Mrs. America (miniseries)

Mrs. America is an American historical drama television miniseries produced by FX and originally aired on sister streaming service FX on Hulu. Created and co-written by Davhi Waller and directed by Anna Boden and Ryan Fleck, Amma Asante, Laure de Clermont-Tonnerre and Janicza Bravo, the series details the political movement to pass the Equal Rights Amendment and the unexpected backlash led by conservative activist Phyllis Schlafly in the 1970s. It features a large ensemble cast led by Cate Blanchett, Rose Byrne, Uzo Aduba, Elizabeth Banks, Margo Martindale, John Slattery, Tracey Ullman, and Sarah Paulson.

Mrs. America
Mrs. America (miniseries) Title Card.jpg
Genre
Created byDahvi Waller
Starring
Theme music composerLudwig van Beethoven (arranged by Walter Murphy)
Opening theme"A Fifth of Beethoven"
ComposerKris Bowers
Country of originUnited States
No. of seasons1
No. of episodes9
Production
Executive producers
Producers
Cinematography
  • Jessica Lee Gagné
  • Pepe Avila del Pino
  • Chris Teague
Editors
  • Robert Komatsu
  • Emily E. Greene
  • Todd Downing
Running time43–54 minutes
Production companies
  • Shiny Penny Productions
  • Dirty Films
  • Gowanus Projections
  • Federal Engineering
  • FXP
Release
Original networkFX on Hulu
Original releaseApril 15 (2020-04-15) –
May 27, 2020 (2020-05-27)
External links
Website

The nine-part series premiered in the United States on April 15, 2020 to widespread critical acclaim. At the 72nd Primetime Emmy Awards, it received ten nominations including Outstanding Limited Series and Outstanding Writing, as well as acting nominations for Blanchett, Aduba, Martindale, and Ullman,[1] with Aduba winning Outstanding Supporting Actress in a Limited Series or Movie.[2] In January 2021, the American Film Institute named Mrs. America as one of its ten best television shows of 2020.[3]

PremiseEdit

Mrs. America is loosely based on and dramatizes the story of the movement to ratify the Equal Rights Amendment, and the unexpected backlash led by conservative activist Phyllis Schlafly, played by Blanchett. Through the eyes of the women of that era – both Schlafly and prominent second-wave feminists including Gloria Steinem, Betty Friedan, Shirley Chisholm, Bella Abzug and Jill Ruckelshaus – the series explores how one of the toughest battlegrounds in the culture wars of the 1970s helped give rise to the Moral Majority and permanently shifted the American political landscape.

Every episode contains an opening message which acknowledges that some scenes and characters are fictionalized for creative purposes.[4]

Cast and charactersEdit

MainEdit

The principal cast for Mrs. America includes (top row, left to right) Cate Blanchett, Rose Byrne, Uzo Aduba, Elizabeth Banks, (bottom row, left to right) Margo Martindale, John Slattery, Tracey Ullman, and Sarah Paulson.

RecurringEdit

  • Niecy Nash as Flo Kennedy, a lawyer, feminist, and civil rights advocate who co-founded the National Women's Political Caucus.
  • James Marsden as Phil Crane, a Republican politician, U.S. congressman, and ally of the "STOP ERA" campaign.
  • Olivia Scriven as Liza Schlafly, the eldest daughter of Phyllis and Fred Schlafly.
  • Bria Henderson as Margaret Sloan-Hunter, a feminist and civil rights advocate, and editor of Ms. magazine.
  • Jay Ellis as Franklin Thomas, an attorney and businessman who has a romantic relationship with Gloria Steinem.
  • John Bourgeois as George McGovern, a U.S. senator, and the Democratic Party presidential nominee in the 1972 presidential election.
  • Ben Rosenfield as John Schlafly, the eldest child and son of Phyllis and Fred Schlafly, a closeted homosexual.
  • Jake Lacy as John Stanley Pottinger, a politician, and Assistant United States Attorney General for the Civil Rights Division.
  • Cindy Drummond as Lottie Beth Hobbs, an Evangelical conservative activist and author, and member of "STOP ERA" and Eagle Forum.
  • Annie Parisse as Midge Costanza, a social and feminist activist, and Presidential advisor to President Carter.
  • Anna Douglas as Jean O'Leary, a feminist and gay rights activist, with whom Midge is in a closeted relationship.
  • Melissa Joyner as Audrey Rowe Colom, a feminist and civil rights activist, and Chairperson of the National Women's Political Caucus.
  • Teresa Pavlinek as Ann Patterson, a conservative housewife and member of the "STOP ERA" campaign.
  • Andrea Navedo as Carmen Delgado Votaw, a civil rights activist, and co-chair of the National Advisory Committee on Women.
  • Melinda Page Hamilton as Mary Frances, a conservative housewife and president of the Louisiana chapter of the "STOP ERA" campaign.
  • David Eisner as Martin Abzug, the husband of Bella Abzug.
  • Marcia Bennett as Odile Stewart, the mother of Phyllis Schlafly.
  • Novie Edwards as Willie B. Reed, the housekeeper for the Schlafly family.
  • Brendan Cox as Bruce Schlafly, the second child of Phyllis and Fred Schlafly.

