The Politician star says show turned him off political career
Ben Platt has said playing a character intent on becoming the US president in new show The Politician killed any political ambition he had.
On whether he fancied turning his hand to politics at some point in his career, the actor told Sky News: “No, and if I did before the show I certainly don’t have after playing this character.”
The 26-year-old continued: “I think it’s really pointed out to me that it’s not in my DNA – that ability to compartmentalise emotion and to sort of put drive and ambition above relationships and above empathy is just not something that I have.
“I feel like if anything I’ve spent time trying to mine my emotions and lead into them as an actor and sort of exploit them, so to put them to the side isn’t in my DNA.”
That said, the US actor, who’s been on stage since he was a child, can relate to his character Payton Hobart in terms of having an innate ambition that drives him.
Platt said: “Similarly to him I was born with this idea that I really wanted to be a performer and an actor and I don’t remember making a conscious decision.
“It was just an innate feeling that that’s what I was meant to do, and he feels the same way about being president of the United States.
“And I’ve been very one track minded about it since I was eight or nine years old and I started working.
“I’ve stayed very focused in the way that he has and I think we’re very alike in that way.”
Platt began his career on Broadway as a child, appeared in Pitch Perfect and its sequel and then landed the titular role in Broadway show Dear Evan Hansen – a role that earned him a Grammy, an Emmy and a Tony, making him one of a small group of people to hold all three awards.
It was after seeing Platt on stage that Glee creator Ryan Murphy approached him about The Politician – and Platt admits that Murphy is not someone you are going to turn down.
He said: “Absolutely not, you can barely stay in the chair, it was an absolute visceral yes.
“I mean I think he’s very smart and he knows exactly what’s going to entice actors the most which is to do something that’s out of their comfort zone and that turns what they’ve usually done on its head.
“As someone that had been playing very anxious, meek, loving, kind characters, to be presented with someone who is assertive, aggressive and confident, and takes up space, was a delicious challenge.”
Platt said that while some of Hobart’s traits did not come naturally to him, he enjoyed the experience of being a not-so-good guy.
He explained: “I think it’s mostly just using muscles that you don’t get to use in your life.
“There’s just a real joy and like a tastiness to that – to getting to lean into things that don’t come naturally to you.
“When I was doing Dear Evan Hansen and I’d have this very emotional, vulnerable outlet of lots of tears and sort of sadness, it’s a similar satisfaction to lean into the snark and the anger and the and the sort of bitchiness of it as well.”
In the show, Hobart’s mother is played by Gwyneth Paltrow, who Platt saw as enigmatic: “I think when I first met her it was very much the enigma that I was expecting, and that’s who came walking towards me on the first day of shooting in this beautiful gown and a giant garden. It was everything you think Gwyneth Paltrow will be when you meet her.
“And she’s every bit that powerful and elegant, but I think the unexpected thing is how just warm and human and maternal and protective she was towards me.
“She really made me feel comfortable and welcomed and like her family, which I think was very important for this relationship between Hobart and his mother, and it was a real like gooey centre of the show.
“I think it was it was one of my favourite experiences of the whole piece was getting to do those intimate scenes with her.”
The idea behind The Politician is that each series will see Payton Hobart taking on a new election in his bid to become president.
A second season has already been commissioned – and Ryan Murphy is aiming for five series in total.
Meanwhile, Platt has also signed up to Richard Linklater’s new project Merrily We Roll Along. The film is an adaptation of the Stephen Sondheim musical, and will be shot over the course of 18 years.
But is he planning to add an Oscar to his award haul? Such a win would make him part of an even more elite group as only 15 people currently have so-called EGOT status.
When asked whether his experience playing a politician would help in an awards campaign, Platt laughed and said: “I suppose I could look back and try to use some of that.
“But I’m definitely not in any hurry – I feel like any sort of ending to any chapter is not something I’m looking to get to.
“The day is young and however long it takes I’ve just been lucky to continue doing things and keep experimenting in film and that would be a lovely cherry.”
The Politician launches on Netflix on the 27 September.