Julia Schlaepfer on her gripping performance on “The Politician”

TALENTJulia Schlaepfer
WORDS: Vicenté
WORDS: Jasmine Perrier

This feature is taken from Grumpy Magazine’s ISSUE NO.16, available now in digital and print worldwide

Julia Schlaepfer is just starting off her acting career, but she is poised to become a name to know in Hollywood. The 25-year-old actress and former ballerina from Bellevue, Washington, approached her breakout role as the icy, sharp, and strategic thinker Alice Charles on Netflix’s The Politician with determination and dedication. As opposed to her on-screen character who aspires to become First Lady, Julia is laid-back, thoughtful, and very friendly. She cheerfully tells us she has been trying some hair experiments at home during quarantine — going from blonde to pink and eventually blue. Let’s refer to her as the live version of Nymphadora Tonks from Harry Potter, which she receives as “the greatest compliment.” Here, we chat with Julia about her gripping performance in Ryan Murphy’s show, her commitment to helping make a difference, and what’s next for the young actress in her twenties.

The Politician is a comedy-drama that allows us to dive into what it takes to become a politician, and look at it with some distance through a comedic and satirical eye. For Julia, one of the goals of the show is to encourage the next generation of voices and voters to be aware of the change they can enact and not underestimate themselves. “It’s so amazing and inspiring to watch young people killing it out there, and I want to make sure that they know they got this,“ she says. “One thing [Ryan Murphy] did say was that our season 2 was a love letter to young people who are out there right now speaking up and organizing protests, and are gonna be our next politicians.“ Before even auditioning for The Politician, Julia had already immersed herself in Ryan Murphy’s body of work. “I’ve been training to be in a Ryan Murphy show since I was a child,“ she laughs. “I have watched every single one of his shows since as long as I can remember — I was a ‘Gleek’ in high school and dressed up as the characters for Halloween.“ Therefore, she was immediately interested in the storyline of her character who goes through a lot of growth between season 1 and 2. “[Ryan’s] way of writing felt really natural — the character just made sense to me,“ she says. “I don’t even remember deciding that I was gonna do that lower Alice voice — it clicked.“ In addition to watching interviews of the most iconic American First Ladies, Julia explains she took inspiration from some of Ryan Murphy’s other characters, citing Billie Lourde’s performance in Scream Queens, as well as Gwyneth Paltrow’s delivery in Wes Anderson’s The Royal Tenenbaums.

It’s inspiring to watch young people killing it out there, and I want to make sure that they know they got this

Given that it was Julia’s first series regular job, the Hollywood newbie admits she was intimidated at first, but she wasn’t alone. “In season 1, most of us were pretty new to the world, so we were all very scared [as a group] to do anything,“ she says. “In season 2, we were very loosed. Ryan always says, ‘You guys know the characters. We are going to write these things for you, but have fun.’“ With a large ensemble cast, including both established actors and newcomers, Julia learned a lot from her co-stars. “It was a very educational experience for me watching [Zoey Deutch]. She is incredible.“ Forming the power couple of The Politician with Payton [Ben Platt], Alice is also one of the show’s leading ladies and really stood out with her iconic lines. “I love her — she is a tough cookie to crack,“ Julia says with a lot of excitement in her voice. “I really have a great time working on her because it was tricky to figure out what’s underneath this facade that she has and [find] her vulnerabilities.“ However, Alice’s persona goes beyond the “stone-cold bitch with ice water in [her] veins“ she described herself as in the fourth episode of season 1. “For me, I think the hardest to tackle with Alice was her coldness and her confidence. No matter how I was feeling — if I was feeling exhausted as Julia, or insecure, I had to show up on set and be this badass [character] that Alice Charles was, which is honestly an amazing lesson. [I have] so much more confidence in myself because of how Alice is.“

On her favorite episodes to film, she enjoyed working with Janet Mock and Tina Mabry who directed “October Surprise“ in season 1, and “What’s in the Box?“ in season 2 respectively. “They are so amazing at what they do. It was such a creative environment and everyone was so excited to be in that space.“ Moving forward with talks about season 3, Julia hopes to get the chance to round out their story. “I know that Ryan would love to do a season 3 and send Payton to the presidential election, but I haven’t heard anything yet,“ she reveals. “We’re all fingers crossed over here because we love each other so much and it’s the greatest gift getting to go to work every day together.“ Until we know more about the future of the series, Julia mentions she is getting back to reading scripts and stays open to whatever comes her way after the pandemic. “People could be writing during quarantine so there’s so much material now to look at,“ she says, before ultimately adding, “If Ryan Murphy calls, I’m answering — whatever he has in mind, I’ll be there.“ Lastly, she tells us about being committed to using her voice for good, and telling stories that will start conversations. “It’s really important for me as a white person to be going back into that workspace and making sure that my colleagues who are people of color feel as though they have an ally in me, someone that they can come to if they ever feel uncomfortable or anything like that,“ she says. “If I have any power on a set, I hope to do my part and continue to learn, listen, watch, and respect those around me. It’s going to be a lifelong journey, but I’m going to try my best and keep my brain open.“


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