GuestEdit

EpisodesEdit

No.TitleDirected byWritten byOriginal release date [6]Prod.
code
1"Phyllis"Anna Boden & Ryan FleckDahvi WallerApril 15, 2020 (2020-04-15)101
Phyllis Schlafly, a conservative advocate for Barry Goldwater and perennial candidate for Congress, refrains from running again amid a slew of harassment by her male colleagues and lack of support by her husband, Fred. Instead she sets out on a new campaign: stopping the Equal Rights Amendment from being ratified in 38 states.
2"Gloria"Anna Boden & Ryan FleckDahvi WallerApril 15, 2020 (2020-04-15)102
Gloria Steinem channels her reputation as editor-in-chief of Ms. magazine to lead the fight for women’s rights as co-founder of the National Women's Political Caucus, including abortion and equal pay, while Schlafly uses her grassroots campaign to stop ERA ratification in her home state of Illinois.
3"Shirley"Amma AsanteTanya BarfieldApril 15, 2020 (2020-04-15)103
Shirley Chisholm, an African-American congresswoman and Presidential candidate, vows to stay in the race for nomination come the 1972 Democratic National Convention, while Steinem lobbies for abortion rights on the floor. Meanwhile, Schlafly struggles to make the newly-named Stop ERA campaign a national convention while watering down racial overtones from members of the Southern States.
4"Betty"Amma AsanteBoo KillebrewApril 22, 2020 (2020-04-22)104
Betty Friedan, author of The Feminine Mystique and founder of the National Organization for Women (NOW), challenges Schlafly to a debate on the ERA against Steinem and NOW’s advice. During the debate, Friedan is seemingly winning, until Schlafly gets under her skin and Friedan lashes out at her.
5"Phyllis & Fred & Brenda & Marc"Laure de Clermont-TonnerreMicah Schraft and April ShihApril 29, 2020 (2020-04-29)105
Feminist couple Brenda and Marc Feigen-Fasteau come to terms with Brenda’s pregnancy and her experimentation with another woman while debating traditional couple Fred and Phyllis Schlafly, who come to terms with Phyllis’s campaign and return to law school. During the debate, Phyllis tries to cite a case to bolster her position, only to have it destroyed by Brenda when Phyllis cannot come up with the proper case cite. Phyllis, as a result, vows to herself to go to law school.
6"Jill"Laure de Clermont-TonnerreSharon HoffmanMay 6, 2020 (2020-05-06)106
Jill Ruckelshaus, a Pro-ERA and Pro-Choice Republican, battles to unify the party against Schlafly’s growing Anti-ERA and Pro-Life movement amid the 1976 Republican National Convention. Both Jill and Bill Ruckelshaus are expecting Gerald Ford to name Bill as his VP running mate, and are later disappointed when they find out Ford has chosen Bob Dole instead. Chisholm attempts to form a committee tackling sexual harassment among congressmen and their women employees, much to the displeasure of Bella Abzug. Schlafly seeks to expand her mailing list by joining forces with another organization that wishes to push a stronger pro-life and anti-gay agenda.
7"Bella"Anna Boden & Ryan FleckMicah SchraftMay 13, 2020 (2020-05-13)107
Right after giving a speech at a luncheon, Schlafly is hit with a pie in the face by a male waiter, damaging her left eye. Bella Abzug, former congresswoman and co-founder of the National Women's Political Caucus comes off a losing Senate election in 1976 to run the National Women's Conference in Houston the following November, while many anti-ERA women attempt to get in as delegates. Meanwhile, Schlafly attempts to form a counter-rally to take place right after the Houston conference.
8"Houston"Janicza BravoDahvi WallerMay 20, 2020 (2020-05-20)108
Without Schlafly for the first time, the STOP ERA women are invited to the 1977 National Women's Conference in Houston to defend their cause. Alice is overwhelmed by her surroundings, goes to the hotel bar where she makes friends with a woman who appears to be a bedfellow but is actually in the feminist camp. The woman gives her a pill to relax which is really LSD. Alice then "trips" and appears to be questioning her own beliefs regarding women's rights, and the tactics the STOP ERA group are using to try to win.
9"Reagan"Anna Boden & Ryan FleckDahvi Waller and Joshua Allen GriffithMay 27, 2020 (2020-05-27)109
Carter fires Abzug as head of his women's rights commission, much to the anger of Steinem and others working with her. With the original ERA ratification deadline extended, Schlafly sets her sights on continuing to fight it, as well as trying to angle for a Cabinet position while helping Reagan in 1980. After winning, Reagan calls Schlafly to say he is appreciative of her help, but cannot offer her a position in his new administration because she is too polarizing.

