I’m not sure if you’re aware of this, but there’s an election this year. And it has been one of the most painful in recent American history. It seems like every week, something would come along to just sink our hopes in humanity lower and lower, with both candidates enduring scandal after scandal. And later today, one of two candidates will finally emerge, from a field of twenty-plus, as the forty-fifth president of the United States. Will it be an orange, loudmouthed braggart or a former first lady with as many scandals as she has credentials? It’s like Veep has come to life.
However, in this day and age, with everyone screaming and zero acts of compromise, the one thing everyone seems to agree on is that the entire process seems like an uncomfortable and surreal piece of satire. Truthfully, the entire thing does have a very cinematic feel to it. And consider HBO loves to make movies about this process, I’m sure the inevitable miniseries on the subject is just around the corner. So when that day comes, I’ve compiled a humble list of suggestions for every major character in the Shakespearian tragedy that is our future, including all seventeen Republican candidates, five Democratic candidates and the fourteen random reporters and politicians who dragged themselves into the news cycle. I took many factors into account-how likely these people would be to take a role in a miniseries, how talented they were, and how much they look like the respective candidate. I’m sure you’ll find my choices fair and entertaining.
Before we begin, let’s note who should direct and/or write this thing. Personally, my vote is behind Damien Chazelle. The kid’s young, but he knows how to balance drama with comedy and mix in things that shouldn’t be funny because they’re so terrible (I mean, come on, some of the things that have been said so far wouldn’t sound out of place coming from Whiplash’s Terrence Fletcher). I think he’d find the nuance in this series’ script before directing a sharp, quick-witted miniseries. Now that we have a director, let’s start with the behemoth that is the Republican Party.
Donald J. Trump: Michael Keaton
Look, this was going to be the most challenging to cast. We all knew that. It’s the juiciest and most iconic role in the entire show. It’s a role that has several nuances: he must be loud, egomaniacal and animated, but simultaneously highly charismatic. It’s a tricky balance, and I’m positive that Academy Award nominee Michael Keaton can nail that balance. He’s the right age, he’s animated, and most importantly, he’s a talker. And depending on how you interpret the man, Keaton works out perfectly. Think he’s a misunderstood hero? Look at his performance in Batman or Birdman. Think that he’s a sinister monster who will bring about the end of politics? Can you do better than Beetlejuice? There is no one I want to see in this role more than Keaton.
Ted Cruz: Steve Carell
Yet another tricky role to figure out. Cruz is a role requiring a certain…something. He has to be smart and confident while simultaneously pissing off everyone around him and appearing slimy (jury’s currently out on whether he is or not). This was my hardest challenge throughout this process-who could possibly bring this role to life? Well, as it just so happens, one of the earlier episodes of The Office played while I was working on this project, and I got to watch the slimy jerkishness of early Steve Carell. It made me think of the other roles from Carell’s career, including his Oscar-nominated, makeup-heavy performance as John Du Pont in Foxcatcher. If Carell can bring nuance and empathy to that bizarre a role, he can find the empathy and weirdness in Ted Cruz. Combine the unlikeable nature of Michael Scott, the bizarre empathy of Du Pont, and the snarky genius of his role in The Big Short, and I’m convinced that this is the right role for him. And trust me, when you set Carell off of Keaton for those debate scenes, woo boy will that be good television.
Marco Rubio: Freddie Prinze Jr.
Marco Rubio was always sort of an odd choice. Both an everyman and an insider, young enough to be likable, but also young enough that he seems out of place with his constituents on the national stage. That sounds like the perfect description of Freddie Prinze Jr. Prinze, Jr. is the son of beloved comedian Freddie Prinze (obviously), and he managed to turn that into a career. And you know what? He’s actually pretty good! He has a natural comedic ability, and you really want to like him in everything he does. He just picks really terrible projects. If you ask me, a big comeback as “Little Marco” could be just the thing to boost the career of the man best known as Buffy the Vampire Slayer’s husband (They’re still together, right? God, I hope so. They’re so cute together).
