New affairs for Tea Leoni in Madam Secretary
The new Prime drama series Madam Secretary stars Tea Leoni as Elizabeth McCord, a former CIA analyst and close friend of the US President, who has retired to devote more time to her husband Henry (Tim Daly) and children. But then a national tragedy results in her stepping into the job of Secretary of State. The 48-year-old actress, best known for the films Flirting With Disaster, Deep Impact, Jurassic Park III and Fun With Dick And Jane, was married to X-Files star David Duchovny for 17 years until their divorce became final earlier this year. They have two children – Madelaine, 15, and Kyd, 12.
TV Guide: What was your first reaction to this role?
Tea: I knew where we were going with the story, but what impressed me more wasn't the idea of playing the Secretary of State but playing somebody who shouldn't really be the Secretary of State. (laughs) You often see these strong powerful women in politics or business and if we deem to go and see their home life, it's a disaster. But I also recognised that the relationship between Henry and Elizabeth would be extraordinary in some ways, not just in life but on television too.
Why did you decide to get into TV at this point in your career?
This was the perfect storm for me because it was produced by Morgan Freeman, the role was fascinating, and my kids were wanting to fly away and have more independence, but at the same time I needed to be close to home.
What are Elizabeth's struggles?
We play with the idea of whether people can bend their integrity, or redirect their moral compass, to accomplish something they believe so strongly to be right. Elizabeth does have struggles with not necessarily losing her integrity, but her sense of her pristine integrity.
Does Elizabeth have any qualities you wish you had?
Diplomacy. I was raised by probably the greatest diplomat – my father (corporate lawyer Anthony Pantaleoni). I know there's an assumption that there are just a-holes in politics, but that's been done on TV so many times. It's more interesting to entertain the idea that there are good ideas on both sides and expose the struggle that people have within.
The United States has had three female Secretaries of State – Condoleezza Rice, Madeleine Albright and Hilary Clinton. Have you met any of them?
I had coffee with Secretary Albright. That was great because I had so many questions to ask her and I was so star-struck, it was really embarrassing actually. What she accomplished, and the boundaries that she broke through, is incredible. She had great stories about being the most powerful woman in American politics, and the first female Secretary of State, and she was willing to talk about what her biggest problems were and what she was impressed by. I haven't met Hilary Clinton, but I spent time with Patricia Marshall, who was her Chief Officer of Protocol, and that was very informative. I am dying to meet Hilary because I've heard the most hilarious, charming stories about her personality and she's such an inspiration to me.
Do you think women are better negotiators than men?
Have you ever been married? (laughs) I just think, in general, women are very good at diplomacy and negotiation. If you have more than one child, you do a little and with two, you get to do a lot. If you have three, you're crazy.
How are you like your character?
I think the idea that she has this willingness to try something new, to think outside the box, I admire that. I think I do that in my life, but she's braver than I am.
What is an example of your own thinking outside the box?
Right now I'm suffering for putting my money where my mouth is. I have always had this rule in my house with my kids that before they graduate high school and leave my house they have to graduate from Outward Bound, which is a survivalist programme I went through as a girl. I think it's important, particularly for a woman, to know she can take care of herself on her own in the wild with six matches. So my daughter just left for her Outward Bound programme... I've got two and a half weeks to go and I just want to punch myself in the face for my noble idea because I miss her and I'm terrified.
Thursdays, 9.35pm Prime
- TV Guide