Hillary Clinton Says Her Hulu Docuseries Wasn’t What She Expected

Documentary director Nanette Burstein has profiled such figures as Hollywood producer Robert Evans, Nancy Kerrigan and Tonya Harding, and tech mogul John McAfee. Her latest subject is former Secretary of State and first lady Hillary Clinton. The Hulu series Hillary premieres at the Sundance Film Festival.

Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama
Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton | Barbara Kinney

Clinton spoke on a Television Critics Association panel with Burstein on Jan. 17 prior to Hillary’s Sundance premiere. Clinton revealed how the series became something different from what she originally signed up for. If you aren’t at Sundance to see Hillary, it premieres March 6 on Hulu.

‘Hillary’ began as a Hillary Clinton 2016 campaign film

Clinton ran for president in 2016. Burstein first began filming Clinton to tell the story of her campaign and perhaps election.

“As Nanette will tell you, this did not start out as the film it ended up being,” Clinton said.  “It really started out as maybe a campaign documentary because we had about 1,700 hours of behind-the-scenes footage, some of which is in the movie. “

What ‘Hillary’ became

After 2016, Burstein had another idea to put her Hillary Clinton documentary footage into a new context. Clinton agreed.

“But Nanette, who I was very impressed with when we interviewed her as the person that was going to direct the film, came back and said, ‘Look, this is a bigger story. It needs to be told. It’s part of the arc of women’s history, advancement, choices that are made,'” Clinton said.

Hillary and Chelsea Clinton
L-R: Hillary Clinton, Chelsea Clinton | Barbara Kinney/Hulu

Burstein felt the life and career of Hillary Clinton could also provide a historical context to the past several decades of American history and the women’s movement.

“The reason why I wanted to expand this and tell her life story is that I felt it was so remarkably emblematic of our history over the last 40 years,” Burstein said. “Particularly when it comes to women’s rights and the way that she has been the tip of the spear in various ways and how it overlapped with these various huge historical moments.”

Hillary Clinton opened up to Nanette Burstein

Clinton sat for 35 hours of interviews whittled down to the four hours of Hillary.

“I’m not running for anything,” Clinton said. “I’m not in office. So I said, ‘Sure, why don’t we give it a try?’ And off we went. There was nothing off limits.”

Filmmaking was a new experience for Clinton. For example, she didn’t know that Burstein was rolling while Clinton got her makeup done. Some of those soundbites appear in Hillary.

Hillary Clinton and Kate McKinnon
L-R: Kate McKinnon, Hillary Clinton | Barbara Kinney/Hulu

“What happened was I said, ‘Oh, we’re gonna roll all the time,’ and people forget that,” Burstein said. “Our banter back and forth when you realized the camera was rolling and when you maybe weren’t so sure, was the same. I think that it felt all very genuine and that was okay.”

Hillary Clinton hopes people like ‘Hillary’

As the first time she’s the star of a TV series, Clinton hopes what any filmmaker hopes: She just wants people to like the show.

Hillary Clinton
Hillary Clinton | Barbara Kinney/Hulu

“I hope you watch this movie, enjoy it, if that’s not too kind of obvious a word to use,” Clinton said. “The reaction that people who’ve seen it have already expressed is gratifying because there’s a lot of people who say, ‘I didn’t know that,’ or ‘That’s really interesting,’ or ‘That put it into a historic context.’”