Monday, September 22, 2014

Vogue: Téa Leoni on Meeting Madeleine Albright and Wearing Brooks Brothers - September 2014

After trading in the small screen for Hollywood many years ago, Téa Leoni returned to television last night as Elizabeth McCord, a CIA analyst turned college professor who suddenly becomes the United States Secretary of State, in Madam Secretary. A few days before the premiere, we spoke to Leoni about women in television, meeting Madeleine Albright, and her ironic sense of style.

On her role in Madam Secretary
“It’s different from what we are used to seeing on TV. We have gotten used to seeing women a certain way, and men a certain way. There’s a portrayal that has been sort of accepted of choosing between a strong career and a successful family life, and I think we’ve accepted a myth. This show is breaking down a myth.”

On meeting an actual former Secretary of State
“One of the greatest coffees of my life was with Madeleine Albright a few months ago. To say that I was starstruck is a massive understatement. I was so starstruck I simply became an idiot. I kept looking at her, and would think, ‘Just say something, you’re an adult! What are you doing?’ I really want another shot at her.”

On returning to TV
“It’s completely different this time around. The Naked Truth and Flying Blind were half-hour sitcoms. This is the infamous hour drama. It takes a little getting used to and getting into shape. But I feel like I’ve finally found my sea legs. I actually can’t believe how inefficient I was with my time. Now I have a day off and I achieve more than I did in a week.”

On what she does on her days off
“I’m doing everything today. I’m having my teeth cleaned, my ears checked. I’m going to get some allergy shots, because I unfortunately think I’ve become allergic to my cat.”

On the highly anticipated premiere
“It feels like a truck parked on my chest. It’s funny, I wasn’t feeling much pressure until now, when I think, ‘Wow, I’m supposed to really pull this off.’”

On the comparisons to Hillary Clinton
“It’s almost hard to avoid a Hillary reference. I even wondered if I shouldn’t dye my hair to make it absolutely clear it has nothing to do with her. Hillary is a career politician; my character has never been a lifelong politician. This is a woman coming into it without that experience and without that ambition.”

On the women she looks to for inspiration
“My mother and my grandmother and the women I’ve had close relationships with. They all have an incredible ability to negotiate and a seemingly inherent talent for diplomacy. Women are well poised to be Secretary of State, we really have a knack for this kind of thing.”

On her wardrobe in the show
“When you’re representing the U.S. abroad, I think everything down to your socks is pretty well considered. The costume designer and I had a lot of talks that weren’t about what’s hot this season, it was more about where can my character express her femininity and her vulnerability in her clothes, knowing her authority and opinion is going to be questioned.”

On fashion and politics
“Madeleine Albright told me she wore pants once when she went to Camp David, and it caused such a stir! These women have such better things to worry about. Nobody is running up to John Kerry and asking him, ‘What are you wearing or what are your kids are having for dinner?’”

On her own style
“I’m sassy in my own way. No one else agrees with it. It’s a little ironic and I rarely have a whole look going. It’s all confused, but it’s all very comfortable; I wear cowboy boots and Brooks Brothers.”

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