dream casting

White on White Crime: Casting the January 6 Hearings

When it comes to capturing American embarrassment in sprawling, wordy fashion, Adam McKay has the Oscars hardware to prove his worth. Naturally, he’s already signed on to produce a feature on the 2021 insurrection itself. But if the January 6 committee hearings (and their blockbuster ratings) are any indication, the real show has been unfolding now: the betrayals, the Fifth-pleading, the condiment-throwing. These weeks of event TV that demand dramatization certainly deserve their very own show. Time to cast the inevitable miniseries!

Showrunner: Joe Weisberg

Helmed by The Americans creator and showrunner Joe Weisberg, the series will no doubt gesture to the underhanded, Deep Throat tactics of that award-winning spycraft series — even covering an event with participants lacking the acumen to actually get away with the subterfuge. The paradox between having the ability to plan and execute a coup while simply being unable to keep quiet about it and still almost doing it is catnip for Weisberg and would stretch his dark-comedy writing toward its bleakest point. Another important note: Weisberg would, once again, have the hottest needle drops on television.

Jeffrey Wright as Bennie Thompson

Photo: Lester Cohen/Getty Images for Jazz Foundation of America / Tom Williams/CQ-Roll Call, Inc via Getty Images

Mississippi representative Bennie Thompson might be the chair of the January 6 committee, but that doesn’t necessarily mean he’ll sit at the center of its conflict. The key to his role in a Hollywood setting is establishing an authoritative tone. Jeffrey Wright — whose co-starring role in Westworld scored him three consecutive Emmy nominations — has experience as a patient, wizened onlooker to an overwhelmingly knotty narrative. His greatest asset as Thompson, in addition to rockin’ the bespectacled badlie look, is a voice that can range from cogent and grizzled to lush downhome softness — then a rumbling thunder in the foreboding phase of a storm. It’s why Disney+ dialed his line to narrate as Marvel’s What If…? aloof griot the Watcher. Here, he’d modulate to convey some sort of objectivity while keeping in mind that most of the people discussed in this hearing are full of shit.

Shelley Long as Zoe Lofgren

Shelley Long — who, at 72, is indeed still working — would play the California representative Zoe Lofgren, who, although cybersecurity is her main squeeze, treats whipping up impeachment docs (which she has done for three U.S. presidents) like a side hustle. While her role on the committee is more focused on nabbing the Democrats’ Great Orange Whale, a flashback or two of Long getting charged up about the surveillance would be a fun little twist.

Jennifer Jason Leigh as Liz Cheney (Dick Cheney’s demon spawn, Wyoming representative, minority co-chair)

Photo: Vincent Sandoval/Getty Images / Drew Angerer/Getty Images

Liz Cheney rattles my bones. She’s a neocon with a murderous lineage but with a sense of humor that might lull the unsuspecting into a quick kiki, because you know she’s got tea on just about everybody on Capitol Hill. To understand why Jennifer Jason Leigh is here, we have Cheney’s ambition. Maybe more than the other members of the committee, Cheney is goading witnesses to say some slick shit about Donald Trump. Like when she asked U.S. Capitol Police sergeant Aquilino Gonell how it makes him feel when Trump said that the rioters were “a loving crowd.” He absolutely delivered: “I’m still recovering from those hugs and kisses.” In that moment, you can hear Cheney kinda scoff, a nice little sardonic moment during some pretty awful proceedings. But Cheney is the figure on the board who reminds us that this is a TV show (and, in turn, Leigh will remind us that this is a TV show about a TV show) and that there’s narrative power in the spectacle.

Vincent Kartheiser as Adam Schiff

Photo: ALERY HACHE/AFP via Getty Images / Al Drago/Bloomberg via Getty Images

Let’s be real — there wouldn’t be much for an actor of Vincent Kartheiser’s dry wit and scum braggadocio to meaningfully do as Adam Schiff, as the California representative has mostly thanked people for their bravery. Although hearing Pete from Mad Men thanking the Metropolitan Police Department by saying something to the effect of “one of those lives you saved could’ve very well been my own” while holding hand to heart and stifling his tears could be pretty funny. Plus he’s got the hairline for it.

Rhys Coiro as Pete Aguilar

Photo: Bill Clark/CQ-Roll Call, Inc via Getty Images / Amanda Edwards/Getty Images

I’m not gon’ front — this pick was made solely based on eyebrows.