John Kasich: Tim Matheson
Besides the obvious comparison of looks between actor and subject, Tim Matheson is just the logical choice for the role of Ohio Governor John Kasich. It wouldn’t be his first foray into fake politics, as Kasich is famous for playing Vice President Hoynes in The West Wing, but the comparison I’m thinking of is Otter from Animal House. I’m not saying Kasich is a player; I highly doubt that this is the case. What I’m saying is Kasich is a generally liked plainspoken man of the people, and that’s what Otter was best at (that, and seducing co-eds). I think Matheson would bring a quiet dignity to the man that most Republicans actually wanted as their nominee.
Ben Carson: Cuba Gooding, Jr.
Not many people know this, but Ben Carson has actually had an entire movie made about him. That’s right: Gifted Hands: The Dr. Ben Carson Story is a real thing that was made a few years ago, back when Carson was the next big thing to hit politics. And that movie starred a career low Cuba Gooding, Jr. That’s right: the man who won an Oscar for Jerry Maguire before turning to Snow Dogs and Daddy Day Camp was in a Hallmark movie. However, from everything I hear (I avoid that channel like the plague), Gooding, Jr. brought heart and talent to the role, just like he did in the nineties and what he forgot to do in the aughts. And now, coming fresh off an Emmy nomination for humanizing O.J. Simpson in The People Vs. O.J. Simpson, I think Gooding, Jr. will continue to find the heart in a man who is undeniably brilliant at brain surgery, despite certain things he says about grain silos.
Jeb Bush: Ed Begley, Jr.
Poor Jeb. This was supposed to be his year. I don’t know who is more shocked at the results: him, or the rest of the American Public. His first sign of floundering should have been when his appearance on the stage was best summed up as “Oh, it’s That Guy.” Which brings us to my casting decision: Ed Begley, Jr. aka That Guy. Begley, Jr. is a talented actor who has appeared in several different films and shows (the one that springs to mind for me is Arrested Development), but despite his talent and his abilities, I don’t think there’s any reason more relevant than this: look at them! Honestly, there’s so little makeup required there, it’s not even funny! I rest my case.
Rand Paul: Santino Fontana
Rand Paul is what happens when you put his father, Ron, on coke: a fired-up little ball of energy and fuzz. He’s whip-smart, and he knows it, hated by Democrats and Republicans alike (although not on the same level as Cruz), and ready to confront everyone he could to make a name for himself on the stage. As Paul was never really a major figure, the idea of casting a major star in the role is a bit unnecessary, but it does require a certain level of talent. And for that, I turn to Broadway and television by picking Tony-nominee Santino Fontana. Fontana has been seen in shows like Cinderella and The Importance of Being Earnest, as well as playing the enigmatic Hans in Frozen, but he may be best recognized as the constantly irritated and egotistical Greg on Crazy Ex-Girlfriend. This is the performance I think of to make this pick: a man who’s smart, and wants you to know it, constantly talking, and irritated at everything, but deep down you know you love the fuzzy-haired misfit. That’s Paul, through and through. Fonatna would truly shine in this role.
Mike Huckabee: Kevin Spacey
Kevin Spacey may forever be tied to a different Southern politician, but if he wanted to practice his accent in between seasons, he would be perfect for the constantly appalled Mike Huckabee. Huckabee’s undeniably a better man than Frank Underwood, and it would be nice to see Spacey play a different kind of rapscallion for a change, so I would personally love to see what Spacey can bring to the face of the Conservative movement.
Carly Fiorina: Christine Baranski
I don’t even need to explain this one.
Chris Christie: Jeff Garlin
I almost started crying when I found out that Chris Christie and Jeff Garlin are the same age. Garlin has literally built a career off of playing large, loudmouthed East Coasters. It’s literally who he is. The fact that Saturday Night Live never had him on the way they did Tina Fey and Larry David (and trust me, we’ll get to those two) is astounding to me. This is, for me, the best casting advice I can possibly do.
Rick Santorum: Michael Sheen
Look, Rick Santorum means well. I won’t deny it. I won’t even go for the easy joke about Googling his name. But he just has this…vibe…in a way that no other candidate does. He comes off as creepy to members of his own party, and despite coming in third in the 2012 election (second, if you ignore the facts about Ron Paul the way many channels did at the time and the way they continue to do with Bernie Sanders), he still isn’t well liked enough to every make it to the White House. However, I’m not here to bad mouth these candidates, just playfully tease both sides, so I think the best casting decision has to be character actor Michael Sheen. I could list his several great performances over the years (the easiest joke to make would be a comparison to his character in the Twilight Saga, but I’m above that), but I think the perfect comparison is his role as Wesley on 30 Rock. He wasn’t necessarily a bad guy, but be honest: you never wanted Liz Lemon to have anything to do with him, did you?
