The 3 Real-Life Politicians Who Shaped Ben Platt’s Payton in ‘The Politician’

Ryan Murphy’s latest small-screen gem, The Politician, has arrived on Netflix. Debuting to mixed critical reviews, yet widespread audience adulation, the show boasts an all-star cast, including American Horror Story alumni Jessica Lange and Dylan McDermott, Ben Platt, Gwyneth Paltrow, Bob Balaban, and more. 

Ben Platt of The Politician
Ben Platt | Dimitrios Kambouris/Getty Images for NARAS

Though a strong departure from the likes of AHS, the biting satire oozes with Ryan Murphy’s signature tendencies — the camp, the extravagance, the opulence, the quirkiness, and the wounded leads are front and center. And, in our current political climate, let’s just say the subject matter is a little all too relatable. 

In The Politician, Ben Platt takes the reigns as a high school student with one big-time aspiration: becoming the President of the United States. First, he must become school president, get into Harvard on his merits alone, maintain a close group of friends (destined to become his political allies down the line), and engage in any activities required to paint the perfect portfolio…all while trying to rediscover his ability to feel, which he seems to have relinquished as a result of unbridled ambition. If that sounds like a lot to take in, the character is quite the mouthful, so mission accomplished. 

Remember, Payton Hobart is an idea — a caricature designed to represent the mental image conjured when someone utters the word “politician.” Thus, his character does not strive to imitate actual politicians; rather, he signifies the group as a whole via satire. 

While Ben Platt’s Payton Hobart is not a direct representation of any singular politician, Ryan Murphy sat down for an interview with the Hollywood Reporter, and he named a few politicians who served as a source of inspiration when creating Platt’s character.

The three politicians “infused” into Ben Platt’s Payton Hobart in ‘The Politician’

When discussing The Politician with The Hollywood Reporter, Ryan Murphy explained that real-life politicians are “infused” into Platt’s character; Murphy stated that Obama, Nixon, and Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez are all sprinkled into Payton. If you are wondering, President Donald Trump’s name never entered the conversation. Murphy goes on to explain the show’s focus, and why he chose to paint his characters the way he did. Murphy stated:

Enough with the baby boomers [in American politics]. Like, bye-bye.

You can see that people get excited by young people like AOC. You may love her, you may hate her, but she is an exciting figure because she is the future…

The Hollywood Reporter

Murphy goes on to explain that he’s been yearning to write something about ambition (his own in particular), yet never knew how he would translate it onto the screen — he struggled to settle on the exact vehicle.

Murphy explained that when he saw Platt in Dear Evan Hansen — playing a “vulnerable and accessible and neurotic male” — he was shocked, as women often execute those qualities with brilliance; however, Platt was superb in the role. When Platt told him he was looking for something darker than he had done in the past, it all started coming together.