Bobby Cannavale as Eric Herschmann

I don’t think there’s anyone else who can play up the skeeve of Eric Herschmann quite like Bobby Cannavale. This is a guy who lost a $3 million-a-year gig to snuggle up with Trump. Once he heard about the election-overturning scheme from aspiring Trumpian Sidney Powell, Herschmann called the whole thing “nuts.” If Cannavale’s dialogue-heavy role as a corporate shill and villain in Amazon’s Homecoming is any indication, he can switch up the tenor to a consigliere who lusted for power but hit the pavement hard once the block got hot.

Amber Riley as Shaye Moss

Shaye Moss’s testimony was one of the more heartbreaking. The election staff worker was the target of right-wing harassment after Rudy Giuliani and Donald Trump buddy-copped the election-fraud conspiracy theory. This spot is reserved for Amber Riley, who has shown the musical-theater girls that she’s got incredible vocal dexterity — not to mention her comedy chops on shows like Glee and A Black Lady Sketch Show. A slight turn toward filmed drama might be a little jarring, but her decade-plus of experience has been building up to a lip-quivering, snot-bubbling Emmy moment like this one.

Anna Faris as Caroline Edwards

Photo: Scott Angelheart/NBCU Photo Bank/NBCUniversal via Getty Images / Ting Shen/Bloomberg via Getty Images

There’s absolutely nothing funny about what happened on January 6. Nothing at all. Zero. We wouldn’t dare even joke about it. And there’s absolutely nothing funny about what happened to U.S. Capitol Police officer Caroline Edwards, who testified about her injury during the attempted coup. Hers was probably the most visceral account of what happened that day. Anna Faris, despite her largely comedic roles, feels like an actor who could play up the seriousness of her time on the stand. She has the added benefit of her experience in the Scary Movie franchise, in which she’s almost always being chased by murderous white men.

Navia Nguyen as Stephanie Murphy (Florida representative, not a diversity hire)

Nguyen hasn’t been seen for a minute since Memoirs of a Geisha, and, really, this choice boils down to, Hey, what if I had a chance to catch up with Navia Nguyen? As is the case with some of the other members of the committee, there probably isn’t much for Nguyen to do or say here — commentary on police videos, more gratitude for their bravery, that sorta thing. But Stephanie Murphy’s got wide eyes and a deep gaze that’s prime for pulling at the heartstrings.

Bradley Cooper as Jamie Raskin (a.k.a. “Struggle Strands,” Maryland representative)

Look at Jamie Raskin’s wispy hair and tell me casting Bradley Cooper as an overly enthusiastic former impeachment manager isn’t worth it just to see him rocking a tumbleweed-ass wig. Or a bugged-out Cooper giving this sublime rant to the New York Times: “We are in the thick of a struggle to defend our democratic institutions and our democratic processes and the constitutional order. We have a former president who now has positioned himself and his supporters outside of the constitutional order. They attack our elections. They attack the peaceful transfer of power. They attack the rule of law.” We’re going Emmy-hunting, babes.

Mayim Bialik as Elaine Luria (Virginia representative, vaccine truster)

Sprinkle in some worry lines on Mayim Bialik’s mug, and you’ve pretty much got Elaine Luria, the Navy vet who’s hard-core on climate change and unabashedly supports Israel. Likewise, Bialik is absolutely geeked about the Israeli military, donating armor to the Israeli Defense Forces in 2014. So yeah, this role fits like a bulletproof vest. Only difference is that one actually believes in science and the other is a host on Jeopardy!

Johnny Bananas as Adam Kinzinger (Illinois’s 16th Congressional District Rockford not Chicago representative)

Photo: Bill O’Leary/The Washington Post via Getty Images / Keith Mayhew/SOPA Images/LightRocket via Getty Images

Weisberg’s gonna keep an eye on the word count with this casting choice, as Bananas is probably best served with the smallest of workloads — but most audiences would probably be pleased with having some confessional time with him for nostalgia’s sake. The Real World/Road Rules veteran won’t have much in the way of scripted material, but a heartful, slow zoom on his face — which will need to be shaved — when he releases the tapes of the threats to his office could provide his big break out of reality-TV hosting. No one pegs a dude with a Gwen Stefani spelling-bee contest of a last name to make such a dramatic spin, but I believe in Bananas. America believes in Bananas.

