Academy Award-winning actress Ellen Burstyn has “never seen anything” quite like this year’s presidential election season — and she believes she may know the reason for presumptive Republican nominee Donald Trump’s extraordinary success.
“I can’t understand it,” the 83-year-old Interstellar and Alice Doesn’t Live Here Anymore star said of Trump’s popularity in an interview with Deadline.
“The only thing I can think — and this is just a hypothesis; I have nothing to base it on — is that the fact we elected a black president has excited an underlying racism, and it has come to the surface,” the actress added. “Now they’re saying, ‘OK, it’s our turn. The racists get a turn.’ I can’t imagine any other election year that there could be this ridiculous and overpowering support for that particular candidate.”
However, Burstyn — who joined the fourth season of Netflix’s political drama House of Cards this season — also said that the level of discourse between candidates on the other side of the ideological aisle is almost as bad as the Republicans.
“For a while I thought we were looking pretty virtuous by comparison. But I’m afraid that’s degenerated now,” she told Deadline. “I just want to get them all together in a room and say, ‘Folks, we’re all human beings here. We’re all Americans. Could we just quiet down and have a little respect for the office, if not each other?’ It’s just so uncivil, and I don’t know what happened.”
In the fourth season of House of Cards, Burstyn plays the mother of First Lady Claire Underwood (Robin Wright). But the actress says the real-life drama playing out in this election season is crazier than anything the House of Cards showrunners could think up.
“I’m just stunned,” she said. “That’s why it’s so important that we get either Hillary or Bernie into office.”
Burstyn — who won a Best Actress Oscar in 1975 for her role in Alice Doesn’t Live Here Anymore — has weighed in on presidential politics before, and recently. In 2012, she said during a television appearance that she found then-Republican nominee Mitt Romney “smarmy.”
“I don’t think [Romney] tells the truth. I think he makes stuff up,” the actress said then. “I daresay he lies.”
House of Cards Season 4 is currently streaming on Netflix.
Follow Daniel Nussbaum on Twitter: @dznussbaum