“Battleground” star Jay Hayden says the Hulu series isn’t bucking to win kudos over at Fox News or MSNBC.
The new show, which follows the political campaign behind a Wisconsin Senatorial hopeful, isn’t an overtly liberal or conservative program. And that’s hardly an accident, says Hayden.
It’s an open-ended discussionas to how to keep “Battleground” from pitching too far to the left or the right, Hayden says. Yes, the candidate in question during the first season is a Democrat, but viewers won’t see the kind of blatant partisanship found in “The Ides of March” or the NBC series “The West Wing.”
“The show is really about relationships, personal and professional sacrifices … how they deal with the 24 hour, seven days a week roller coaster,” he says.
“Battleground,” which offers new episodes each Tuesday on Hulu, follows a young, hungry campaign team trying to install a middle-aged female candidate in the Senate. Hayden plays Tak, the campaign manager juggling media requests, wacky volunteers, office quasi-romances and the occasional YouTube gaffes that cost him hours of sleep. The series owes a generous debt to “The Office’s” brand of mockumentary film making, but it’s crafty enough to be judged on its own terms.
It’s a deft balance between your standard workplace drama and rough and tumble politics. The series asks plenty of Hayden beyond being youthful and charismatic. The “Battleground” cast routinely helps shape both the dialogue and the intensity of each episode.
“Everyone throws in possible lines,” he says, a working process that feels different than a traditional sitcom. “There are so many hands in the kitchen already [with a network show]. As an actor … you’re left out of the collaborative process.”
That sense of freedom requires discipline – and homework. Hayden says he wasn’t much of a political junkie before “Battleground.” Now, he can’t scan enough headlines.
“It’s so interesting to me,” he says. “I love to know about scandals, the cover-ups … to watch the people standing in the background and cringing when [the politician] says something wrong.”
It’s like when “Battleground’s” senatorial hopeful (Meighan Gerachis) name dropped quarterback Brett Favre rather than Aaron Rodgers during a quick media interview.
“Battleground” strives to capture how the modern political system is evolving in the Age of Twitter.
“We’re not getting our information from reading the newspaper and watching a news channel at a certain time,” he says. “We get it from Twitter feeds and Facebooking articles to each other,” he says. “We have so much more of a resource to get all the news … it’s a much more informed world we live in.”
Hayden’s show is part of that digital revolution.
“It does feel like we’re a little bit in the Wild West. It’s an honor to be Hulu’s first scripted show. I think that’s where we’re headed, to watch things on our own time,” says Hayden, who compares meeting with Hulu executives to “being at the ground level of Facebook.”
Should “Battleground” survive for a second season, Hayden says anything could happen. The show could even focus on the political team supporting a Republican politician.
“The candidate is not your main character,” he says.