With the news breaking on Thursday that Ladies Who Punch, Ramin Setoodeh's book about the backstage scandals at ABC's daytime juggernaut The View, is being made into a miniseries, naturally our minds have turned to speculation over who's going to star in the project. From Barbara Walters to Star Jones to Rosie O'Donnell to Elisabeth Hasselbeck, there will be no shortage of delicious roles available for actresses. Here, contributing writer Tara Ariano and Primetimer managing editor Joe Reid engage in some speculative casting for this sure-to-be blockbuster project.
Tara: Joe! I was so excited to see today that Ladies Who Punch is being made into a miniseries, because it gave me an opportunity to engage in one of my favorite activities: fantasy-casting. Since I know you also love it, that you love actresses, and that you've forgotten more about The View than most of us will ever know, I felt you and I should embark upon this project together.
Joe: Even if this weren't about The View, a subject about which I know far too much, you'd have sold me on the idea of a miniseries with this many roles for women. If Ryan Murphy taught us anything in the 2010s, it's that there is a massive market for under-served actresses who will tear into a juicy role when given the opportunity. And if we're fantasy casting The View, it's best to start right at the top, with Barbara Walters. Maybe it's that my mind is already in the realm of Ryan Murphy, but: talk me out of Jessica Lange.
Tara: Lange is a great choice, and I'm not going to come out here and say there's anything she can't do, because I don't need her to murder me with her witch powers. (American Horror Story: Coven is a documentary.) But if for some reason she didn't WANT to do it, heh heh, I wonder if someone a little bit less patrician and more scrappy might work. Walters's dad was in nightclubs; there's some rough stuff in her past. What about someone who, in a previous life, hung out with a drug lord? Tell me your thoughts on Michelle Pfeiffer.
Joe: My kneejerk response is that Pfeiffer is too beautiful, and there's a hunger in Barbara that comes from never having been fawned over for her beauty (something I always suspected she thought about rivals like Diane Sawyer). But given a chance to think about it, there's a real chance for Pfeiffer to disappear into the role, and — The Wizard of Lies aside — Pfeiffer hasn't really gotten her chance to ride TV's 21st century wave of great roles for older women. I'm in! The next most crucial role, honestly, is Rosie O'Donnell, whose big personality clashed so hard with producers, co-hosts, and ultimately Barbara herself. Rosie always used to make jokes about being mistaken for Kathy Bates, so I don't want to go in that direction. Is there an avenue for Melissa McCarthy to thread the needle between the more dramatic, prickly sides to Rosie (something McCarthy played so well in Can You Ever Forgive Me?) while still finding room for some absurd comedy?
Tara: I absolutely think McCarthy could do it, and bring more humanity to this impersonation than she did to, say, Sean Spicer on SNL. Like Kathy Bates, Camryn Manheim might be an expected choice, but I think she has more potential to capture Rosie's chaotic energy. But is it crazy to think...maybe O'Donnell would play herself?
Joe: Rosie O'Donnell playing herself in a miniseries about The View would light the world on fire in the most spectacular way, and we'd be talking about it for MONTHS. (Also Elisabeth Hasselbeck would be furious.) I still like McCarthy, but I appreciate your commitment to chaos. Before we flesh out the rest of the women, who plays The View's co-creator and executive producer Bill Geddie, our antagonist who fed Hasselbeck right-wing talking points and antagonized Rosie so much that she ended up quitting. There's no shortage of middle-aged character actors willing to play behind the scenes monsters (John Lithgow and Russell Crowe each got mileage out of playing Roger Ailes in different projects last year). I'm wondering, though, if this might be a job for Ed Harris. What are your thoughts on Geddie … and on Ms. Hasselbeck (née Filarski).
