“I hope it really starts a lot of conversations and opens a lot of eyes and some hearts and minds to the variety of people and the different stories that we can all learn from,” says Hillary Clinton of Gutsy, the docuseries from the former Secretary of State and daughter Chelsea that launched Friday on Apple TV+.
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“We have eight episodes, we have a lot of women in each episode, but it’s just a beginning to what I hope is a broader discussion about are we going to go backwards?” the winner of the popular vote in the 2016 presidential election added of the larger implications of the show. “Are we going to try to put women and others into little boxes and tell them that they have to go back in the time that they no longer have the rights that they were born with, that they have to be a certain way and with certain expectations?”
Premiering Gutsy in New York earlier this week and visiting the Toronto Film Festival today, the series produced by HiddenLight Productions in association with Left/Right LLC is based on the Clintons’ 2019 bestseller The Book of Gutsy Women: Favorite Stories of Courage and Resilience. Gutsy the TV series features already well-documented conversations with Kim Kardashian, Amy Schumer, Megan Thee Stallion and Kate Hudson and Goldie Hawn. At the same time, the wide-ranging series also features the likes of Jane Goodall, Gloria Steinem, Yurok Tribal Court Chief Judge Abby Abinanti, and a legion of local activists, mourning mothers, and, in the final episode, an indisputable legend.
The Clintons, two of the most famous people on Earth, spoke to me about the September 8 death of Queen Elizabeth II, the demolition of abortion rights by the Supreme Court overturning Roe v. Wade, and the upcoming midterm elections. They also discussed how personal they decided to get in Gutsy, the challenges they faced on the other side of the camera for once, who they couldn’t get, and a possible second season.
DEADLINE: Chelsea, I felt watching Gutsy that we saw a side of you that we rarely ever see. There’s a scene in the opening episode where the two of you are talking to the comedians and you’re talking about that, and then you start talking about your childhood and being at the receiving end of the cruelty of comedy. That’s a side of you, a vulnerability we don’t often see, and I wanted to know why you decided to reveal that.
CHELSEA CLINTON: Well, I don’t think I made a decision to reveal that, it just felt organic in that conversation.
The amazing women comedians that we were sharing that table with were talking about their experiences with comedy and Yamaneika Saunders asked me a question like, well, what comedy do you like? And I thought, well, I don’t really know. You know, I actually am so grateful to be here tonight to watch you all perform later so that hopefully I can begin to answer that question, and I then just had to be candid because we I think are always very candid and transparent and authentic in the show that the reason I didn’t know the answer to that question is because my first encounters with comedy were not amusing to me. They didn’t feel elevating to me, they didn’t feel transportive to me. I’ve heard friends describe when they’ve gone to comedy shows or they’ve watched comedy specials on television, I had not had that experience.
And so, I didn’t make a decision to share that part of my life in that moment, consciously at least It just felt like I had to contribute that to the conversation to help explain why I didn’t know what comedy I liked because comedy hadn’t been nice or pleasant for me. Thankfully because of this episode I do have a very different experience now and context now than I had, goodness, almost 30 years ago.
DEADLINE: Secretary Clinton, since 2016 you’ve had quite the post-presidential run media career. You did the Hulu docuseries, you’ve co-written a political thriller, you’ve co-written Gutsy the book, and now you’re doing this docuseries and you’ve got a number of other ventures as well. In that transition, what do you think is the skill-set you brought from your political life to your content creating life?
HILLARY CLINTON: That’s a great question. I think first of all I am really curious about people, I love to hear people’s stories. Sometimes when I would be running for office or in a political campaign, the press would say well, why doesn’t she talk more? She’s listening to people. So, that was kind of a natural skill that I brought with me. I think also my awareness of some of the challenges that women are facing right now.
DEADLINE: How do you mean?
HILLARY CLINTON: Problems that I talked about in my political experience and I talked about around the world as Secretary of State, making women’s rights a real cornerstone of my professional and public career. It was kind of a natural segue into highlighting other women and what they were up against and what they had decided to do, how they were gutsy.
DEADLINE: Was the shift of those skills to a new context difficult?
