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Talk Edited by Emily Mahaney and Kate Branch Washington Never Looked So Good From left: Mbatha-Raw, Chastain, and Pill take on Capitol Hill in Miss Sloane. “True badassery has no gender” The stars of the political thriller Miss Sloane, Jessica Chastain, Gugu Mbatha-Raw, and Alison Pill, talk about what they learned playing women who run the show. By Kate Branch It’s quite fitting (subversive, even?) that this is the year we finally get a serious political film with a female lead. All the President’s Men, Mr. Smith Goes to Washington—we’re used to seeing all-male casts, but in Miss Sloane, Jessica Chastain breaks the mold playing lobbyist Elizabeth Sloane, who puts her career in jeopardy by fighting for stronger gun laws in the United States. (The ending features the mic drop of the year; I haven’t seen a twist like this since The Sixth Sense.) Just before the election results were tallied, I talked to Chastain and her costars Canadian Alison Pill and Brit Gugu Mbatha-Raw about power and passion. 60 glamour.com
MBATHA-RAW: GAVIN BOND/AUGUST. CHASTAIN: AUSTIN HARGRAVE/ AUGUST. PILL: JOE PUGLIESE/AUGUST. MISS SLOANE: KERRY HAYES GLAMOUR: This drama shines a light on all the gray areas of Washington—from lobbying to election funding. What did you not know about politics that you know now? JESSICA CHASTAIN: I didn’t understand how much senators and members of the House are not able to represent the people because they’re too busy fund-raising to maintain their seat in office. I hope we as a country start looking at how we can change that. ALISON PILL: For me the film was a study of female ambition, specifically females operating in an old boys’ club. It doesn’t get more old boys’ club than Washington. JC: Maybe Hollywood. AP: Potentially, but the boys have been running Washington for a long-ass time. We’re talking 200-some-odd years. I found it fascinating to see our characters sit around a table with a bunch of men in their fifties and sixties and speak the same language. GLAMOUR: Only about a third of lobbyists in D.C. are female, and you met with a ton of them to prepare for your roles. Anything surprising? GUGU MBATHA-RAW: There is the old boys’ club, but there are people who are “conviction lobbyists” coming from the heart. In advocacy groups for gun violence prevention, I met with one girl whose mother was [a teacher] at Sandy Hook. It’s what inspired her to get into politics. That was a powerful and special meeting for me. JC: Most of the women I spoke to were pushing agendas that they felt connected to—more so than with the male lobbyists I met with. Maybe that’s because there are so few women lobbyists; if they’re there, it’s for something they strongly believe in, not just for financial gain.… But one comment by a female lobbyist really shocked me. She said, “Washington is a contact sport.” I asked, “What do you mean by that?” And she just said, “Well, it’s all men—and they’re very contact-y. They touch a lot.” Women say that’s just part of the game. GLAMOUR: That is shocking. Jessica, one of my favorite scenes is when your character is asked by her boss and a National Rifle Association representative to “trick” female voters into switching their views on guns. She laughs in those men’s faces. It was— JC: Super cathartic, right? GLAMOUR: Totally. Do you think politicians underestimate women as a voting bloc? JC: Absolutely they do. AP: It’s not just politicians who underestimate us; we underestimate ourselves. We need to organize and figure out our own voice as a bloc, and stop doubting ourselves. GLAMOUR: Gugu, your character, Esme, gets death threats for her views on gun laws. At a time when everything in politics feels polarizing, how do we get to a place where we can have conversations and make progress? GMR: The only valid starting point is to understand what we all share—we have to find what we can all agree on. In the movie “I spent a lot of the last five years on a set.… Now I just want to do what I feel is right in my heart.” —Jessica Chastain that is background checks [on gun buyers]. They may not solve everything, but at least it’s a way forward. AP: One thing that has gone away from civil discussion in America is this idea that our neighbors are not out to ruin the world. We need to come at it from a civil place. Nobody wants anything bad to happen; the other side isn’t evil. GLAMOUR: It’s true: In one recent survey 83 percent of gun owners support measures like criminal background checks for everyone who wants to buy a firearm, yet their voices seem to get drowned out. JC: My grandmother used to say, “Sometimes the loudest person in the room doesn’t know what they’re talking about.” Or isn’t secure enough in his or her own views to be able to listen to others. AP: Your grandmother sounds like a smart lady! GLAMOUR: Alison, your character couldn’t care less about politics. She’s actually trying to get out of politics. What would you say to people who are passionate about issues yet don’t want to get involved? AP: I’d say: Have a kid. You obviously shouldn’t have a baby just to get politically active, but I’m eight and a half months pregnant, and I swear, thinking about an actual very real future for a tiny person is a game changer. And I can’t even vote in this country! GMR: Me neither! I will say: I was working in the States when Brexit was going on back home in England. I often think that maybe I got a little complacent on the situation since I wasn’t physically there. That’s when I realized, Wow, anything is possible. AP: Right. I just saw Kamala Harris [senator-elect from California] speak—she should run for queen of the world—and she was talking about how every generation has these battles to fight, in their own way, in their own time. These battles don’t go away. Sitting out of politics isn’t really an option if you don’t want things to slide. GLAMOUR: The idea of putting conviction over personal ambition comes up a lot in the film. Can you relate? JC: I no longer think in terms of, Ooh, this is a great role and what is it going to do for—actually, I’ve never really thought about what something is going to do for my career. But you listen to your agents who say, “This is a really great thing for you.” I spent a lot of the last five years on a set, and every once in a while you take stock of your life and look at what you’re doing. Now I just want to do what I feel is right in my heart. I want to be involved in a story that makes a difference. GLAMOUR: Do you think men and women will react differently to this film? JC: My gentleman friend was so excited by it.… He was on the edge of his seat. AP: True badassery has no gender. glamour.com 61
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