Tara: With all due respect to Harris -- who, after all, earned an Oscar nomination playing a producer on a very fraught TV project in The Truman Show, I actually think I have the perfect choice: Dan Bakkedahl. He looks almost exactly like Geddie; he has tons of experience playing a terrible prick on Veep; and if McCarthy is our Rosie, they've already worked together (on The Heat). Comedy actors can be extremely satisfying in dramatic roles -- think Robin Williams in Good Will Hunting, or Bill Murray in Lost In Translation, to give just a couple of examples -- and this could be a breakout opportunity for him.
As for Elisabeth (speaking of chaos): give her a blonde wig and I like Lucy Hale for this. I think she could capture both the pixie-ish on-camera persona and the off-camera venom.
Joe: Okay, first of all, Dan Bakkedahl is INSPIRED casting, and I like that he won't detract from the star power of the women. Lucy Hale is a really fun idea for Elisabeth, someone who could start off being underestimated and then get more and more brazen as she accumulates power. But now that you've got me going down this road, I'm going to hop to Hale's Katy Keene co-star Helene Yorke as my ideal Elisabeth. She's screamingly funny on The Other Two, while at the same time being really skillful about calibrating her character. Elisabeth would be a huge chance for her to break through, and I deeply want that for her.
My initial galaxy-brain idea was to cast Judith Light in full Shelly Pfefferman/Transparent mode as Joy Behar, but while Light is close to Joy's age now, Joy was only in her early 50s when The View started. Judy Davis, who has played fed-up New York types in movies like Husbands and Wives was was brilliant in Ryan Murphy's Feud, sits right in the middle of Joy's age then and now (Joy being the only original View cast member still hosting, you'll want to follow her over the years) and is terrifically underrated as an actress who can straddle the line between comedy and drama.
I'm going to let you take the lead on the panel's original legal expert, Miss Star Jones…
Tara: What do we think about Danielle Brooks? She's the right age, she looks the part, she's brilliant, and her years (beautifully) playing Taystee on Orange Is The New Black definitely accustomed her to holding her own in a cast of powerhouse female performers. (I'm not going to toss out Kate Mulgrew for Joy, but since you mentioned Ryan Murphy, how about Paget Brewster, so funny as Hollywood's Tallulah Bankhead?)
Moving on to another original panelist: (poor) Debbie Matenopoulous. Time was that would be an obvious Jane Krakowski role, but...not to play the ingenue at the start of her career. Instead, I'll pitch Meredith Hagner from Search Party, but I can't wait to hear who you have in mind.
Joe: Meredith Hagner is fantastic on Search Party, but I've got my sights set on Lili Reinhart, currently star of Riverdale, who I thought showed a ton of promise in Hustlers playing a young woman in over her head. Obviously that quality would play incredibly well in the role of Matenopoulous, who was thrown into the fire, barely in her 20s, and then essentially cast for all the world as America's ditz. I think Reinhart could play that with some real depth.
For Meredith Viera, the strong journalistic presence in the moderator role, the adult in the room who developed a kind of wine-mom vibe as the years went on, I think you want a woman with gravitas but who seems like she might be a little bit of a kook at the margins. This seems like a Connie Britton role for me.
Weigh in on your Meredith choice, and then let's get to the one I've been putting off for a while: who plays Whoopi Goldberg?
Tara: I'm never going to be the one to interfere with Connie Britton's success -- she is a treasure -- but putting that hair in a wig cap doesn't sit right with me. Try this on for size: Amy Ryan.
Whoopi is a tough one, because she's such a singular personality and had already honed such a strong voice as a comedian and in her one-woman shows; I almost want to say she should play herself, and as with Rosie, I'm 50/50 on whether I actually believe she would do it. But that would be cheating! So here goes: Octavia Spencer.
Joe: Whoopi is absolutely the hardest role to cast, for the reasons you say. You have to have a ton of personality, while at the same time, to play the version of Whoopi who's on The View, you have to be more than a little bit weary. Octavia Spencer is a great choice, but I have her earmarked for the Sherri Shepherd role. For Whoopi, I momentarily considered Queen Latifah, but I'm going to take a run at this from a more actorly angle and suggest Alfre Woodard. Not necessary Alfre Woodard in Clemency mode (where she played a haunted death-row warden) but more Alfre Woodard in Crooklyn mode. A firecracker who's gotten older and is kind of over it.
