“Grace and Frankie” star June Diane Raphael was 35,000 feet in the air on election night 2016 when the seat-back TV screens all flickered in unison to confirm the news that Donald Trump had won. In that moment, as a man ahead of her in first class whooped with delight, Raphael decided to perform a small act of rebellion on the half-empty plane.
She took up space.
To another man who had moved up to take the aisle seat of her otherwise empty row, Raphael turned and deadpanned: No, he could not sit with her; she’d booked the whole row for herself. This was, of course, a lie. But with the man suitably dispatched, Raphael spread herself out, pulled a coat over her Hillary T-shirt, and started to process the new reality of a Clinton loss and a Trump win.
Now, almost three years later, Raphael is (nearly) done grieving. Instead, she’s mobilizing.
In the last 18 months ― in addition to acting in a Hollywood film with Charlize Theron (“Long Shot”) and filming seasons 5 and 6 of her Netflix show ― Raphael co-founded The Jane Club, a women’s space in Los Angeles designed specifically for working parents, and wrote a book, ”Represent: The Woman’s Guide to Running for Office & Changing the World,” with former EMILY’s List activist Kate Black to inspire women to run for office. The latter has been something of a self-described “obsession.”
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“I had become, after Trump’s election, kind of obsessed with the idea of how this man won and also how public service and civic engagement is sometimes left or seen as left best for others to do,” Raphael told me on HuffPost’s “Between You & Me.” “At the core of our country, I really believe in the idea of ‘We the people’ and people representing themselves. And I think if you really look at the way our government works, it is not representative of the vast majority of people who live here, and that’s a problem.”
So it was perhaps not surprising that when I asked Raphael if she plans to run for office one day, she was unequivocal.
“Absolutely,” she said, before launching into an impassioned dialogue about the LA public school system and wanting to understand more explicitly how it functions and where the roadblocks are.
She’s also been driven by the need to restore order amid the chaos of the Trump presidency, she said. “It was a sense of our democracy is crumbling before my very eyes. And if this motherfucker can do it, why can’t I?”
Political office isn’t yet in danger of eclipsing Raphael’s day job. “Grace and Frankie” will be filming a just announced seventh and final season. And she is set to star alongside Tracee Ellis Ross in the upcoming film “Covers,” directed by Nisha Ganatra (“Late Night,” “Transparent”).
But she makes it clear with her book that just because some people might dismiss her as another Hollywood actor talking about activism, that doesn’t mean she’s going to sit back and watch as many of the values she holds dear, particularly reproductive rights, are eroded.
“I would only get quiet if I didn’t pay my taxes,” she said. “Whether someone likes it or not is their problem.”