“The press doesn’t work for the people in charge, the press works for the people.” Meryl Streep utters this line in Steven Spielberg’s awards-buzzing journalism drama, The Post, in which she plays the first female publisher of The Washington Post, Kay Graham. For costars Bradley Whitford and Tracy Letts, this declaration is as important now as it was during the Nixon administration.
“Timely” is a word heard quite often when discussing The Post, about The Washington Post’s efforts to report on The Pentagon Papers as the sitting president demonized and attacked the media in court. These concerns ring true today as President Trump continues to smear mainstream journalism as “fake news,” especially those journalists who paint POTUS in ways that displease him.
“There’s a concerted, insane, unpatriotic effort to delegitimize the press. It’s dangerous,” Whitford tells Collider during the New York press junket for The Post. Letts, who worked with Streep on August: Osage County, agrees: “First Amendment. First Amendment. First Amendment. I guess you just can’t stop saying it. You can’t say it loud enough. Without it, there is no America — none of this is here.”
Whitford and Letts play two figures surrounding Streep’s Kay: Arthur Parsons, representative of the room full of men who silence Kay’s voice, and Fritz Beebee, one of Kay’s only defenders. Kay inherited the reins of the Post from her late husband and she’s torn between keeping her business alive for the familial legacy and maintaining the integrity of the publication.
As Whitford pointed out, the press also contributed to the problem as editor Ben Bradley (Tom Hanks) tries buddying up to politicians at the same time he was reporting on them in the film.
The current political turmoil might also be perfect for The West Wing. Aaron Sorkin proposed the idea of doing a revival around a president played by Sterling K. Brown, though he couldn’t quite figure out how to bring other familiar faces in. Whitford, too, doesn’t know how his character, Josh Lyman, would factor into something like that, but is intrigued by the idea.