Thursday, September 18, 2014

Madeleine Albright gives Tea Leoni's 'Madam Secretary' two thumbs up

Washington and Hollywood mixed and mingled Thursday night at a screening of new CBS drama Madam Secretary, starring Tea Leoni as former CIA agent and professor who becomes secretary of State.

It’s one of USA TODAY TV critic Robert Bianco’s Top 10 Fall Shows. Yes, it’s another political show.

And, yes, Tea Leoni will be joining other esteemed TV politicos including Julia Louis-Dreyfus, star of Veep, and Robin Wright, star of House of Cards, and Kerry Washington, star of Scandal. 

Executive producer Morgan Freeman explained the concept as he introduced the screening:
“We thought, ‘What if we developed a show around another strong female, but this one is secretary of State?”

So would that be Condoleezza Rice? Madeleine Albright? Hillary Clinton?
“One look at me and you know that I based this on Kissinger,” Leoni cracked to us.

But she did do some real research:
“I did get a coffee out of Madeleine Albright.” Leoni quickly adds, “She paid!”

And what advice did she give you?
“Honestly I was so starstuck, I was a complete ditz. I didn’t get so far as asking anything even quasi intelligent. It was all just a lovely blur.”

When Albright came into the screening, held at the United States Institute of Peace, she got a standing ovation from the cast and the audience in the auditorium.

Afterward, we stopped the former Madam Secretary as she was heading out the door.
What did she think of the first episode, which revolved around newbie Leoni facing her first crisis — getting two college kids out of Syria?
“I thought it was terrific. Very realistic. I mean, they’re doing Syria!”

Madam Secretary premieres Sunday on CBS at 8:30 p.m. ET/8 p.m. PT.

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