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A new TV show follows 4 reporters on the presidential campaign trail

AYESHA RASCOE, HOST:

Now, I know a little something about covering elections - running all around the country with candidates who are trying to win hearts and minds, traveling from city to city, meeting voters who share their hopes and dreams and their frustrations with the people who want their support. A new show out now on Max captures some of that, but it also captures the not-so-glamorous stuff - looking for outlets to plug in your laptop, eating dinner from a vending machine and lots of hanging out in hotel bars.

(SOUNDBITE OF TV SHOW, "THE GIRLS ON THE BUS")

UNIDENTIFIED ACTOR: (As character) Kimberlyn, I just tried to call you.

CHRISTINA ELMORE: (As Kimberlyn Kendrick) Oh, no, you didn't just send me on a wild goose chase to steal my interview.

UNIDENTIFIED ACTOR: (As character) Oh, my God, sweetie, no. I was suddenly feeling better. You were miles away, and I do not want us to lose this opportunity.

ELMORE: (As Kimberlyn Kendrick) Yeah. Don't worry. We won't.

RASCOE: "The Girls On The Bus" follows four campaign reporters as they cover a presidential election. Christina Elmore plays one of them, and she joins us now. Welcome to the program.

ELMORE: Thank you so much for having me.

RASCOE: So introduce us to your character, Kimberlyn Kendrick.

ELMORE: So yes, I play Kimberlyn Kendrick. I love her name. It just kind of flows in a way that feels very much her. And I am a right-leaning conservative reporter reporting for a Fox News-esque outlet called Liberty Direct. And Kimberlyn finds herself on the bus surrounded by what she would call left-wing news, and she feels a little bit out of place on the bus.

But she also feels a little bit out of place at her outlet because while she's definitely a conservative, she is not a MAGA Republican, and she's what she would call more of a Reagan economics sort of Condoleezza Rice throwback Republican. And so she's having a hard time finding her footing, both on the bus and at her network.

RASCOE: So, you know, was it hard trying to get into the mind of this character? She seems very type A, very determined, you know, very pulled together.

ELMORE: I think what's so nice about all of the things that you just said is that they are very much Christina-like as well. I would call myself definitely type A. I don't know if I'm as pulled together. Her looks are kind of phenomenal for her to be on the bus all day. I think where we differ is certainly our industry. But I think that idea of, like, striving toward the next thing and - if I just follow my plan, then it should all work out, right? And when it doesn't, she's faced with sort of figuring out what to do from there, and that was the fun part was getting into that when the plan isn't working.

RASCOE: I want to play a clip from the show. It's this conversation between Kimberlyn and Lola, a young campaign reporter/influencer, and they're covering the Iowa caucuses.

(SOUNDBITE OF TV SHOW, "THE GIRLS ON THE BUS")

NATASHA BENHAM: (As Lola Rahaii) What about you? What's a Black woman doing working at Liberty White Nationalist News?

ELMORE: (As Kimberlyn Kendrick) You want to do this right now? OK, let's do this. I know what Liberty is. They are racist because everyone is racist. At least they're honest about it. It's better than condescending Democrats trying to tell me that I'm a victim and only they know what's best for me.

RASCOE: Tell me about Kimberlyn's worldview. I know you said she looks at herself as, like, a Reaganite Republican. How does her worldview inform how she responds to challenges that she faces as a Black woman covering the campaign trail?

ELMORE: She has a father who sort of has the quintessential story of, like, pulling himself up by the bootstraps, and she's like, well, if he could do it, I could do it. And she's one of those women who's like, I can do this because I am smart, I am brilliant, and I'm talented, and so there's nothing that should hold me back. And even if there is racism, I refuse to fall into the trap of believing that it's somehow going to stop me from achieving my goals. I personally would probably have, you know, a few conversations and words to have with her about that, but I understand the point of view. I understand that she's a person who thinks that nothing should stop us, and if we just keep going, we'll make it.

