In Netflix's The Politician, Ben Platt plays Payton Hobart, an ambitious high school student hell-bent on one day becoming the president of the U.S. Part of that plan includes becoming class president, which is what the season covers: his first big electoral race. Like many a politician before him, Payton is charismatic, strategic, and determined. And while Payton isn't directly based on a real person, the character was inspired by several politicians including Barack Obama, Richard Nixon, and Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, creator Ryan Murphy told The Hollywood Reporter.
"Enough with the baby boomers [in American politics]. Like, bye-bye," Murphy said. "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 ... that's what I'm trying to write about."
Payton's storyline might also sound familiar to anyone who kept up with the news cycle this summer. Back in August, a number of billboards advertising The Politician began popping up around college campuses — and specifically, the University Of Southern California. This is significant because of what's on the billboards, which show Gwyneth Paltrow's character Georgina Hobart — Payton's extremely wealthy mother — looking over snidely at his twin brothers Luther and Martin (newcomers Trey and Trevor Eason). "I bought their way in, too," reads the logline in the middle.
This is a pretty pointed reference to the college admissions scandal. Just five months prior, in March, the New York Times reported that nearly 50 people were accused of allegedly bribing elite colleges and universities in order to get their children admitted into the schools. Among those named were Full House star Lori Loughlin and her husband Mossimo Giannulli, as well as Desperate Housewives actress Felicity Huffman.
Loughlin and Giannulli allegedly paid USC $500,000 for their daughters to be admitted into the school on crew scholarships despite never having played the sport (they pled not guilty to the charges in April). Huffman, meanwhile, admitted to paying $15,000 to boost her daughter's SAT scores. Earlier this month, she was sentenced to 14 days in jail, a $30,000 fine, 250 hours of community service, and one year of probation; her husband, actor William H. Macy, was not charged.
The Politician was written and filmed long before reports of the admission scandal surfaced, but the show is certainly capitalizing on the news peg. Because it's Payton's brothers, not Payton himself, featured on the billboard, it's unclear if Georgina will be "buying his way into" college too, but Platt has spoken about the unexpected parallels between the show and the admissions scandal.
"It's like a premonition," Platt told Variety. "Ryan [Murphy] is always a few steps ahead of the curve so it doesn't surprise me, but when it was happening, it was crazy. He was texting me like, 'Can you believe that this is what our show is about?'"
See what other IRL parallels you can pick up on when The Politician hits Netflix Sept. 27.