A dashing young campaign manager fights for a candidate he truly believes in during a tough political election – sounds a lot like Ides of March.
Actually, it’s Hulu’s original show Battleground, premiering today, Feb. 14. The political “dramedy” is part of the company’s $500 million investment into original programming.
According to Jay Hayden, who plays the main character Chris “Tak” Davis, the only similarity between Battleground and the George Clooney/Ryan Gosling duo movie is the backdrop of an election.
“The backdrop is politics, but it has nothing to do with politics. It’s a story about the people that try to get people elected,” he explained. “It is a story about campaigns and the people that make it work: the 24-hours-a-day, 7-days-a-week struggle, the roller coaster ride, professionally and personally that a team goes through to get someone they believe in elected.”
Tak and Co. are running the campaign for a third-place candidate striving for a Senate seat in Wisconsin. With any election there is stress and devotion, but a dark horse candidate is even a greater task.
With these challenges comes sacrifice, whether it’s a normal life or time with family. Hayden relates to his character Tak’s passion for work and its burdens, because not seeing his 3-year-old daughter was the toughest part of shooting in Madison, Wis., for more than two months.
Most men have an interesting relationship with their father and struggle about whether or not they will become like their dads, according to Hayden. Battleground highlights Tak’s challenging relationship with his father and questions the actions of role models in relation to eager followers.
Hayden asks, “Is teaching them the hard knocks of life worth the ruining the purity that you probably should have held onto in your life?”
FROM THUNDERBALLS TO JELLY BELLYS
Relationships, morality, ethics, daddy issues – Battleground suddenly seems like an emotionally-heavy soap opera. However, Hayden reiterated that the show earns its “dramedy” category, even when the cast isn’t legitimately filming.
Frequently, Battleground's director would allow for “unusable takes” where the actors could do or say anything, but had to remain within the lines of the story, according to Hayden. These acts tended to range from private jokes to full-out reenactments of scenes from Good Will Hunting.
One of his favorite “unusable takes” includes a prank where Jordan Maxwell’s character is supposed to be eating Jelly Belly candy. The art department replaced the jellybeans with prank disgusting flavors, but Maxwell was completely committed to the scene.
“We were watching him be so grossed out. They’re [the jelly beans] like moldy cheesy flavor and barf favor. We are watching each of these flavors attack his senses during the scene. It was the most amazing thing to watch him stay in [character],” Hayden recounted.
This humor and camaraderie translates into the show’s wit, essentially fulfilling the goal of any TV show. “You want people to moved by the story that you tell. You want to make them laugh and forget the shitty day they had,” Hayden said. “Or at the very least just entertain them for a while.”
After majoring in English and minoring in theater at the University of Vermont, Hayden used the constant dissuasion hovering around him from friends and family to find the courage to move to California and pursue acting. His motivation derives from what people tell him he can’t do, and it has sustained him throughout the process of trying to “make it.”
A year and a half ago, Hayden was recommended to read a script for a potential show written by J.D. Walsh. Yet Hayden’s expectations were low, even though Walsh said he would contact him again if the show got picked up. But in Hollywood everyone says that, according to Hayden.
Yet the day after learning his Spike pilot Thunderballs was let go, Walsh emailed him vaguely, ending their conversation with “When one door closes…” Ironically, the next day Hayden received a call to star on Battleground.
His persistence paid off, and Hayden strongly believes in pursuing your dream and not letting anyone tell you how to live your life. His advice for aspiring college actors or any student with a dream is simple.
“If you are one of the few that knows what you want to do, then that’s all you need,” he said emphatically. “At the end of the day, you’re the only one that knows what’s right for you and what you need to do for you. And for me that was to be an actor.”
Watch the full pilot of Battleground here on Hulu.