Jim Gilmore: Bill Murray
Because I want nothing more than for Bill Murray to show up for one scene as Jim Gilmore and to have no lines-just to stand there. It’ll be perfect.
Rick Perry: Pierce Brosnan
Rick Perry is the perfect example of the Political Buffoon. He means well, and is incredibly handsome, but everything he says is just so insane. He seems to have improved since he ran in 2012 and answered “I don’t know, EPA?” and released the worst ad in political history, but he still had a loooooonnnnnnggggggg way to go before he proved himself a strong, viable candidate. I can’t think of anyone better for this role than Pierce Brosnan. Brosnan is best known for playing James Bond, but has been trying to break into a more comical role for years. Perry will be the perfect opportunity-awkward, yet handsome; dumb, but somewhat likable. And we get the consolation prize of watching him on Dancing with the Stars. It can be like Mamma Mia! all over again!
Scott Walker: Zachary Quinto
Scott Walker dropped out of the race early to make sure America could focus on stopping Trump from getting the nomination. That went well. However, he still gets that big important monologue early on. And based on his talent at monologues, as well as his frequent appearances in these types of miniseries, I’ve gotta go with Zachary Quinto. He’s young, he’s idealistic, and yet he has something brooding under the surface-perfect for a man who faced a recall election early in his career.
Bobby Jindal: Dev Patel
Poor Bobby Jindal. He was always so earnest, so confident in the face of all signs to the contrary. He was like Ted Cruz, but with even less of a chance. It was so sad to watch. The key to a character like this is you can’t just cast someone who is going to be an Eeyore-like sad sack-you need someone hopeful, so that you root for him in the face of all of his many, many, many, many faults and overwhelming, impossible odds. And that’s Dev Patel. Look at his performance in Slumdog Millionire-he knows what it’s like to be in an impossible scenario and to be confronted by a bully. Patel is the way to go to play the little governor from Louisiana.
Lindsey Graham: Ricky Gervais (as Derek)
The stereotype about Graham is that he’s the second coming of a Southern belle. I don’t disagree. However, unlike some of the other members of the Republican party, there’s something sincere about Graham’s aw shucks attitude and hope for a gentler, more spiritual world-he seems like he actually believes these things, instead of just saying what he can to get elected. And who better for a soft-spoken, well meaning politician than Gervais in character as Derek, one of TV’s kindest, gentlest characters? Gervais has a certain quality to his face that resembles Graham’s-pudgy, but not exactly fat-and an ability to craft unique characters, and Graham’s the perfect example of this. He may not have been around long, but he’s certainly going to be memorable, and Gervais does nothing less.
George Pataki: Richard Jenkins
Pataki doesn’t seem like a big enough role to get a name like Richard Jenkins. And I don’t disagree. However, as one of the frequent winners of the “Junior League” debates (the debates held for candidates #11-17), Pataki definitely has some brief moments to give a good actor some big moments. Plus, I get the feeling Jenkins would love a chance to just perform a small cameo like this. He’d be the perfect actor to round out the Republican episodes of the miniseries.
And now that we’ve taken a look at the elephants, let’s take a gander over at the donkeys.
Hillary Clinton: Meryl Streep
Once again, we have an example of perfect casting, because no matter how you feel about Hillary Clinton, Meryl Streep is the right one for the job. Think she’s the perfect nominee with a history of credentials and a likable personality? Take a look at Silkwood Streep or Music of the Heart Streep. Think she’s a soulless monster with a history of mistakes and criminal activity? Look at The Devil Wears Prada Streep or August: Osage County Streep. Think there’s a mix of both? That’s where The Iron Lady, Into the Woods and Doubt come into play. Look, long story short, Streep has a history of playing these incredible characters, and no matter how you interpret this, there’s no one more interesting in this election than Hillary Clinton. Streep will bring a panache and a pathos to the woman that no one else could (maybe Sarah Paulson, but she’s a bit young at the moment), as well as a tenacity and a hunger that will bring her close to the edge. It’s one of the meatiest female roles out there right now, and no one quite deserves it like our greatest living actress.