Tara: Truly no wrong time to cast Alfre Woodard. Since you mentioned Sherri -- another comedic icon we both treasure ("HAM!") -- I have two choices for her who are equally good delivering a lot of words in a short period of time or saying 1000 words with a single silent glare: Chandra Wilson, and Natasha Rothwell.
Joe: ROTHWELL! A suggestion so infuriatingly perfect I want to pack it in and retire from the business of fantasy casting. One role from the early years we haven't cast yet is Lisa Ling, who replaced Debbie as The Young One in the panel and ended up really solidifying that panel in the early years. Perhaps it's that I am fully in the thrall of Netflix's teen comedy Never Have I Ever these days, but I'd love to let Ramona Young run with the ball on this low-drama but still crucial role.
Tara: I'm going to shout out Olivia Cheng, so great in Cinemax's Warrior, and not just because she's Chinese-Canadian, but it doesn't hurt.
The View has had about one trillion panelists over the years, and I think we can all agree they don't all merit a huge amount of attention here, but we would be remiss if we closed before casting the woman who can most reliably be counted on to get the show covered in the tabloids: Meghan McCain. Who would you choose to play America's most famous (and famously aggrieved) daughter?
Joe: So, you said "famous … daughter" and my mind immediately leaped to Mamie Gummer, daughter of Meryl Streep, who has played lawyer Nancy Crozier on guest appearances on The Good Wife and The Good Fight. Nancy is a character who gets under the skin of her counterparts in a way that would serve Meghan well, but she's probably too low-key in affect to sell the way McCain can really let loose with the partisan vitriol. But there's another daughter of fame and privilege I wanted to float by you; someone who once upon a time starred on a show we both loved, and who I think deserves a breakthrough role like this. Spencer "Casey Cartwright on Greek" Grammer: come on down!
Tara: That is a great call; Grammer has a similar face shape to Meghan's, and I think could channel her sputtering rages. Funnily enough, one of my two picks is also a nepotism case: Bryce Dallas Howard. We all saw in her episode of Black Mirror, "Nosedive," how well she can portray an existential horror of people thinking ill of her -- something I think Meghan, for all her bravado, lies awake nights stressed about. Or if not "Nosedive," think back to Howard's performance as Hilly Holbrook in The Help and tell me that is not a spiritual predecessor to Meghan McCain. You can't!
However, I'm going to end on a performer who would be acting very much against type to play Meghan McCain -- someone who is, by all accounts sweet, fun, pleasant to be around, a great friend, easygoing, mellow, and as a talk-show host, generally beloved if not specifically watched with regularity. I am talking, of course, about Busy Philipps. In recent years, Philipps took a break from her acting career to host a nightly talk show on E!; sadly, it didn't last, but that just means (a) she has experience vamping in a chat setting, and (b) she's free for acting roles. We've already seen Philipps with her blonde hair pulled back in a high, tight ponytail; we spent many years watching her Cougar Town character Laurie talking a bunch of bullshit she barely understood. Meghan McCain could do a lot worse than to have such a likable actress play her, so...actually, you know what, I take it back. BDH FTW/L.
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TOPICS: The View, Alfre Woodard, Amy Ryan, Barbara Walters, Bryce Dallas Howard, Busy Philipps, Connie Britton, Danielle Brooks, Debbie Matenopoulos, Elisabeth Hasselbeck, Helene Yorke, Jessica Lange, Judy Davis, Lili Reinhart, Lucy Hale, Meghan McCain, Melissa McCarthy, Meredith Hagner, Meredith Vieira, Michelle Pfeiffer, Natasha Rothwell, Octavia Spencer, Rosie O'Donnell, Spencer Grammer, Star Jones, Whoopi Goldberg