In The Know

Political actress Jayne Atkinson doesn’t rule out real-life campaign bid

Courtesy of WAM Theatre

She’s a go-to political performer, taking on countless roles playing politicians and Washington leaders, and now Jayne Atkinson says she’s not ruling out a real-life campaign.

“I’m not closing the door on it because I think I can amalgamate ideas, and I think I have a way of speaking that energizes, and enlivens, and inspires people,” Atkinson says. “I think that’s why I’m an actress,” the former “House of Cards” star says. “Sort of doing it as me, well that might just be the next step.”

Atkinson has a knack for playing strong and powerful, albeit fictional, political figures.


The actress took on the role of national security adviser Karen Hayes opposite Kiefer Sutherland in Fox’s “24.” On “Madam Secretary,” she played the country’s vice president. And in “House of Cards,” Netflix’s political thriller, she took on a prominent part as Secretary of State Catherine Durant.

Atkinson, who was born in the United Kingdom before moving to the United States as a child, says she has a few theories as to why she’s frequently cast in Beltway roles.

“I have a confidence and an authority when I’m creating a character — so that looks like you want me to run things, because I think of my work onstage,” says the veteran theater performer.

“I also wonder sometimes to begin with if I had a little bit of a look like Hillary Clinton, because people would say I looked a little like her,” she adds.

Atkinson will soon take on another role which draws from the real world of politics. She’s poised to play former Texas Gov. Ann Richards (D) in Holland Taylor’s “Ann,” running at Arena Stage in Washington from July 11 to Aug. 11.

The Tony Award-nominated actress and mom of one says she didn’t know much about the larger-than-life ex-governor, who died in 2006, when she first started reading the script for the play.

But she came to feel that Richards’s spirit “was calling to all of us in a way that really resonated with where we are right now” politically.

“I think there’s been this steady march towards cray cray,” Atkinson, 60, says with a laugh. “I just feel like nobody’s coming to save us. There’s not one person that’s going to right this ship.”

“We all have to create islands of sanity, and put our feet on the ground, and participate. And that’s what ‘Ann’ is all about,” says Atkinson.

“[Richards] wanted everyone in Texas to see themselves at the table,” she says.

Atkinson, a British American dual citizen, told ITK in 2016 that she was rooting for then-Democratic White House hopefuls Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) or former Secretary of State Clinton in the presidential race. And, as an actress, she feels her performance in “Ann” is her “civic duty.”

“I feel behind this fabulous, funny, rock ‘n’ roll politician and a woman, who you watch juggle the men and women who work for her as well as her family, it’s astounding and it’s inspiring. I just think being able to bring her voice right now is such a gift,” she says.

Not too long ago, Atkinson says, she was asked by a woman when she might make her own political bid.

“I said, you know the truth is that actors, actresses, when you start to move into the political realm, get into a lot of trouble,” she says. “I think I’ve been afraid of that ‘stick to your day job’ comment.”

But, Atkinson says her role in “Ann” has influenced her to consider trading simply sticking to the script for real-world stump speeches: “I feel that if I felt there was a place where I could speak my truth and inspire people and help in that arena, I would.”

Tags Bernie Sanders Hillary Clinton theater

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