There’s not as much excitement surrounding the Obama inauguration sequel (Monday, Jan. 21), as there was for the first one. Hope and change was in the air for the premiere of Barack Obama as our 44th President of the United States. Now, well … let’s change the subject.
If you want a First Family that will give you lots of laughs tune in the NBC sitcom 1600 PENN starring Bill Pullman as President Dale Gilchrist and Jenna Elfman as his First Lady, and second wife. A lot of the humor comes from the step-mom Emily trying to win over her step-kids as well as the country. The problems of a blended family can turn into a federal case when you live in the White House.
Joining Pullman and Elfman (of Dharma and Greg fame) at 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue is First Son Skip, played by the crazy-funny Josh Gad (of Book of Mormon fame) who is also the show’s co-creator and executive producer. Rounding out the cast is Martha MacIsaac (Superbad) as Becca, an overachieving daughter; Benjamin Stockham (Sons of Tucson) as Xander; Amara Miller (The Descendants) as Marigold; and Andre Holland (Friends with Benefits) as Marshall, the president’s savvy and loyal White House Press Secretary.
“Whether it’s entertaining foreign dignitaries or sneaking away for a night out, dealing with middle-school crushes or putting out fires, figuratively and sometimes literally, there’s never a dull moment inside the Gilchrist White House,” reports Gad.
Having Elfman is a big plus for 1600 PENN, because she seems to embody the strength and sassiness needed for the role. At the show’s interview panel I asked her to talk about some real First Ladies and what she admires about them. Elfman explains, “My ideal First Lady I think is Michelle Obama, who does a beautiful job and she inspires me a lot. I think she’s just so graceful. And you know it’s not easy when you’re married to someone who has such a challenging job.”
Elfman adds, “I just love it when people are truly being themselves. And if they’re in a position to set some sort of example, I really admire when they do so. They do lead the way in terms of, like, First Lady, she’s the first woman of our country, so to set an example of pride in one’s self and also in caring for those around her. I love what she’s done with her organic gardening and getting kids moving and exercising. She has a sense of fashion and pride in her own body, and taking care of herself, and supporting her husband and never betraying him.”
She thinks that the character she plays, Emily Gilchrist, has all of that going for her. “She’s smart and helped get him into the presidency. She ran his campaign. She’s very confident, but her Achilles’ heel is her role as a step mother. It’s very uncomfortable for her,” Elfman says. But that’s okay because that situation is ripe for humor, “and that allows me to bring a physical factor to my own comedy, which I enjoy.”
Getting serious for a moment, Elfman points out that Eleanor Roosevelt is the First Lady she most admires, and she may or may not have run the country for a period of time. “While her husband was recuperating and not doing well, she introduced the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. She was bold and took great opportunity of her position, despite the expected position of women at that time. And I love that she had a sense of humor, which I think is wonderful.”
As for the First Lady who is at the top of her best dressed list, Elfman goes with the classics and says, “We all love the fashions of the Kennedy era.”
For more fun from the faux First Family, tune in 1600 PENN, Thursdays on NBC.