ProductionEdit

DevelopmentEdit

Mrs. America was created and co-written by Emmy Award winning Canadian writer Dahvi Waller, who previously had writing credits on acclaimed television shows such as Mad Men and Halt and Catch Fire. The head of FX, John Landgraf, had become interested in the reappraisal of historical events "embedded in America’s collective consciousness" after Ryan Murphy originally sketched out the plot of American Crime Story. Landgraf saw Mrs. America and its portrayal of the battle surrounding the Equal Rights Amendment as having a "direct bearing on the political climate in which we find ourselves today." He also commented that, "It's a wonderful thing when any creator, any broadcaster can sort of find that place where it’s not homework to watch something, yet it has an enormous amount of artistic or educational value."[7]

Waller said that, while researching and developing the series, she realized that (in relation to equal rights) the U.S. had not progressed as much in the last 50 years as she initially thought. She commented that Mrs. America serves "as an origin story of today’s culture wars — you can draw a direct line from 1970 to today through Phyllis Schlafly and really understand how we became such a divided nation." Cate Blanchett, who served as an executive producer on the series as well as starring as Schlafly, also echoed the sentiment and the timeliness of the series, saying, "In the process of developing it — like with Roe v. Wade — there were questions with 'Is this really relevant, do we really need a whole episode about this?' It seemed that every passing day in the development process and certainly during shooting, right up to Virginia debating the ERA right now, it became like Groundhog Day; the literal discussions that we were having during 1971, 1972 going through the series were constantly popping up in the media."[8]

"I don't think we benefit from portraying the side we don’t agree with as monsters; I don't think we benefit from portraying heroes as perfect."

Series creator Dahvi Waller on the decision to "create a series with shades of grey" that didn't take a side.

Waller also desired to highlight the beginnings of intersectional feminism within the series through the character of Shirley Chisholm, played by Uzo Aduba. Chisholm was the first black female candidate in history to run for the U.S. presidency. Waller commented, "One of the great things about this period is you have the birth of a lot of things, including intersectional feminism and LGBTQ rights. In episode 3, Shirley is really the beginning of the birth of intersectional feminism, and it's a messy beginning. I think the women's movement was really growing in this time period and learning lessons."[9]

On October 30, 2018, it was announced that FX had given the show a series order.[10] The nine-episode miniseries was written by Dahvi Waller, Tanya Barfield, Boo Killebrew, Micah Schraft, April Shih, Sharon Hoffman, and Joshua Allen Griffith and directed by Anna Boden and Ryan Fleck, Amma Asante, Laure de Clermont-Tonnerre, and Janicza Bravo.[11][12] Waller also served as an executive producer alongside Stacey Sher, Cate Blanchett, Ryan Fleck, Anna Boden, and Coco Francini.

