Toni Collette says her new TV series, which imagines a world where teenage girls suddenly develop the ability to electrocute people at will, is actually addressing issues in our own reality.
The Australian actress plays a politician in The Power, which is based on the hit 2016 novel by Naomi Alderman.
Collette tells Sky News’ film and TV podcast Backstage that the show acts as something of a wake-up call over how young women are treated by society.
“Historically it’s a bit of an ageist world – along with other ‘ists’ – and people can overlook kids in general, but for young girls, I think they’re particularly overlooked,” she says. “It did feel important, you know, to actually tell a story about inclusivity and equality. It’s a big deal and it’s something we’re really grappling with in our world.
“To see it and identify with it in a slightly removed, entertaining, sci-fi way is probably a cool way to address it and for people to come to it without feeling like it’s dogmatic or didactic.”
While Collette plays Margot Cleary-Lopez, Mayor of Seattle, her co-star John Leguizamo plays her character’s husband, Rob.
The actor, who has had a long and varied career – from Carlito’s Way, Moulin Rouge and the John Wick franchise to acclaimed series such as When They See Us – says it is always gratifying to appear in a show delivering a message.
‘Maybe we need to change’
“I love being a part of something that I feel is trying to do something important, trying to say something,” he tells Backstage.
“I love entertainment for entertainment’s sake, but I love more when it has poignancy, when it has relevance to what’s going on politically, socially and this, unfortunately, does speak on those subjects, on what’s happening in America: Roe versus Wade, bans on trans people, bans on black literature and Latin literature in schools in history [classes].
“It speaks of our times, but hopefully it does it in a way that’s entertaining and not preachy, and maybe people can look at themselves and go, maybe we need to change – you hope for that.”
The Power explores the idea of women becoming the dominant sex. While the idea of teenage girls suddenly developing deadly abilities might sound scary – particularly to men – Collette thinks the idea of them harnessing some power of their own is actually very positive.
“Any change is a little bit daunting, right? Because everyone’s very comfortable in the familiar, and I know that there’s an inherent fear around it because it is very, it can be destructive if used in the wrong way. But actually, I think there’s something so beautiful about these girls, some of them for the first time, having a real sense of safety in themselves, and a sense of agency and sovereignty.
“That just builds confidence and I think there’s something really hopeful about that. That balances out the potentially destructive side of it.”
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Politics in real life?
In the series, Collette’s character finds herself thrust into the limelight when she is among the first to speak out publicly after the teenagers develop their powers. While the woman she plays is politically ambitious, the actress says she has no interest in heading in that direction herself.
“I was petrified doing the fake debate scene, I can’t imagine what it’s like doing it in reality, there’s too much at stake, there’s so much responsibility,” she says. “I really admire – not a lot of politicians who come from a place of ego – but I think Margot is a woman with really good intentions, she really cares about the people she represents and I think she’s the best of her kind.”
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Leguizamo agrees Collette’s character represents a certain kind of politician.
“I work around a lot of politicians, so I have respect for the Margot types that really care, really want to make a change,” he says.
“You see great politicians, who care, broken by the system, you know, their ideals crushed right before them – it’s hard to see. That’s why I respect real politicians who want to make a change and make the world a better place, like Margot.”
The Power is streaming on Prime Video – hear our review on the latest episode of Backstage, the film and TV podcast from Sky News