RASCOE: And do you know some Kimberlyns? Have you come across Kimberlyns in your life?

ELMORE: I think I know some older Kimberlyns. It was new for me to be with this woman in her 30s who felt so differently than I might, but I do definitely know older women and older men who are Kimberlyns. I understand it. I also understand that we want to feel like we are the masters of our own lives, and in many ways, we are. But in many ways, society is also playing a big part in that. But it was fun to sort of research more Black conservative voices because I don't think that we hear them. We hear soundbites of them, but I was really getting into, like, sort of the Thomas Sowell and all the writings of these Black conservatives. And it was interesting because it's not a world that I'm used to, but I was trying to avoid the trap of getting into, like, making her into sort of a clickbait-type vibe because that's not who she is.

RASCOE: Well, did you model her kind of journalistic style on anyone or - like, while you were doing this? - because I did think, like, the logistics of it were familiar to me, like, you know, the...

ELMORE: Oh, that's good to hear.

RASCOE: ...Hanging out in hotel bars and looking for - you know, just kind of running around a hotel lobby looking for a plug. Did you model Kimberlyn or anyone - or model her reporting style in particular on anyone?

ELMORE: I did. I don't think there was one particular person, but I definitely loved watching - there were several documentaries that came out in the last few years about campaign reporters. As a person who, yes, consumes a lot of news, I wasn't well-informed about how the news is made and especially not on the trail.

RASCOE: Yeah, most people aren't. Yeah (laughter).

ELMORE: Yeah, I had no idea that y'all was sitting on that bus like that.

RASCOE: All the time. All of us just in vans and buses, just hours.

ELMORE: Yes. And it's not glamorous at all.

RASCOE: No.

(LAUGHTER)

ELMORE: And it kind of reminded me of how I think a lot of people look at acting and think of it as a glamorous field, and you're sitting on, like, old soundstages and dirty trailers. We were very blessed to have Abby Phillip sort of consulting the writer's room.

RASCOE: And Abby Phillip is a CNN correspondent and CNN anchor.

ELMORE: Yes. And I have a few other friends from college who have become journalists and on-air anchors, and it was nice to be able to talk to them and sort of figure out their day-to-day and then also watch what I see of them, you know, in my personal life. And then sort of watch how they turn it on for the cameras and what it means to not just be doing the reporting, but sort of perform your job too, was helpful to me to get that sort of anchor voice.

RASCOE: Yeah, I'm still working on my anchor voice, I think.

ELMORE: Never change, Ayesha, please.

RASCOE: (Laughter).

ELMORE: You don't understand how refreshing it is to hear your voice on NPR every day.

RASCOE: Oh, thank you. I appreciate that. Well, what do you hope that people take away from the show?

ELMORE: I think the core of our show is this sort of found family that we have on the bus and developing friendships with women of different generations, different worldviews. And then I also think, in the actual political climate that we're living in, the show is a fun antidote to that and an escape from the realities of the news you're watching all day. I feel like head over to Max and feel a little bit better about the news of the day.

RASCOE: That's Christina Elmore. She plays Kimberlyn Kendrick in the new show "The Girls On The Bus," out on Max. Thank you so much for speaking with us.

ELMORE: Thank you. It was a pleasure.

(SOUNDBITE OF MUSIC) Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

NPR transcripts are created on a rush deadline by an NPR contractor. This text may not be in its final form and may be updated or revised in the future. Accuracy and availability may vary. The authoritative record of NPR’s programming is the audio record.

Ayesha Rascoe is a White House correspondent for NPR. She is currently covering her third presidential administration. Rascoe's White House coverage has included a number of high profile foreign trips, including President Trump's 2019 summit with North Korean leader Kim Jong Un in Hanoi, Vietnam, and President Obama's final NATO summit in Warsaw, Poland in 2016. As a part of the White House team, she's also a regular on the NPR Politics Podcast.

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