The first official images of the series were released on August 6, 2019.[13] In November 2019, it was announced the show would premiere on Hulu instead of FX, as part of "FX on Hulu".[14] In January 2020, it was announced that the series would premiere on April 15, 2020.[15]

CastingEdit

Alongside the series order, Cate Blanchett was announced to star.[16] In May 2019, Uzo Aduba, Rose Byrne, Kayli Carter, Ari Graynor, Melanie Lynskey, James Marsden, Margo Martindale, Sarah Paulson, John Slattery, Jeanne Tripplehorn and Tracey Ullman were added to the series.[17] In June 2019, Elizabeth Banks was cast to star while Bria Henderson was set to recur.[18][19] Niecy Nash was cast in a recurring role in August, with Olivia Scriven cast in October.[20][21]

FilmingEdit

Principal photography for the series took place from June 19 to November 1, 2019, in Toronto, Ontario.[22]

MusicEdit

The musical score was composed by American composer Kris Bowers.[23] The opening theme, "A Fifth of Beethoven", was chosen by the show's music supervisor, Mary Ramos, because "It represents both sides of the story. Phyllis and her conservative friends listen to classical music most of the time, so it’s that, combined with the sexiness and freedom of the feminists, all epitomized in one song — the disco version of Beethoven’s Fifth."[24]

The series also prominently features many hit songs from the 1970s, including tracks by Donna Summer, Golden Earring, Burt Bacharach, The Kinks, Linda Ronstadt, and The Runaways.[24]

ReleaseEdit

In the United States, the first three episodes premiered on Hulu under the FX on Hulu label on April 15, 2020. In India, the series started streaming on Hulu and FX's corporate sibling Disney+ Hotstar on April 16, 2020.[25] In Australia, the series debuted on April 21, 2020 on Foxtel's Fox Showcase network, and is available on demand via its Foxtel Now and Binge services.[26] In the United Kingdom, the series aired on BBC Two and became available for streaming on the BBC iPlayer from July 8, 2020.[27]

ReceptionEdit

Critical responseEdit

Mrs. America received widespread critical acclaim. On Rotten Tomatoes, the miniseries holds an approval rating of 96% based on 96 reviews, with an average rating of 8.29/10. The website's critical consensus states: "Mrs. America captures the complicated life and times of Phyllis Schlafly with poise and style to spare, brought to vivid life by a superb ensemble led by another masterful performance from Cate Blanchett."[28] On Metacritic, it has a weighted average score of 87 out of 100 based on 41 reviews, indicating "universal acclaim".[29]

James Poniewozik, writing for The New York Times, praised the series, calling it "breathtaking" and "a meticulously created and observed mural that finds the germ of contemporary America in the striving of righteously mad women." Poniewozik also praised the performances of the cast, singling out Cate Blanchett ("Her final scene, wordless and devastating, might as well end with Blanchett being handed an Emmy onscreen"), Tracey Ullman ("Ullman is tsunamic as Friedan, the outspoken Feminine Mystique author now raging for relevance in the current wave of feminism"), and Margo Martindale ("a tornado in a hat, a piquantly funny force of personality").[30]

Judy Berman, writing for Time, reviewed the series positively, writing "Creator Dahvi Waller, whose history as a writer for Mad Men and Halt and Catch Fire is evident in Mrs. America's vivid, complex depiction of our country’s recent past". Berman also praised the show's writers, stating "This degree of moral, political and philosophical complexity is what differentiates Mrs. America from so many other recent dramatizations of women’s movements past".[31]

Inkoo Kang, writing for The Hollywood Reporter, called the series "a tremendously executed balancing act" and stated that "there's no denying that Mrs. America makes history come alive, in thoughtful and achingly real detail", whilst also praising the performances of the central cast.[32]

CriticismEdit

The series was criticized by Gloria Steinem and Eleanor Smeal who called it ridiculous, lacking in historical accuracy and said it was bad for American women.[33][34] Steinem and Smeal’s comments were later disagreed with by fellow second-wave feminist Brenda Feigen however, who called the series "extraordinary" and stated that, in her view, the nuance of the characters were portrayed very accurately.[35] The show was also accused of being one-sided and inventing details presenting Schlafly in unsympathetic light[36][37]

