What kind of research did you do for this role?
There is a tremendous amount of documentation on Palin, and all of it is available on You Tube: her interviews with Couric, Gibson, Sean Hannity, Charlie Rose, the debates, the Republican National Convention, and various speeches and appearances throughout the country. I read her biography, books that were written about her and the election, listened to her voice endlessly on my iPod and worked with a vocal coach. I basically immersed myself in the study of her, and attempted to authenticate her as completely as possible.
What was the biggest challenge?
It was tremendously challenging to represent someone so very well-known and idiosyncratic, and so recently in the public eye. Obviously you want to be as exact as possible physically, as well as attempt to inhabit them emotionally. It is impossible, of course, to actually become that person, but I had to somehow capture her essence and let her exist in the story we were telling. And I depended very much on my director, Jay Roach, who was an amazing partner to me.
Working on this, did you learn anything that surprised you about what it's like to run for office?
You know, sometimes when you are asked questions as an actor about, "What have you learned," I have to remind people that we are just pretending. We don't know anything. We can read about stuff, and we can ask questions about stuff, and we can try to embody it, and we can enjoy it-it was absolutely fascinating-but I'll never really know what it's like or what they did, because I didn't go through it. That said, one of the things that I couldn't believe is how rapid it was. They had 60 days from the announcement ‘til the election-which seems insane. The only thing I can equate it to is making an independent film when you have very limited resources and very limited time and you are just slamming it together. So the shock was how quickly they had to go from one thing to another and how ill‑prepared things were sometimes. We think from our end of it, "Well, they must know what they are doing. They must know what the next step is. They must have the speeches written and they are ready." And then you find out, no, they didn't have the speech written, or they wrote it the day before, or the teleprompter broke or the rally wasn't scheduled. All this kind of stuff happened. So there was something about it that was surprisingly by-the-seat-of-your-pants. That's what really shocked me.
Did that give you a new empathy for those in politics?
Certainly in terms of the research about the stresses of campaigning and the kind of scrutiny they undergo-that's completely unfair. People say things like "My family is off limits," but clearly nobody's family is off limits. Their private life is not off limits. It's all kind of ripped apart for entertainment's sake. And that's really awful. I do think it is kind of amazing that anyone will run for office in this country when they are so targeted by the media. So there were times when I felt a tremendous amount of empathy for the position that these people found themselves in.