Film & TV

Melissa Farman on Playing Bristol Palin in HBO’s ‘Game Change’

Film & TV

Melissa Farman on Playing Bristol Palin in HBO’s ‘Game Change’


Bristol Palin. It’s a name that brings to mind many things. Reality star, teen mom, abstinence pusher, hypocrite, fame junkie, political daughter, and so on. It was only a matter of time before this young curiosity was given the movie treatment, and folks, that time is now. Game Change premiers tonight on HBO, and it tells the backstage story of the earth-shattering pact between John McCain and Sarah Palin to take control of the White House in 2008. French actress Melissa Farman was cast as the eldest Palin daughter, and here she tells of preparing to play someone who’s very much alive, what she’d say if she ever met her, and the real-life person she was destined to play.

BULLETT: How does one prepare to play Bristol Palin?

I think you start out by knowing you have a responsibility towards that person, in the sense that they’re very much alive, in people’s minds, and in the media. You emphasize the fact that she’s a teenager when the campaign starts out. And I think the Palin family was going through a lot at the time, you know, the elder brother had just gone off to Iraq, the other brother had Down syndrome, and Bristol discovered she was pregnant. For a teenager that’s a shocking coming-of-age, and I think that’s definitely something you can empathize with. And because there was so much media coverage surrounding her, I could actually study her and see how she developed.

What aspects of her life are represented on film?

The movie focuses on the McCain/Palin ticket, so she’s behind the scenes on the campaign trail. We see what goes on in the making of a campaign and the personal effects that these personal campaigns take on the players. For Bristol, we see this new life is taking its toll.

How do you think Bristol would feel about the movie and how she’s portrayed? Obviously, her mother isn’t a fan.

It’s hard to predict that. Basically, I think if somebody was making a movie about me, it’s normal to have mixed feelings. You can’t predict how she’s going to feel, but the film takes a very balanced approach. And I think it’s impossible not to feel empathy for Sarah Palin the woman. There were so many things that she had to undergo. I don’t know what Bristol’s reaction would be, but I hope it would be a reassured one, because I think we acknowledge the personal toll that these political campaigns have on their players.

Do you ever think about what you would say to her if you met her?

I think I’d start out by saying hi. You know, an ice breaker! I think I’d definitely empathize with her and I have a lot of respect for what she did as a teenager—it’s awkward enough being a teenager. I can’t imagine being a pregnant teenager in the midst of a political campaign of that scale.

Bristol Palin retreated to Alaska to get away from the cameras, but now she’s invited them back with a new reality show on Lifetime. Is she addicted?

I’ve never been in that position, but I think once your personal life has been tapped into, you can’t really put a lid on it. It’s basically tapped in forever with the ubiquitous power of technology. I think you can either try to run away from it, but there’s onlt so much you can run from. Bringing the cameras in is at least trying to have some medium of control. And a single mom making some money is not a bad thing.

Julianne Moore’s performance looks scarily accurate. What was that like seeing her embody that character?

It’s funny, because when we were making it, we went for the table read and we were all ourselves. And then the next day, Julianne had had her spray tan, her wig, her outfit, her contact lenses. We were all transforming into our characters but at the same time, these characters were being transformed from what they were originally into being groomed for the campaign. It was a very interesting parallel.

You obviously have a resemblance to Bristol Palin. Did anybody ever tell you that you should play her?

Never! People always told me I could play Amanda Knox. But once I played Bristol Palin, everyone was like “Oh, of course you look like Bristol Palin!” So, and now, everybody tells me I look like Bristol Palin. So I don’t know.