×

Cate Blanchett to Star as Phyllis Schlafly in Limited Series ‘Mrs. America’ for FX

In a coup for FX, Cate Blanchett is set to star as conservative firebrand Phyllis Schlafly in the limited series “Mrs. America,” recounting the modern history of the women’s movement.

“Mad Men” and “Halt and Catch Fire” alum Dahvi Waller is spearheading the project for FX Productions. Waller and Blanchett will exec produce alongside Stacey Sher and Coco Francini. FX has ordered nine episodes with production set to begin next year.

Cate Blanchett is one the great actors of our time — and we are truly honored to have her star in “Mrs. America,’ ” said FX CEO John Landgraf.  “We have no doubt that Cate is the perfect actor to play the role of Phyllis Schlafly, who was one of the most polarizing and fascinatingly complex figures of the ‘70s for her opposition to and role in defeating the Equal Rights Amendment, which to this day has never been ratified. Dahvi Waller’s scripts are extraordinary, and I’m thrilled to re-unite with my former Jersey TV partner Stacey Sher, and commend her on assembling such a dynamic foursome of gifted, female, artist-producers to take on this timely story.“

FX said the series would explore the rise of feminism and the push for the Equal Rights Amendment through the eyes of both Schlafly, who led the backlash to  the work of second-wave feminists including Gloria Steinem, Betty Friedan, Shirley Chisholm, Bella Abzug, and Jill Ruckelshaus. The show promises to look at how the tension over the female empowerment movement helped changed the political and cultural landscape.

Schlafly waged a campaign against the passage of the ERA as well as against the legalization of abortion and the burgeoning gay rights movement. She was a self-described housewife activist from Illinois who wound up earning a law degree and remained active as a conservative commentator for decades. She died in 2016 at the age of 92.

The high-wattage “Mrs. America” is a notable get for FX at a time when the TV business is riveted to the growth and influence of Netflix as it seeks out A-listers for exclusive programming deals. “Mrs. America” marks Blanchett’s first U.S. TV series role.

The greenlight for “Mrs. America” also comes at a time when women’s empowerment and gender parity concerns have been making headlines for more than a year. The outpouring of testimonials about sexual harassment and assault in the workplace has heightened the national focus on issues of equality and diversity in the workplace, particularly in the entertainment industry.

“I feel privileged to have this opportunity to collaborate with Dahvi, Stacey, and Coco under the robust and fearless FX umbrella,” said Blanchett. “I am extremely excited about delving into the material as there couldn’t be a more appropriate time to peel back the layers of this recent period of history, which couldn’t be more relevant today.”

Blanchett is a six-time Academy Award nominee and two-time winner, known for the wide range of material she has tackled since her career took off in the early 1990s. Blanchett got her start on stage and on TV in her native Australia. She won the supporting actress Oscar for 2005’s “The Aviator” and lead actress for 2014’s “Blue Jasmine.”

She was most recently on screen this summer in Warner Bros.’ heist movie “Ocean’s 8” and the family-friendly thriller “The House With a Clock in Its Walls.” She also served as president of the jury at this year’s Cannes Film Festival.

Blanchett hinted to Variety last month that she was exploring a move to the small screen. “I think that now television is much better resourced because you can tell longer-form stories,” she said at the premiere for “The House With a Clock in Its Walls.” “And there are certain stories that I’m developing where you ask yourself, which is fantastic: ‘What’s the right form to tell the story in?’ …There are some stories where you need to sit with characters, and character arcs, and narrative arcs, that can only be told in television form.”

“It is a thrill to have the extraordinary Cate Blanchett bring this controversial woman to life, and I can’t think of a better network for this bold series than FX.” Waller said.

Waller worked on three seasons of AMC’s “Mad Men” and two seasons of another AMC period drama, the 1980s-set “Halt and Catch Fire.” Her other credits include Netflix’s “Bojack Horseman,” ABC’s “Eli Stone” and “Desperate Housewives” and NBC’s “American Odyssey.”

Sher previously worked with Landgraf at Danny DeVito’s Jersey Films. She was a partner and Landgraf ran the television wing before he took the helm of FX in 2004. Francini is a movie veteran who at present serves as VP of Activision Blizzard Studios, where she’s spearheading the effort to develop films and TV shows based on the video game giant’s trove of IP.

“Mrs. America” is another sign of FX’s expansion of its programming slate amid TV’s heightened competition. The cabler, which is poised to change hands from 21st Century Fox to Disney next year, has increasingly been freshening its schedule on a year-round basis with limited-run series and anthology dramas that reinvent themselves every season. There’s no word yet on a target airdate for the series.

More TV

  • Tiger King

    'Tiger King': Where Everyone in the Series Is Now

    (Warning: Spoilers ahead. Do not watch if you haven’t seen all seven episodes of Netflix’s “Tiger King.”) Like a stealthy tiger padding through the jungle, no one saw Netflix’s “Tiger King” coming until it was too late to un-see the questionable conditions the animals were kept in, and the questionable taste in tattoos of nearly [...]

  • Jameela Jamil attends the NBC and

    Jameela Jamil Admits She Could Have Picked a Better Time to Come Out as Queer

    Jameela Jamil isn’t interested in being perfect.  “Sometimes, I do f— up, but I always apologize when I’ve gotten it wrong,” she told said in a candid interview on “Variety Live,” which streams via Variety’s Instagram account. “I learn, and other people learn with me.”  And she definitely isn’t afraid to back down from a [...]

  • THE BLACKLIST -- "Cornelius Ruck (#155)"

    'The Blacklist' Bosses on 'Clue' Inspiration for Standalone Whodunnit Episode

    SPOILER ALERT: Do not read if you have not yet watched “Cornelius Ruck (No. 155),” the 12th episode of “The Blacklist” Season . Viewers that needed a bit of a respite from the real world on Friday night probably embraced the light-hearted nature of “The Blacklist’s” “Cornelius Ruck” episode, a concluding installment to the previous week’s [...]

  • APA Logo

    APA Sets Salary Cuts and Furloughs in Wake of Covid-19 Pandemic

    Following in the steps of several agencies dealing with the coronavirus, APA has informed all offices of upcoming salary cuts along with possible suspensions and furloughs for employees due to the pandemic’s economic effect on the industry. APA board of directors will make the largest financial sacrifice. The move has been made to avoid layoffs [...]

  • SAG-AFTRA HQ

    DGA, SAG-AFTRA, WGA Scramble to Keep Residuals Flowing During Coronavirus Pandemic

    Hollywood’s creative guilds have been working overtime to keep residual checks going out to members during the coronavirus crisis. Even though most of the staff members of the Directors Guild of America, SAG-AFTRA and the Writers Guild of America West have been working remotely, the guilds have stepped up efforts to maintain the flow of [...]

  • Steven Universe Series Finale

    The Radical Empathy of 'Steven Universe' (Column)

    The last epic battle of “Steven Universe” isn’t one between friends and foes, but between Steven Universe and himself. After six years and nearly 200 episodes, both the show and character took the time to ask themselves some crucial, existential questions: What happens to a hero after they’ve already saved the day? Who is Steven [...]

More From Our Brands

Access exclusive content