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TRACY FLICK FOR A NEW GENERATION: Out actor Ben Piatt is the perfect candidate for Netflix's The Politician, which highlights queerness while examining the nuances of running for offices.

Unbridled ambition collides with social liberalism behind the manicured hedges of Saint Sebastian High School in mega-producer Ryan Murphy's take on the political process in the satirical The Politician. Tony-winner Ben Piatt is Payton Hobart, an upper-crust Santa Barbara, Calif., teen who forged his plan to become president of the United States when he was a child. Of course, he must first win the class presidency and gain entrance to Harvard on his way to the White House.

Piatt is a Tracy Flick for this generation, if only Reese Witherspoon's character from 1999's Election had been surrounded by a super-queer student body that was less concerned with bake sales and football games than social justice.

The actor, now in his mid-20s, became a teen idol among Broadway fans in 2016 with his star-making turn in the critically-acclaimed smash, Dear Evan Hansen.

This year, the talented Piatt also released an album, Sing to Me Instead, which created an artistic pathway to speak openly about his sexuality--although he's been out in his personal life for years.

"In the last few months I released an album of original music and I was able to speak very publicly about my sexuality for the first time," Piatt explains. "I've been out to everyone in my life since I was a very young kid--since I was 12 or 13. To be able to now be a visible representation, I think I didn't really realize the impact that would have at this stage."

"You want to believe that we've come very far and that we're very forward-thinking and we've lost the need for this announcement of things," the star adds. "I still hope that that's where we're headed, but even just to exist and freely include that in my work, it's been so rewarding to watch people react to that."

The Politician, now streaming on Netflix, costars Bohemian Rhapsody's Lucy Boynton as Saint Sebastian's nihilistic mean girl and Payton's political rival. Gwyneth Paltrow is his well-heeled mother who'll go to just about any lengths for him, while Zoey Deutch is his classmate and a pawn in the politics of the day. The legendary Jessica Lange is Deutch's grifter of a grandmother.

The Politician, a dark comedy with some weighted themes and morally dubious characters, is nearly Utopian in its depiction of the full spectrum of gender and sexual identities. And Piatt credits Murphy with telling stories that telegraph where the culture is headed.

"To do [this project] with Ryan, who always makes sexuality and gender fluidity a part of the backdrop and the tapestry of the piece but never the subject matter or the narrative--it's just an assumed part of reality, particularly in this show," Piatt says. "Everyone is kind of all over the map in a really beautiful way, which is where everything is headed anyway, and he's always very much ahead of the curve."

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Title Annotation:SPECTATOR: STREAM
Author:Gilchrist, Tracy E.
Publication:The Advocate (The national gay & lesbian newsmagazine)
Date:Oct 1, 2019
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