HILLARY CLINTON: Oh, I had to learn, as both of us did, how you put shows together. I mean, this was a great opportunity because I believe in storytelling. I think we need more and better stories that people can learn from and relate to so, I was really lucky that this worked out, Dominic. I never could have predicted all this. When we wrote the book we were thinking that it would be a book that would tell some stories that we thought people should know about, and then when the opportunity came to do the series it just put us on a broader global platform.
CHELSEA CLINTON: Dominic. I just want to be presumptuous and add one thing to what my mom said to you.
DEADLINE: Of course.
CHELSEA CLINTON: I think that because of social media, over the last decade everyone has somewhat become a public person.
So, one of the kind of places of commonality that we may not have anticipated but became fairly persistent here, was even for women who were doing extraordinary work that we hope now gets more attention. So, even if maybe, Dominic, you wouldn’t have heard of them until, you know, the series, they’re already known within their communities and already been receiving the inevitable pushback and pressures and sidebar comments that come I think to anyone in the public eye, but particularly to women. They have to navigate so many of the pressures that we’ve had to navigate, you know, for my whole life and for my mom’s whole professional life, in the public eye because they’re already in the public eye in that their own work.
DEADLINE: Madame Secretary, almost no one can compare with you in terms of being in the public eye. From your days as a lawyer in the Watergate era, an advocate, to the White House, the Senate, the State Department, the first woman to be the nominee of a major American political party and winning the popular vote in 2016. But, if there was one person, one could say had an equally high profile over it the years, it may be Queen Elizabeth II, who passed away yesterday. What is her legacy from your perspective?
HILLARY CLINTON: The world lost a gutsy woman with the death of Queen Elizabeth. A woman who served her country with distinction and honor going back 70 years, but even before that as a young woman during the war. Her sense of duty, honor and commitment I think are real models of virtue that we can each learn from going forward.
DEADLINE: Moving from public to private, what was the greatest challenge adapting Gutsy the book to Gutsy the docuseries?
HILLARY CLINTON: The biggest challenge, to be candid, was many of the women that we write about in the book that have been most inspiring to us are no longer with us. And so, Apple TV+ had a very clear sense of direction that they only…
CHELSEA CLINTON: They basically said no dead people. Almost a direct quote.
So, we thought, well, we’ve kind of argued back and forth a bit and then thought, okay, well, they’re the professionals, they know what they’re doing, we have to respect that they know what they’re doing. That actually opened a real aperture for us to then explore and then meet and get to have wonderful experiences with many women who we didn’t know, or know of before we started the series. So, that was the biggest challenge.
HILLARY CLINTON: It was a real collaboration, Dominic. I mean, I really enjoyed the process and it was new to me…
CHELSEA CLINTON: …More than you thought you would.
HILLARY CLINTON: Much more than I thought because obviously I had never been on that side of the camera. I’d never been the interviewer as opposed to the interviewed.
To be honest, it was also hard.
I mean, I have to say learning, how much goes into producing something like this, the number of people that are involved, how hard it is. I mean, we really had to do a fast-learning curve on the show and I really felt like through discussions with our Hidden Light team, with AppleTV+, we got to meet some amazing women. Some we knew before, but most I think it’s fair to say we did not, and that was the constant discovery.
DEADLINE: Was there a benefit to that?
HILLARY CLINTON: Yes, I think it kept the series really fresh, the episodes were kind of surprising to us because we didn’t know what to expect, none of it was scripted. It was a true conversation. We knew about the people but we didn’t know where it would go.
Last night we celebrated the premiere of #Gutsy with friends, family, and so many of the people who made #Gutsy a reality. Thank you to everyone who came out! You can stream the docuseries now on @AppleTVPlus. https://t.co/4ksLrnEcYJ pic.twitter.com/VfOQR4te0U
— Chelsea Clinton (@ChelseaClinton) September 10, 2022
DEADLINE: Chelsea, you mentioned earlier about your life, your family’s life in the public eye for decades. Do you feel that doing a series like this that it will change people’s perception of your mother and perhaps you?
CHELSEA CLINTON: I don’t know, Dominic. Certainly we didn’t do this to change people’s perception of us, we did this to redirect the inevitable attention that comes our way to women that we think merit kind of more attention. And that includes actually the well-known women that we think deserve to be known for kind of how gutsy they are often when they’re not on center stage.
If it helps people to see us in more kind of fully-realized form which I think is always a challenge for women, I think we are often caricaturized in a variety of ways, I’ll be grateful for that. But that would just be a happy kind of side benefit. It certainly isn’t the main hope or ambition that we have for the show.
