Barack Obama Senior Advisor Eric Schultz Talks ‘The Girls on the Bus’ Cameo and Consulting on ‘Civil War’

The former deputy White House press secretary pops up in the Max show's season finale

Published Time: 09.05.2024 - 17:31:36 Modified Time: 09.05.2024 - 17:31:36

The former deputy White House press secretary pops up in the Max show's season finale.

Eric Schultz knows his way around politics. The Washington, D.C. consultant served as deputy White House press secretary during the Obama Administration from 2014-2017. He’s also worked for Sen. Charles Schumer and the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee

But in the last few years, he’s been getting very familiar with Hollywood, consulting for shows like “Succession” and most recently Alex Garland’s A24 drama “Civil War.”

But now, he’s going in front of the camera. Schultz makes his acting debut with a cameo on Thursday’s season finale of Max’s “The Girls on the Bus.” He plays a press aide who Sadie McCarthy (Melissa Benoist) must convince to let her into a VIP cocktail party at the Democratic National Convention.

“They reached out of the blue top and asked me, ‘Would you like to make a cameo?’” Schultz tells me. “It took me probably a nanosecond to say yes.”

Schultz and show co-creator Amy Chozick go back to when he was at the White House and she was a reporter for the New York Times in 2014. “The reason I love ‘Girls on the Bus’ is that it makes politics and covering politics look like fun,” says Schultz, who serves as a senior advisor to Barack Obama. “I worry today that working in politics doesn’t look fun for the next generation. Any show or film that makes Washington or politics more accessible is a good thing.”

How big was your trailer?

I did have a trailer, which had a fully stocked mini fridge. They asked me for wardrobe stuff in advance. I just said can I just wear my own suit because I think that that would probably fit better.

Are you playing yourself or did your character actually have a name?

I believe the initial thing was something like “badass press aide.” I play a press wrangler who is checking a list of people who have access to a cocktail reception. I was more of a bouncer.

Did you get to improvise?

We did about 35 takes. I got to try several dozen interpretations of my one line.

Had you been asked to do something like this before?

No, but I am standing by the phone for more offers.

Who should play you in a movie?

I’m not taking the bait. Laughs

Did you tell the Obamas that you’re going to be on “Girls on the Bus?”

I have not had a chance to speak with them yet. I was going to let them be surprised.

Do you have any scripts or projects you want to pitch in Hollywood?

I’ve got a few projects in the works, so stay tuned.

Let’s talk about “Civil War.” Many people talk about seeing the movie and feeling depressed, sad and traumatized by it. When you read the scr -

ipt, did you think, “Something like this could really happen?”

“Civil War” was particularly interesting to work on because Alex was very clear that he wanted to make an anti-war movie. He wanted to sort of go deeper than red-blue politics. And I think he accomplishes that because I think the whole point of it is to start a conversation and to bring us out of our own echo chambers and realize what could happen if we continue to isolate ourselves to the extremes.

Nick Offerman has said that his president character in “Civil War” is not Donald Trump. Do you think he was playing Trump?

He’s not supposed to be a singular sort of person. But he’s a fascist who disbands the FBI and is in his third term of power. It’s not that much of a stretch to figure out the type of politician we’re talking about.

Is there a movie or TV show that you think really nailed presidential politics?

I think the “The West Wing” captures the sort of chemistry and energy of the staff. I think “Veep” sometimes captured that while also capturing the absurdity of what happens on a daily basis.

You also consulted on “Designated Survivor” and “Succession.”

I spent time in the writers room for both. For “Succession,” my work was mostly focused on Episode 408, which was election night. “Succession” was particularly obsessed with getting the small things right and making it feel real and legitimate and credible, like when which states would usually be called.

Who do you think will win the election in 2024?

Joe Biden. I think in 2020, Joe Biden won by 40,000 votes across three states — Wisconsin, Michigan and Pennsylvania. I think the margin is likely to be very similar this time, but I would bet on Democrats. Anyone who thinks we’re going to coast over the next six months is living on another planet. We will have to fight tooth and nail for every single vote. And that’s how it should be. This is going to be an all-hands-on-deck moment.

Do you agree with people who say that if Donald Trump is elected, it’s the end of democracy as we know it?

I think there’s no question that President Trump has the least amount of regard for basic democratic tenants than just about any politician in the country. I think our democracy frayed under him and I do worry that it will deteriorate even more and even more radically if he were to be reelected.

This Q&A was edited for length and clarity.

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