This week, this range is presented in two very different television roles. Wednesday on BBC Two, she demonstrates the charisma to burn as a conservative icon Phyllis Schlafly in the drama of the 1970s Mrs America. Friday, she appears in an eye-catching supporting role in Netflix Stateless, embodying the capricious co-leader of an Australian cult, who claims to be able to transform lives thanks to the power of song.
In other words, it sounds almost humorous, an Australian version of Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt, more Stateless, which was co-created by Blanchett alongside Tony Ayres and Elise McCredie, is far from a comedy. The six-part series is a complex story of immigration, mental illness and detention, and Blanchett is a threatening presence in the life of protagonist Sophie (Yvonne Strahovski).
Stateless, with his dark and intertwined stories and his refusal to offer easy answers, highlights Blanchett’s desire to immerse himself so fully in a role that it becomes almost unrecognizable. And Mrs America – in which she steals the show from such formidable actors as Rose Byrne, Uzo Aduba and Tracey Ullman (playing second wave feminists Gloria Steinem, Shirley Chisholm and Betty Friedan, respectively) – highlights why, despite a refusal to court the system or spending a lot of time in Los Angeles, Blanchett remains one of the biggest stars in Hollywood.
Schlafly, a self-proclaimed housewife and mother of six from Missouri, was actually a very educated activist who had already made waves in Republican circles thanks to A choice no an echo, his 1964 controversy over the Republican leader at the time, Nelson Rockefeller. Resolutely anti-feminist, she became even more famous in the 1970s thanks to a skillfully orchestrated campaign against the Equal Rights Act, which saw her convince American housewives that second wave feminists intended to disparage their values and destroy their lives.
Blanchett discovered Schlafly for the first time, Radio Times last week after seeing her receive a standing ovation at a presidential rally for Donald Trump. “Then when she died [in 2016], Trump was at his funeral. And I thought, why? Then this project arrived, so it was an absolutely fascinating trip for me. ”
She was particularly intrigued by the way Schlafly maneuvered her way through the male-dominated world of Capitol Hill. “I was amazed by his ability to inspire, galvanize and mobilize people through different tactics; she was an absolute force of nature. “
Where a lesser actor could be tempted to transform Schlafly, with his pastel twins and his immaculate hairdresser, into a parody of conservative femininity, Blanchett chooses rather to subtly allude to the way in which the hard outer skin of the activist was formed by the light ones she encountered as a woman operating in a male world.
Her Schlafly is the most steel of magnolias, a creamy smile constantly in place, even if she traces exactly where to slide the knife, but she is also visibly hurt when asked to take notes during a meeting on a subject she knows better than the men sitting next to her. It is a beautifully calibrated performance, in equal parts, a syrupy charm and a fierce ambition, which never lets its subject go down, but which is also rooted in compassion and understanding.
“I’m still interested in theater that explores the gray areas of life,” she said. Radio Times. “This is a non-judgmental series that asks a myriad of generations: ‘What do you think? What do you think of this figure, this policy or this movement? It’s all about the conversation, and it’s so relevant. This show is like groundhog day – the discussions we had in 1971 and 1972 keep coming up in the media today. ”
It should come as no surprise that she should be drawn to a character as complex and contradictory as Schlafly. Speaking to New Yorker in 2007, Shekhar Kapur, who directed Blanchett in Elizabeth and more L’age d’Or, said, “The smoothness you get in Cate is also due to the contradictions in it … [she has] the ability to be both vulnerable and completely unforgiving. ”
The author of this play, John Lahr, went on to note that Blanchett was “both candid and private, gregarious and lonely, doubtful and bold, witty and melancholy.”
It is a theme that has been repeated throughout Blanchett’s career. In the interviews, she seems warm and welcoming – happy to open her house to journalists and to talk about family life in an engaging way, from closed circuit schooling to unexpected chainsaw accidents – but also reserved.
His reluctance was partly formed during his childhood. Amidst three children raised in a close-knit family in Melbourne, Australia, Blanchett’s life was transformed after the death of her father, Robert, when she was 10 years old. It was a tragedy that would reshape family dynamics – her grandmother moved in to help her mother, Jane, a teacher, take care of children – and have a lasting effect on Blanchett. She spoke fondly of how she said goodbye to her father, an advertising director, on the day of her death. In 2015, she told the Guardian that even though she was reluctant to do too much with her untimely death, it had been a “very dark” period.
Her interest in theater formed early, although she initially planned to become a museum curator, deciding to study theater for a gap year in Egypt. “Acting had become like this terrible addiction. I felt like I had to give it five years and see where it got me. ”
It took her to the top, as a successful career on stage turned into catchy roles on Australian television, and ultimately in the movies. She won two Oscars, one for her perfect ride as Katharine Hepburn in The aviator, the other for his depiction of an unstable socialite in Woody Allen Blue jasmine, and has been nominated for several others.
Luckily married since the mid-twenties to playwright Andrew Upton, with whom she has four children, she seems to have found the perfect balance between work and rest, regularly switching between film and stage and taking extended sabbaticals if necessary.
Her movie resume reads like a model for how to have it all: a mix of chic reward baits, such as Notes on a scandal, Veronica Guerin and Carol, and big budget blockbusters like The Lord of the Rings trilogy. Despite all her seriousness about the “job”, she also has the ability to embrace unexpected and hidden scenes as an evil stepmother Cinderella, and making for a gloriously Hela camp Thor: Ragnarok.
This desire to go beyond comes in part from the fact that she is a naturally generous actress, attentive to the performances of those around her as her own. Over time, and in part through this role in Carol and her own fashion sense, she went from royal ice queen to Cate the Great. The feeling that it remains unknowable in the soul only feeds the call. Perhaps that is the reason why she is both star and overall player. She has always played on her own terms and for her own needs. As Kapur said at New Yorker over ten years ago: “Cate’s impatience is with itself.” That’s why it stands out.