DEADLINE: I have to ask, you have a lot of amazing and inspiring women over the first season of Gutsy. Was there anyone you wanted, but couldn’t get in the show?
HILLARY CLINTON: There are two people that we really, really wanted. One was Madeleine Albright. We hoped to schedule her filming, she agreed and then she got sick and couldn’t do it. The other was Cher who I adore. This was during Covid, and it was really complicated and then her mother got sick. So, those are the two that I feel a little bit sad about because they both are so gutsy, and now we’ve lost Madeleine. Cher is still with us thank goodness and going strong.
DEADLINE: With hope springing eternal, might we see a Gutsy Season 2?
HILLARY CLINTON: (laughs) Well, we would love that. I don’t know. Yeah, we have no idea.
CHELSEA CLINTON: We don’t know. We certainly hope. We certainly hope.
HILLARY CLINTON: There’s a lot of women around the world, too, not just in the United States, we’d love to talk to.
DEADLINE: Secretary Clinton, shifting the inevitable gears a bit, what’s your take on the looming midterms right now?
HILLARY CLINTON: I am more cautiously optimistic now than I was a month ago.
I think that we’re seeing the results of the real accomplishments of the Biden administration finally sinking in and we’re seeing the impact of the reversal of Roe v Wade. Women are registering to vote in record numbers. We saw what happened in Kansas in that election, we saw what happened in New York and Alaska. So, I think that there’s a chance that we could hold both the House and the Senate if people understand really what’s at stake.
DEADLINE: With those issues, and coming off your recent trip to Venice and giving Ava DuVernay an award as, to quote you, “a path breaker, a change maker, a historical filmmaker,” and in the context of clearly a women’s right to choose having been stolen here in America now, what do you think Gutsy can contribute to the greater discourse?
HILLARY CLINTON: I hope it really starts a lot of conversations and opens a lot of eyes and some hearts and minds to the variety of people and the different stories that we can all learn from.
We have eight episodes, we have a lot of women in each episode, but it’s just a beginning to what I hope is a broader discussion about are we going to go backwards? Are we going to try to put women and others into little boxes and tell them that they have to go back in the time that they no longer have the rights that they were born with, that they have to be a certain way and with certain expectations?
And that’s happening not just in the United States, it’s happening everywhere.
Of course, we’re more conscious of it right here, or are we going to try to get back on a path of progress where we are more respectful and understanding of each other. And you’re right, I was with Ava in Venice at the Diane von Furstenberg awards, and I mean, look at the eyes that she’s opened with her work over the last years. It hasn’t been easy and she’s had to, you know, really take on a lot of tough subjects. But, thank goodness she has and she’s really made a difference in how we think about our history and who we are and who we should be.
So, when you’ve got people in some parts of our country trying to ban books by Maya Angelou who spoke at my husband’s inauguration because she is such a clarion voice of experience and impact, well, there’s a big discussion to be had. It’s not just about midterm elections as important as those are, it’s about who we are as a people. Will we come together or just split apart and point fingers at each other?
I’m hoping that the series provokes a lot of discussion in families and communities in our country and elsewhere in the world.
CHELSEA CLINTON: I mean, I think you put it correct framing it as a right that was stolen from American women…
DEADLINE: Just saying the truth…
CHELSEA CLINTON: I agree, Dominic, but I think too often people in the media don’t say the truth in the clear way that we all need to hear it. I think that to be a woman in America right now is to be political because politicians have decided that they should determine what choices we can make for ourselves.
They’ve decided that we should not have the fundamental human right or human agency to make the most intimate of choices for ourselves based on our own conscience and our own kind of set of decisions.
While we couldn’t have known that Roe v Wade was going to be reversed as we were making Gutsy, and we couldn’t have known that there would be continuing backlash against women, against the LGBTQ community, horrific attacks on trans kids in our country. But the impulse we had to show, even though we have only eight episodes, as many different people being as gutsy and as many different ways as women in our country felt right to us.
HILLARY CLINTON: Yes.
CHELSEA CLINTON: I think it just feels even more right to us now given, can’t believe the forces of darkness who don’t think that women should have as many choices or as many different ways to express themselves, their purpose, their loves, their meaning, or their joy.
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