Bernie Sanders: Larry David OR Bruce Dern
This is such an obvious call to make: Larry David looks too much like him, and it is a slam-dunk on par with Tina Fey as Palin. You gotta go David here, and that’s exactly what I’m gonna do. However, when Game Change made their film about Sarah Palin, they didn’t do the obvious thing and cast Fey. They went outside the norm and went with Julianne Moore. Plus, David doesn’t seem to have any interest in legitimate programming anymore-he just wants to sit back and be his lovably grumpy self. Which means we need someone else as the aging-yet-charismatic Senator from Vermont who combined crotchetiness with hopeful yearning and inspired an entire generation of voters. And assuming he still has that charismatic side left in him, I’d love to see Bruce Dern give it a shot. He’s well into his grumpy old man years, as can be seen in Nebraska, proving that he’s still got the bite to play Sanders. And yet, he’s also got a sweeter, funnier side, which will lend to the youthful enthusiasm that convinced the youngest generation to break from their norm and vote for an eighty-something guy from Brooklyn.
Martin O’Malley: Aaron Eckhart
Poor Martin O’Malley. He was supposed to be the backup: less radical than Sanders, and not as widely-hated as Hillary. Unfortunately, that’s also me using code words for “boring,” as reflected by the voters. However, if you’re too look at him, he’s got a handsome, boyish side that makes him likable even when he’s barely getting by at the debates. There’s something there that speaks to me with this role-the handsomeness balanced by a boyish innocence that means he’ll have no way of getting into the dirty business of this election. I don’t know why, but it reminds me, in some ways, of the character of Harvey Dent in The Dark Knight. Meaning that boyish Aaron Eckhart is the perfect choice to play Maryland’s governor for the short time we had him, and then fade off into obscurity after episode two.
Lincoln Chafee: Steve Buscemi
Ugh. Lincoln Chafee. On paper, he could actually have been a good president: a man with Republican ideals and sensibilities who left the party in the wake of the Iraq War and ended up switching parties shortly thereafter. Can you imagine if he actually got the nomination and picked a centrist Republican to actually run on a platform of uniting the country? That could have been so inspiring in the face of what we had now. Unfortunately, such hopes rested on the shoulders of Lincoln Chafee, a man who looks like he’s always having a bad day and who famously sh*t the bed at the first debate. Poor guy, I’d give him a hug if I wasn’t scared of getting close to him. Anyway, for this role, I needed someone who seemed kindly and intelligent, yet also looks creepy as sin. Easy, I just described Steve Buscemi’s entire career. Although I’m not sure I want to imagine Buscemi in that blonde wig *shudders*.
Jim Webb: J.K. Simmons
When you look at Webb, you need someone who looks strong, and tough, and intelligent, and is in all ways not. When I think of Webb, I think of the CIA Director in Burn After Reading. And then I think of how great J.K. Simmons is in that role. And then I think of how great Simmons would be in the role of Jim Webb. It’s not a big role, and it isn’t the meatiest role, but sometimes Simmons just likes to have fun, and that’s exactly what he can do with the role of Jim Webb.
Now that we’ve covered everyone from a major party, let’s look at the two challengers that have made some incredible headway in the face of two of the most unpopular nominees in history.
Gary Johnson: Viggo Mortensen
When you look at Gary Johnson, Libertarian candidate for President, you think to yourself “There’s something about you that was handsome and intelligent at one time, but something just seems off now.” You don’t know why that is-he’s athletic (he scaled Mount Everest), he’s whip smart, he actually succeeded at turning his state around, and he seems kind of fun. But he also seems a bit crazy, a little off, and like he doesn’t know how to wear clothes that fit him. This perfect combination of intelligence and awkwardness would be a buffet for an actor as self-serious as Viggo Mortensen. Mortensen is known for his dramatic performances, but something tells me he has a comedic side underneath. Can you imagine the fun he’d get to have during the “Aleppo” scene? My God, it would be a goldmine. I know Mortensen is firmly in bed with our next candidate, but come on-wouldn’t it be fun to see him let loose for once in his life to play a proud, pot-endorsing, successful governor?
