By Maureen Lee Lenker
May 18, 2020 at 04:20 PM EDT
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The Politician

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Judith Light has plenty to say about the upcoming election – just not the one you think.

The 71-year-old Who’s the Boss?/Transparent alum returns to TV on Netflix’s The Politician as New York state senator Dede Standish, and she’s proud to portray a complex woman in office. “There are certain dynamics you’re going to see that are familiar and recognizable that we know happen to female politicians,” she hints. “But [the creators] didn’t grab from the headlines. They allowed things to evolve. There are moments of great consternation and compassion. There’s a turn that is an awakening for my character.”

Introduced in the season 1 finale, the career politician has crafted a careful political image alongside her chief of staff Hadassah Gold (Bette Midler), even keeping her polyamorous marriage a secret. But season 2 will put the pain in campaign, pitting her against young Payton Hobart (Ben Platt) as she fights to keep her Senate seat. For Dede, it’s an unsurprising challenge that requires her to rethink her approach to campaigning. “All of a sudden this politician, who’s been a 30-year veteran, has competition,” she says. “You’re going to see a lot of sparks fly with this intergenerational [conflict].”

While season 1 focused on Payton’s ambition, season 2 will delve into the struggle to live openly as a politician, particularly when you’ve dedicated your entire life to one purpose. “What does it mean to be a person who is authentic in front of the world?” Light reflects. “What does it mean to have your whole life be about this one thing, and then suddenly everything is thrown up in the air? Everybody goes through that in one way or another, no matter what business you’re in, because it’s a matter of life. It’s the human condition. There’s a lot of understanding about what it means to change and grow in your life no matter what your age is.”

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As is so often the case with Ryan Murphy series, the show also doesn’t shy away from exploring older women’s sexuality, something Light praises. “It’s an area that we rarely talk about, and [Ryan] is one of the ones to jump on that,” she notes. “As you mature, you’re not dead. You still have this lightness within you and he speaks to that.”

Light’s character is in a throuple, as revealed in season 1, and she did a lot of reading on those in polyamorous relationships. “It’s a choice that a lot more people make than we know,” she adds. “A throuple is about the relationship among them, not just the sexuality. It isn’t just about the sexual dynamic with these people.”

Though she relishes the complexity of her character, for Light, the greatest gift has been acting opposite Midler for the first time. “We clicked immediately. Our energies are a really good balance for each other, and she’s a really terrific person, who is incredibly supportive of the work and the team and so present and funny. We text each other now during the pandemic,” she gushes (though she’s mum on whether one of The Politician’s signature musical numbers might come their way).

Their onscreen characters share an equally tight bond. “Their partnership is definitely tested, but what really matters is the friendship of these two women over all these years,” she says of Dede and Hadassah. “The politics may affect it to a certain degree [and] there might be some competition, but there’s this continuity and consistency that is vital to the story – [it’s] what we are wanting to see from women and the way women are with each other.”

So, anything but politics as usual. The Politician hits Netflix June 19.

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The Politician

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