No matter what the ratings of the new ABC drama Commander In Chief, which airs Tuesdays at 9pm starting September 27, there may well be at least one very prominent viewer '- a certain former first lady with a huge interest in the fantasy scenario of a woman who becomes president. Geena Davis will likely spark the ambitions of more than a few female politicos '- and maybe even some promising grade school leaders '- as Mackenzie Allen, who ascends from vice president to the top job of the nation when the president dies. The Oscar-winning actress, who was half of that infamous cinematic duo Thelma and Louise, is inspiring as a married mother of three whose move to the White House upsets the political applecart. She's just as inspiring in real life, as a married mother of three, who takes on the Hollywood superpowers every day of the week.
You have a three-year-old daughter and year-old twins. Now that you're juggling the series and motherhood, are you connecting with your character more?
It must be longer hours doing an hour drama than the sitcoms you've been in, like Buffalo Bill...
A sitcom is by far the perfect Hollywood job. The hours are so livable. It's fun, easy, you can play golf if you want to.
But this sounds like a role you couldn't pass up.
My career-long position was that I never want to do an hour-long TV show so don't even talk to me about it. But Commander in Chief, and I'm the commander In chief? I couldn't turn it down. For Thelma to be president is just delightful. Or Stuart Little's mother, whichever way you want to look at it. It's certainly the role with the most gravitas that I've had to play. It's 100 percent a cool acting gig.
What do you like about Mackenzie Allen?
I love the way she is in the world and how she deals with people, how straight she is, how intelligent and confident. I think there will be story lines where Mackenzie's strong will and decisiveness might work against her sometimes, where she's going to forge ahead in a way that doesn't serve her well.
Will the show be used as a vehicle for social change?
I think social change can be a peripheral benefit but it's not the goal of entertainment for the most part, though some people may have an agenda. I certainly have felt the impact of playing characters and I can't help but think that playing a woman in that office week after week '- God willing '- it will enter people's consciousness. But that will be a side benefit.
What kind of impact did some of your other strong characters have?
When we made Thelma and Louise none of us had any idea the nerve that it would strike. We thought we were making a cool movie, maybe people wouldn't like that we kill ourselves in the end, but one week after it came out Susan and I are on the cover of Time magazine. It hit us like a tidal wave. It was incredible. And it was very eye-opening. It made me realize the power that images in the media can have. It made me even more eager to be choosy about the parts I took because I could see how especially women were affected by those parts and I followed it with A League of Our Own and suddenly little girls were saying, "I play baseball because of you."
Speaking of sports, do you have time to stay in shape, or participate in your favorite hobby, archery?
Not a lot. A little working out. I've been rowing a lot lately, for the show. It really helps me when I have to learn something for a character. And taking up sports and doing physical parts has had a profound effect on me, on my sense of myself and my self-confidence. I haven't done any archery lately but I think the president may be shooting an arrow or two!
Do you think politicians and actors are alike at all, in the way they can sway things?
I don't know enough about politicians to know what they're like. There are always comparisons to the way Hollywood works and the way Washington works but I haven't been an insider there.
Are you involved in politics at all?
I am an average citizen. I take my civic responsibilities seriously.
Do you think America would elect a woman president?
I read that 81 percent of Americans are ready to vote for a woman. So it sounds like America is ready.
Would you want the job?
For me to be the woman playing the first woman president is perfect as far as I'm concerned. I figure if I get two good terms out of it I'll be ready to glide right into the real thing. I figure that will be enough experience!