Call him 'Mr. President'--Bill Pullman returns to the Oval Office
in "1600 PENN"


by Mary Cochrane-McIvor

Once again, Bill Pullman finds himself in the White House. He has jokingly referred to starting his “second term”. As President Dale Gilchrist in the comedy “1600 Penn”, he faces very different problems from those of President Thomas Whitmore in “Independence Day”. When we spoke on the phone recently, I asked him which situation is tougher for the President: invading aliens or an exuberant family with four children.  While “Both situations require weapons” according to Pullman , in “1600 Penn” the best weapon is often a hug. The focus of this new comedy is indeed the family life and adventures of the Gilchrists who just happen to live at the White House.

The “1600 PENN” pilot airs Monday, December 17, 2012 at 9:30pm on NBC. With Pullman as President Gilchrist, the cast includes Jenna Elfman as the First Lady, Josh Gad, Martha Mc Isaac, Amara Miller, Benjamin Stockham, Andre Holland.

Since Pullman is such a natural to play the President with his air of authority, strong presence, good looks, broad shoulders, six-foot plus height and what some theatre critics have called ‘presidential hair’, no one was surprised to see him cast as the President in “1600 Penn” after his turn in “Independence Day”.  But this casting may not be the ‘no-brainer’ it appears to be at first. Pullman pointed out to me that many people have never seen him do comedy, let alone a television comedy. He is, in fact, a great comic actor and this particular talent was a factor in his casting.

“1600 Penn” and “Independence Day” are worlds apart in tone and atmosphere. Pullman described it as  the contrast of the comic satire of “Spaceballs” versus the serious sci-fi fantasy of “Star Wars” or, to put it another way, Yogurt or Obi-Wan Kenobi as the ‘wise man’.

Pullman has never done a television series before and he finds the open-ended nature of the process interesting and is enjoying it. Since this is a one-camera comedy, shooting it is a lot like film.  He finds that aspect comfortable and likes the opportunites for the tone and pacing of the comedy that a one-camera technique facilitates.

Who would Bill Pullman like to have a beer with, President Gilchrist or President Whitmore?  Tough choice.  And both are ex-Marines.  Pullman seems to lean toward President Whitmore. He finds President Gilchirst a more ‘challenging’ guy to hang out with.

Tonight, we meet President Gilchrist and family.  Congratulations on your second term, Mr. Pullman.

© 2012 Mary Cochrane-McIvor

"Trivia. Pullman was a wrestler, and did his own stunts. #1600penn" .--Jason Winer