Brent Roske, creator and executive producer of the new pay-per-view series Chasing the Hill, isn't sticking his head in the sand as the election climate intensifies and his political drama sweeps the Internet.
Instead, he's packing up his cast and sending them to the very center of the storm. The docu-style program, filmed mostly in the Los Angeles area, moves to Charlotte for special footage to be shot during the Democratic National Convention.
The Queen City has recently become a hotspot for TV crews, including those temporarily shooting for the reality TV series The Bachelorette and ongoing episodes of Showtime's spy thriller, Homeland.
The decision to relocate Chasing the Hill to Charlotte during the DNC comes with a smart, threefold purpose: "To get the word out to the political community, to meet with press regarding the show, and to film segments with real politicians," says Roske.
Inspired by Aaron Sorkin's NBC drama The West Wing — and starring several of its alumni, including Richard Schiff, Joshua Malina and Melissa Fitzgerald — Roske's creation was initially honed at a script-writing group organized by Schiff, a fellow producer on the web-based series.
Chasing the Hill diverts from its West Wing counterpart in that it places a stronger emphasis on the human cost of a life in politics rather than on actual world affairs circling the political sphere.
"This show gives you politicians as people," says cast member Robin Weigert. "It shows you what's behind the scenes through a psychological rather than a political lens."
In Chasing the Hill, Weigert stars as Kristina Ryan, a California Democratic congresswoman embroiled in a scandal that's had serious, yet strategically redeemable, repercussions for her re-election campaign.
Weigert, who earned an Emmy nomination for her drastically different leading role as Calamity Jane in HBO's Deadwood, believes a central element to the show deals with maintaining a moral compass when the space between public and private is virtually nonexistent.
"This has always been the case, but only in recent decades has there been so little separation between public and private," says Weigert. "And that, in my view, is a big part of what has poisoned politics. Media has changed radically and, as a result, so have politicians. There is now almost no space for a politician to have a private life that would not bear up under public scrutiny."
The actress finds intrigue in the psychological effects of the phenomena and is fascinated by her character, whose loneliness heightens in the confines of her political celebrity.
"The equivalent for an actor is getting so lost inside [being] a celebrity that he loses touch with his art form and is only looking at himself from the outside," says Weigert, who considers herself fortunate for having not been burdened with overexposure in her career.
The show will also feature appearances by real-life politicians, in an attempt to add an extra layer of realism to the already low-maintenance series, which is frequently shot with hand-held cameras.
"I've wanted to do a show like this for years, but this cycle felt like the best fit in regards to our actors and the strong shift at this time to social media in campaigning," says Roske.
When asked about potentially negative reactions to the series due to its political nature, Roske turns to a fortune cookie proverb: "Act boldly and unseen forces will come to your aid."
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