Meet the Power Players of Political Animals -- Plus, How USA Network Landed the Sexy Series
The Political Animals: Carla Gugino as Susan Berg, Ciaran Hinds as Bud Hammond, Sigourney Weaver as Elaine Barrish, Ellen Burstyn as Margaret, James Wolk as Doug Hammond, Brittany Ishibashi as Anne Ogami and Sebastian Stan as TJ Hammond
(played by Sigourney Weaver)
Political Animals opens with a defining moment in Elaine’s run for the White House, which came on the heels of husband Bud’s popular yet ultimately sullied term as POTUS. The action then jumps to the present, where Elaine serves as Secretary of State to President Garcetti, with whom she will at times cross swords. “The Oval Office is in some ways the adversary here, even though they’re the same political party,” says series creator Greg Berlanti. “It’s not Democrats versus Republicans, it’s Democrats versus themselves.” But first and foremost, Elaine will have to contend with a volatile crisis in the Middle East while trying to keep a lid on son TJ’s dark past and eluding the prying gaze of journalist Susan Berg.
(played by Ciaran Hinds, Rome)
Overflowing with bravado and not at all too shy to hail himself as “the meat” in the “Big Mac” that is his political party, Bud is somewhat oblivious to the part of his Oval Office legacy that was littered with illicit affairs — and in fact he is anxious to jump back into the game. To that end (and as he keeps company with a quite bodacious primetime soap starlet), he is forever working angles with ex-wife Elaine, lining himself up for what very well may be a showstopper of a political encore.
(played by Carla Gugino, Karen Sisco)
A reporter for the Washington Globe, Susan earned herself a Pulitzer for her coverage of President Bud Hammond’s Oval Office indiscretions, and now is leveraging her knowledge of a Hammond clan bombshell to gain access to Secretary of State Barrish. “Susan has been extremely curious about the Hammond family and very vocal about questioning the way in which they live their lies — quite justifiably on some counts, and probably harsh on some others,” says Gugino. Yet by the close of the premiere, some of that ice will thaw. “[Susan and Elaine] are always going to be at odds, but the connection between them is absolutely genuine. They are birds of a feather in a lot of ways.”
(played by Sebastian Stan, Kings)
TJ sweated through the spotlight as the first openly gay offspring of a standing U.S. president, and now is struggling to keep a drug problem at bay — all while twin brother Douglas (played by James Wolk) appears to lead a perfect life. But even so, this problem child may not be Elaine’s biggest liability. “He’s definitely a problem, and he’s a problem to himself, but he wears all of that on his sleeve,” says Stan. “Whereas with everyone else, there’s a constant suppressing of feelings, prolonging what could become a traumatic outburst.” As for obvious comparisons to his Kings role (as the son of a monarch), Stan notes, “Jack Benjamin had a very specific sense of self identity, where TJ doesn’t. And as damaged or defected as TJ is, he’s very open about that.”
(played by James Wolk, Lone Star)
TJ’s twin is, comparatively, a seemingly straight arrow, and also serves as their mother’s chief of staff. But as he juggles a bubbling political hot potato for the State Department with his own impending wedding (and his brother’s sundry escapades), don’t be surprised if this good son has a bad run of luck. “There are a lot of twists and turns along the way,” Wolk teases. “He’s going to come a little undone!”
(played by Brittany Ishibashi, Supernatural)
Doug’s fiancee, most simply said, got more than she bargained for when she become betrothed to the high-profile Hammond family. And it threatens to make her crack. “Anne definitely did not see herself anywhere near politics, let alone being part of this insane political dynasty,” Ishibashi says with a laugh. “It’s a lot of pressure, and the ways she’s trying to deal with that and maintain some sort of clarity are terrifying.” Wait, more startling than what we see her secretly do in the premiere? “Ohhhh, you’ve haven’t seen the worst of anybody yet!” the actress promises.
(played by Ellen Burstyn)
Oscar winner Burstyn touts her character, Elaine’s mother and a former Las Vegas showgirl, as “a survivor and a truth-teller.” She’s also no stranger to a hard drink or dressing down someone, as she winningly, unabashedly does to Carla Gugino’s enterprising journo in the premiere. “She has a great sense of humor, and she doesn’t take guff from nobody!” raves the actress. Meaning, whereas Elaine’s team tends to kowtow to their boss, Mom “just lays it on the line.” Definitely a grand dame to watch.
President Paul Garcetti
(played by Adrian Pasdar, Heroes)
Having “the good fortune,” he says, to have met both Presidents Clinton and Obama, Pasdar allows that a “combination of both” those Oval Office denizens is present in his portrayal “without putting a hammer right on top of the nail.” That Garcetti clashes with Secretary of State Barrish when a dire situation arises in the Middle East, Pasdar says, is but one side effect of the new POTUS navigating a complicated system. “He’s very good at what he does — nobody who gets up the ladder and sits behind the Resolute desk isn’t — but he’s going through frustrations.”