Jill Stein: Glenn Close
If there’s a role anywhere near as fun as Johnson in this entire production, look to the role of Jill Stein. A doctor turned folk singer turned Green Party nominee inspiring the Bernie supporters who could never join Hillary, Stein is such a juicy character, specifically due to her desire to never go too far off the path to risk alienating anyone. She also has the ability to just “be herself” in a way someone like Hillary or Jeb, never really had a chance to (not a problem with Donald). So for this role, I’m going with Glenn Close, and I’m basing it on her performance in 101 Dalmations. I’m not saying I think Stein is a psychopath, or evil, or even a bad choice, necessarily. I’m referring to the sense of fun and flamboyancy on display in her performance as Cruella De Vil. I think it would make for a fun and eccentric performance (I’m looking forward to the scene where she discovers that people think she’s an anti-vaxxer despite the fact she is 100% for it, because, duh, she’s a doctor).
And finally, let’s look at all of the side figures that popped up along the way to make this scene just this weird and insufferable.
Mike Pence: John Slattery
John Slattery is the type of self-serious silver-haired fox that would nail it as Pence. However, what would make this an even better pick is the way Slattery would have to play it. Instead of going big, like Slattery does on 30 Rock, Mad Men and Wet Hot American Summer: First Day of Camp, he would be required to dial it waaaaaaaayyyyyyy back-to make himself as dull and boring as possible. It would be a nice change in character for Slattery, and it’s one I’d be excited to watch play out.
Tim Kaine: Kevin Pollak
On the other side of the spectrum, Tim Kaine! You need someone who is simultaneously high and low energy, who is awkward yet still continues to talk, and who looks like an adorable dad yet also an insufferable jackass at the same time. That’s pretty much Kevin Pollak’s entire career. From The Usual Suspects to A Few Good Men, Pollak has played talkative tools who straddle the line of “Cool” and “Awful.” The scene where he debates Pence will play with the proper amount of smarm and joylessness, just like real life, and I think Pollak (and Slattery, for that matter), would absolutely nail it.
Elizabeth Warren: Diane Keaton
Because, I mean, come on. It’s just perfect.
Sarah Palin: Tina Fey
As if Saturday Night Live wasn’t enough evidence.
Bill Clinton: John Travolta
One of John Travolta’s last great performances was as a Bill Clinton stand-in in 1998’s Primary Colors. He was smart, he was funny, and he was unafraid to get dirty, just like the real Clinton. Therefore, I think it would be the perfect tribute, especially after his wonderful performance on The People V. OJ Simpson. Let Travolta out of the cage as straight-up Clinton. He’d be brilliant, bringing an aged sense of comedy as a man trying to behave himself long enough for his wife to become president. Plus, imagine Travolta with the balloons. I repeat: IMAGINGE TRAVOLTA WITH THE BALLOONS. That’s the trailer right there. Heck, that could be an entire episode and I wouldn’t care.
Melania Trump: Laura Benanti
Melania is far and away the most likable Trump-she’s kindly, she’s pretty, and she seems like a genuine person (except for when she’s reading Michelle Obama’s words). And my choie of Laura Benanti goes beyond the obvious similarities in appearances. For me, it comes down to two things: first, Benanti is the only one capable of making Melania the heart of the Trump campaign, and giving her the compassion needed to sell this role. Second, Benanti just needs more roles. She’s too good to be kicked off TV for every show she does. At least this role will get her the attention she deserves.
Mitt Romney: Jon Hamm
Poor Mitt Romney. The Republican Party turned on him for not seeming “likable” enough. And then they went and nominated Donald Trump. And then while the establishment stood by his side as he came out against the frontrunner, he alienated many Republicans for that exact stance. It’s a sad role for a handsome actor, and I think Jon Hamm is perfect for that role. It can just be a short thing, like he did on Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt, but it would be worthwhile nonetheless. He’d give his big speech and then get out, just like Ned Beatty in Network.
Paul Ryan: Zach Woods
Meanwhile, you have the deeply, deeply troubled Paul Ryan. Ryan is between a rock and a hard place: he isn’t fond of the current nominee of his party for President of the United States, but he knows it would be political suicide to come out against him. What’s worse, it would be an even bigger act of political suicide if he ends up supporting Trump’s opponent (even though, in the grand scheme of things, it may be better for him to get Hillary in so he can look like a “hero” for working with her and fighting with her, like Gingrich in the 90s). It’s an unwinnable scenario-and the person I most like to see in unwinnable scenarios realizing they are doomed is Zach Woods. What’s even better is that Woods is also a tall, lanky, and young pasty white guy, which helps make this casting decision a match made in heaven.
