How Hillary Rebranded as Mrs. Clinton (Exclusive Video)

Brian Flood

The Hillary Clinton who moved to Arkansas in the 1970s was a very different woman than the Hillary Clinton running for president today: She wasn’t even named Hillary Clinton.

In “The Choice 2016,” PBS’s flagship documentary series, “Frontline,” will explore the early lives of Clinton and Donald Trump. The early part of the film focuses on her early years as first lady of Arkansas, when her decision to go by Hillary Rodham, rather than taking her husband’s name, confused some voters. The film premieres Tuesday at 9/8c.

“By the year 1969 when she graduated from college, she was viewed by Life magazine [excerpts from her Wellesley commencement address were published in the magazine] as the voice of a generation,” said filmmaker Michael Kirk, who provided TheWrap with an exclusive preview of the film. “She was a superstar. She went to Yale law school and off to the Watergate commission. In Washington, Hillary had about as bright of a future as any young woman in America. So why does she make a decision to move to Arkansas to hang out with Bill Clinton?”

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The clip, which you can watch above, shows Arkansas Gov. Bill Clinton losing his 1980 re-election campaign. It shows how his wife decided her name and image had become political liabilities, and chose to re-brand herself as a more traditional Southern first lady.

“Frontline” has produced presidential election documentaries since 1988, and this is the fourth by Kirk’s team. When they started combing the world for archival footage of Clinton, Kirk said they found “little treasures” — including old news footage from local TV in Arkansas.

“It is a view of a different kind of woman, who changes when she goes to Arkansas. There is a Hillary Rodham before Arkansas that is almost a completely different person, and then there is Hillary Rodham Clinton who becomes, across the narrative arc of the entire film, the Hillary Clinton you see now,” Kirk said.

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Kirk said his film is different from news documentaries because he “tells the life story of the candidates” in an attempt to show voters how they would act as president. The filmmakers interviewed roughly 55 people who are friends and relatives of the candidates.

“The good news is, they’re both about the same age so things like Watergate, Vietnam, the 60s, all of that fits into something they were doing,” Kirk said.

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