Awards and nominationsEdit

Year Award Category Nominee(s) Result Ref.
2020
Black Reel Television Awards Outstanding Supporting Actress, TV Movie/Limited Series Uzo Aduba Nominated [38]
Outstanding Writing, TV Movie/Limited Series Tanya Barfield (for "Shirley") Nominated
Dorian TV Awards Best TV Movie or Limited Series Mrs. America Nominated [39]
Best TV Performance - Actress Cate Blanchett Nominated
Wilde Wit Award Nominated
Best Supporting TV Performance - Actress Uzo Aduba Nominated
Gold Derby TV Awards Limited Series Mrs. America Nominated [40]
Limited/Movie Actress Cate Blanchett Nominated
Limited/Movie Supporting Actress Rose Byrne Nominated
Sarah Paulson Nominated
Ensemble Of The Year Cast of Mrs. America Nominated
Hollywood Critics Association Midseason Awards Best New Streaming Series (Drama) Mrs. America Won [41]
Primetime Emmy Awards Outstanding Limited Series Dahvi Waller, Stacey Sher, Coco Francini, Cate Blanchett, Anna Boden, Ryan Fleck, Micah Schraft, James W. Skotchdopole, Tanya Barfield and Boo Killebrew Nominated [42]
Outstanding Lead Actress in a Limited Series or Movie Cate Blanchett Nominated
Outstanding Supporting Actress in a Limited Series or Movie Uzo Aduba (for "Shirley") Won
Margo Martindale (for "Bella") Nominated
Tracey Ullman (for "Betty") Nominated
Outstanding Writing for a Limited Series, Movie or Dramatic Special Tanya Barfield (for "Shirley") Nominated
Primetime Creative Arts Emmy Awards Outstanding Casting for a Limited Series, Movie or Special Carmen Cuba and Robin Cook Nominated
Outstanding Period Costumes Bina Daigeler, Erin Byrne, Bettina Seifert, Erika Larner, Mila Hermanovski and Eileen Kennedy (for "Shirley") Nominated
Outstanding Music Composition for a Limited Series, Movie or Special (Original Dramatic Score) Kris Bowers (for "Reagan") Nominated
Outstanding Single-Camera Picture Editing for a Limited Series or Movie Robert Komatsu (for "Phyllis") Nominated
Television Critics Association Awards Program of the Year Mrs. America Nominated [43]
Outstanding Achievement in Movie or Miniseries Nominated
Individual Achievement in Drama Cate Blanchett Nominated
2021
AACTA International Awards Best Actress in a Series Cate Blanchett Nominated [44]
AARP Movies for Grownups Awards Best TV Movie/Limited Series Mrs. America Nominated [45]
Best Actress (TV/Streaming) Cate Blanchett Nominated
American Cinema Editors Awards Best Edited Limited or Motion Picture for Television Robert Komatsu (for "Phyllis") Nominated [46]
American Film Institute Awards Television Programs of the Year Mrs. America Won [3]
Costume Designers Guild Awards Excellence in Period Television Bina Daigeler (for "Shirley") Nominated [47]
Critics' Choice Television Awards Best Limited Series Mrs. America Nominated [48]
Best Actress in a Limited Series or TV Movie Cate Blanchett Nominated
Best Supporting Actress in a Limited Series or TV Movie Uzo Aduba Won
Margo Martindale Nominated
Tracey Ullman Nominated
Golden Globe Awards Best Actress – Limited Series or Television Film Cate Blanchett Nominated [49]
NAACP Image Awards Outstanding Writing in a Drama Series Tanya Barfield (for "Shirley") Nominated [50]
Satellite Awards Best Miniseries & Limited Series Mrs. America Nominated [51]
Best Actress in a Miniseries or TV Film Cate Blanchett Won
Best Supporting Actress in a Series, Miniseries or TV Film Tracey Ullman Won
Screen Actors Guild Awards Outstanding Performance by a Female Actor in a Television Movie or Limited Series Cate Blanchett Nominated [52]
Visual Effects Society Awards Outstanding Supporting Visual Effects in a Photoreal Episode Janelle Croshaw, Kaylie Whitcher, Leonardo Silva, Zena Bielewicz and Michael Innanen (for Shirley) Nominated [53]
Writers Guild of America Awards Long Form – Original Tanya Barfield, Joshua Allen Griffith, Sharon Hoffman, Boo Killebrew, Micah Schraft, April Shih and Dahvi Waller Won [54]

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External linksEdit