Debbie Wasserman Schultz: Wendi McLendon-Covey
Oh Debbie. Poor, sweet Debbie. People are not happy the way you helped “rig” the system against beloved Bernie. Man, you became the most hated woman in America so fast. And yet, there’s something tragic about her-a Shakespearian quality, if you will-that makes her fascinating to watch. I don’t know about you, but I want to see Wendi McLendon-Covey in the role. Sure, she’s known for comedy, but I think if she were to imbibe Debbie with the same type of fiery energy she provides Beverly Goldberg, it could make for an interesting character study along the way.
Megyn Kelly: Missi Pyle
In an era where the newscasters have begun to literally take sides in the election, it’s been left to a select few to put the screws to everyone involved in the process. And nothing was more refreshing than when Megyn Kelly went after Trump for the things he’d said in the first debate. She drew ire and scorn for her tough questions, yet took that extra attention and used it to establish herself as one of the best current newscasters. Personally, I’d like to see Missi Pyle in the role. Pyle isn’t known for serious roles-even in Gone Girl, she was something of comic relief. However, she has a fire and a passion in that performance that would make the blonde-haired, blue-eyed Pyle a firecracker as Kelly.
Chris Wallace: Chris Cooper
Speaking of respectable, intelligent journalists, Wallace has been a respectable force in the debate this entire time. While he sat in the wings for most of the election, he really emerged in that final debate as a true champion of the American People, putting the screws to both Hillary and Donald, forcing them to be more honest than either has been the entire cycle. It’s a quiet, yet important role. And I’d like to see Chris Cooper playing it. Cooper is known for being tough, cold men, and yet, he does have a soft sensitivity under the surface-look at August: Osage County or the first half of Adaptation. for proof. He’d bring the kindness, respectfulness, and intelligence necessary to bring Wallace to the big screen (Note: while I’m casting actors in both of these journalists’ roles, Anderson Cooper should still play himself. Because Cooper is awesome).
Katrina Pierson: Aya Cash
Katrina Pierson has been one of the most fascinating characters in this entire election. She is one of Trump’s spin doctors, and became famous for her far-fetched justifications of some of Trump’s worst comments, as well as attempts to escape the question completely. However, unlike KellyAnne Conway, who seems more like she’s just doing her job, and seems like a tragic figure, Pierson goes for it with a verve and a passion that is, in many ways, a little frightening. And I would love to see Aya Cash play the role. And not just because they bear a striking resemblance. She’s also got this passionate, angry passion that she unleashes as Gretchen Cutler every week on You’re the Worst that would make Katrina Pierson shine. Look, I’ll admit it: I will do anything to get Cash more roles. However, can you blame me if it lines up this perfectly?
James Comey: Bruce Willis
Oh, Comey. Let’s face it: he was in an unwinnable scenario. Yes, the exact date he announced the second email scandal was too much to just be a coincidence, but he was stuck with that investigation and all the baggage it entailed: his hand was forced by both sides, each trying to get the leg up on him-Republicans forcing him to investigate the scandal exhaustively and felt he was trying to cover up for Hillary, and Democrats who felt he was digging in more than was necessary. He’s the only person that could successfully piss off both parties with the same information in the course of one week. It would make more sense to go with a schlubbier type for this role, some milquetoast person bullied by the leaders of two different parties. However, I’m beyond such petty casting. I want Bruce Willis in the role, playing someone trying to give the illusion of toughness while consistently backing down. Sort of like his role on Friends that one time. It’d be an interesting portrayal, but, I mean, come on. What else is Willis doing with is career?
And with that, I wrap up this election cycle. In a few hours, we’ll know who the next President of the United States will be. I don’t even want to begin guessing who it will be (although I have a hunch), but I do know that if Hollywood ever comes knocking, I’ve written 5200 words on the subject of should be in this movie/miniseries. And I would love to see these actors nominated, based on the astounding source material they’ve been given. I’m predicting Emmy nods for Keaton and Streep as leads, David/Dern, Gooding Jr. and Prinze Jr. for Supporting Actor, and Close, Benanti and McLendon-Covey for Supporting Actress. Good luck these next four years, and remember to vote today!