Ben Platt felt right at home with the theatrical, heightened tone of Netflix’s “The Politician.” Playing Payton Hobart, a highly ambitious high schooler who is hellbent on becoming president of the United States one day, Platt leaned into his background on the stage to bring this over-the-top, satirical story to life. “It felt like the type of material I was familiar with,” Platt says in an exclusive new interview for Gold Derby, adding there was “a learning curve in terms of getting used to the way Payton’s cadence was and the way he relates with other people and making sure that no matter how large he became or how quippy, sharp, otherworldly, that he always remained a knowable person, human being.” Watch the full video interview above.
Payton isn’t afraid to go after what he wants even if it means being ruthless when it comes to others in his life. This presented an interesting opportunity for Platt to play a character who is aggressive but still has some humanity, as is revealed by the end of the first season. “It is a really fun challenge to play somebody that is somewhat larger than life and try to make them feel grounded in reality like they have their feet on the floor, especially somebody who is as outwardly unlikable as Payton,” Platt explains. He observes that underneath the campaigning and the drive he has, Payton has a “deep-seated desire and need to prove that he is consequential,” which stems from his being adopted, “and I think that that is met at a beautiful, dangerous apex with all of this innate hubris and confidence and arrogance that he just has rather inherently.”
Being on a show like “The Politician” also makes Platt think about American politics, even if its approach is at more of an escapist remove from what’s really happening in the country. “I think it’s nice that it’s not necessarily trying to comment so heavily, but I do think there are concepts within it that do make me think a bit more about what type of person wants to become a politician,” he suggests, “what the motivations to do that might be and when those motivations come into play and when they don’t really matter.”
Meanwhile, Platt is finding the kind of success Payton could only dream of. He first won a Tony for playing the titular role in “Dear Evan Hansen,” a Grammy for the show’s cast album and an Emmy for a “Today Show” performance from the show. At only 26 years old, he is only an Oscar away from going full EGOT, and he could very well do it for a movie adaptation of “Dear Evan Hansen.” Platt may be aging out of playing the 18-year-old Evan Hansen, but he is hopeful that he can be a part of it. “I’m hoping that if this does come together, obviously I’ll get rid of the ‘stache, but I think given the specific situation with this character I’ve created and my attachment to this piece and the willingness of the studio to make the film given my involvement, I would hope we could maybe see beyond that particular obstacle.”
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