and Brennan were the masterminds behind Glee, Pose, Scream Queens and American Horror Story.
Ben was approached for the role after Ryan Murphy saw him in the Broadway musical Dear Evan Hansen (which also starred his Politician co-star Laura Dreyfuss). But it was after Ben had read the script of the pilot that he was convinced. ‘It was very biting and sharp, and the tone was a very specific flavour that I hadn’t seen before. You could tell when reading it that it was special and different.’
About Gwyneth Paltrow
Gwyneth stars as Payton’s mom, Georgina, and Ben met her for the first time on the first day of shooting.
‘She’s incredibly warm and treated me in a maternal, protective way right from the beginning – she really took me under her wing,’ he says. ‘She made me feel very seen and intimately close to her, and broke down the barrier of the larger-than-life Gwyneth Paltrow. She made me feel like a friend.’
About love and relationships
According to Ben, the main thing he looks for in a partner is a sense of humour. ‘I think … to be able to laugh with them – particularly when it comes to things that can feel overwhelming or a little bit pessimistic.’
He is also interested in someone who is compassionate: ‘Having someone who can understand that there are times that I really need to focus on myself and on what I’m working on, and have that be something that they can relate to… Someone who’s creative in some way and good with kids.’
According to Ben, his best date was at a theatre. It was a really fantastic, romantic play in New York, and then we went to the riverside, bought fast food in bags and ate it on a bench by the water. I really loved it.’
About sexuality and gender identity
Ben commends co-producer, writer and director Ryan Murphy for raising these issues in the series:
‘I think Ryan is always trying to perpetuate a world in which queer identity and gender identity is just sort of an assumed part of people’s identity, and it’s a backdrop of the world we live in. It doesn’t need to be overly discussed or oppressive or traumatic – it can just be part of what colours a person. I think the world he creates in the show is a great one for young people to see, and hopefully it’s the one we’re headed towards where you don’t have to really explain yourself or grapple with it. It can just be who you love.’
On toxic masculinity
Payton struggles to display his emotions. Regarding how men struggle with being vulnerable, Ben says, ‘I would like to think it has more to do with being comfortable in your own skin and who you are. Whether you have days where you feel vulnerable, confident or kind – I think it’s having all of those things and being comfortable with your emotions.’
His advice for COSMO girls:
‘Invest in your otherness and your strangeness, and revel in it (as opposed to trying to smooth it out and make it match others). I think the power comes when you can figure out what you have that no-one else does, even if that feels like something weird or strange.’
Watch the trailer:
Watch The Politician on Netflix here.
Interview may have been edited for clarity and content.
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