Paul Giamatti as Rudy “Do You Have a Job?” Giuliani

This one is pretty self-explanatory: There’s no one else this side of maybe Al Pacino I’d rather watch sweat out his hair dye while trying to overturn an election. If we can sneak in a good ol’ “Go fuck yourself!” directed at Eric Adams, that’d be a sweet little treat as well.

Drew Carey as William Barr (survivalist, whipping boy)

Damn near every photo of William Barr has him doing his best sad-boy Ben Affleck impression (sans the cigarettes and J.Lo) while looking very stressed about the last lashing that Trump, Twitter, or the media just gave him. A pouty, defeated mess. More recently, he has come under the microscope for turning his back on Trump after many years of serious devotion, and his testimony will be the final knife twist. Drew Carey hasn’t played a gloomy goober since he starred in his own sitcom; imagine the full dramatic potential he could carry on a show of this magnitude. It could even raise him to the level of, say, Sandler? Carey deserves a month or two when we’re just like, Oh wow, remember how talented Drew Carey is? Then it’s back to game-show duty!

Burt Young as John Eastman (Trump’s lawyer, Fifth-pleader)

The frazzled, frumpy old man of the rogues’ gallery — besides Giuliani — John Eastman put on an epic performance in testifying against the sun-poisoned skin sack that is his former employer. Well, if saying “I plead the Fifth” like a hundred times counts as a testimony. It’s a pretty low-lift act for Burt Young (his placement on this list is largely because, well, he’s old, he out-ages Eastman by like two decades, yet Eastman still like the more ancient chap) with a built-in moment of self-surprise when he slips and tells the committee that he told Trump supporting the riot was illegal.

Evan Rachel Wood as Cassidy Hutchinson

Photo: Demetrius Freeman/The Washington Post via Getty Images / Gotham/GC Images

Evan Rachel Wood can go from genuine to unnerving at the drop of a dime. Her slow, methodical cadence can carry us through the moments when Cassidy Hutchinson’s explosive testimony reveals just how much Trump, Mark Meadows, and the gang knew about the riots beforehand. And how little they cared. Which … yeah, ERW has some experience with that.

Ryan Gosling as Trump’s driver

There’s no video (yet) of Trump lunging at his presidential-limo driver, Bobby Engel (who we know bears zero resemblance to Gosling; just roll with it), to take him to the Capitol. But picture Ryan Gosling back in Drive character, rocking the scorpion jacket, and you can see it going down: a ferocious slap just to jolt the megalomaniac back to reality. (If that can even be done.) The scene would end with a close-up of Gosling contemplating whether to fetch the crowbar and go to town.

Christian Bale as Mike Pence (former VP and potential victim of the gallows)

Let’s keep the whole “Christian Bale for veep” campaign going post-Vice. I want all the prosthetics! I wanna see Bale do that weird tongue-and-lip thing he does when attempting American accents! I wanna see his look of betrayal when he realizes the pumpkin he’s done all he could to support and coddle tells the mob to hang him! This is the perfect casting because, quiet as it’s kept, Bale and Mike Pence have the same teeth. You heard it here first.

John Goodman as Donald Trump

John Goodman would probably never do this, but, remember, this is a dream. There’s a world in which Goodman does what everyone who has played Trump so far has: overemphasize Trump’s cartoonishness to the point of slapstick comedy. But that would be the public-facing version of the menace. I’d be much more interested in seeing how Goodman plays up the fearful child throwing plates and tantrums in the Oval Office. Goodman might be a little too good for this role, and winning the Emmy — which he obviously would — for playing a rotting, crusty potato could kinda mess with his sense of purpose. But that’s what therapists are for.

Rickey Thompson as Random Black Dude at the Riot

Photo: Screenshot / Claudio Lavenia/Getty Images

I’ve always thought that the most curious character during the riots was the random Black man in a down vest and Timbs looking absolutely lost amid all the scarily stupefying whiteness. Rickey Thompson might be a controversial choice — he’s not necessarily an actor, though he does play up a role — but knowing this Random Black Dude at the Riot hit the internet saying he was just at the Capitol to pick up his stimulus check lets me know we need a character for this character. Just gimme a quick cameo with Thompson flashing $20 bills and calling his followers broke and unsuccessful bitches who wouldn’t fight off fascists for their bag.

Who Plays Liz Cheney in the Jan 6 Movie?