Cate Blanchett talks COVID-19, Hulu show ‘Mrs. America’


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USA TODAY

Cate Blanchett’s latest project is about an important period of U.S. history, but she didn’t expect it to debut in the midst of another major moment in history. 

The Oscar-winning actress is taking her talents to TV for FX on Hulu’s “Mrs. America,” a mini-series about the fight over the Equal Rights Amendment in the 1970s. Blanchett plays conservative activist Phyllis Schlafly, a figure who was instrumental in the downfall of the amendment’s ratification.

Speaking to reporters on a conference call Monday, Blanchett noted that there is a lot of historical context in “America” to help explain the social and political fallout from the current coronavirus pandemic. 

“I certainly feel that what’s being revealed to us in the current global crisis is how the systems that we labor under are not serving us well,” Blanchett said. She noted that at the time “America” takes place, “systems hadn’t shifted profoundly enough to serve all of the American citizens. I think that what we’re dealing with now in 2020 is still a very unequal system.”

Cate Blanchett as Phyllis Schlafly in “Mrs. America.” (Photo: Sabrina Lantos/FX)

Executive producer Stacey Sher, also on the call, agreed with Blanchett. “From a public policy standpoint, the way (the coronavirus pandemic) relates directly to things we show in the show is the continuation of smaller government and smaller government oversight can lead to a situation where you’re exposed in a global pandemic or any situation,” she said. 

Blanchett also pondered how much would be different today, and how different American response to the pandemic would have been, had the ERA passed in the 1970s. 

“What laws would have been put in place to shore up equality, not only between the sexes but between races, between the 1% and the 99%?” she asked. “I have to guess that we’d be in a very different place. And it is very telling, I think, it’s still not enshrined in the constitution, which is an inspirational document from which laws get made, that the sexes are equal, that all American citizens are equal. And I think that has huge ideological and practical ramifications on the position we find ourselves in right now (with coronavirus).”

Blanchett also expressed her support for those on the front lines fighting the pandemic.

“My heart goes out particularly to the people who are really risking their lives for the rest of us. The medical workers and first responders. They’re extraordinarily brave and self-sacrificing and we couldn’t be functioning with out them,” she said.

The pandemic has also made the actress think about the value of truth and facts. “Our (expletive) radar is very acute at the moment. It’s about getting back to the authentic, reclaiming the word truth and allowing ourselves (to see) what is happening to us as a species and our affect on one another.”

“Mrs. America” premieres Wednesday April 15 on FX on Hulu. 

What to watch: 10 best TV shows this spring, from Ryan Murphy’s ‘Hollywood’ to Cate Blanchett in ‘Mrs. America’ (and 70s hair) 

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