When Hilary Swank first heard about the real-life cases of sexual assault and violence against countless indigenous women in Alaska she knew she had to shine a light on the issue in Alaska Daily, her new ABC drama, she told Newsweek.
The show draws from Anchorage Daily News’ investigation into the extremely high rate of sexual violence in Alaska in a series of articles collectively titled “Lawless,” which was first brought to Swank’s attention by Tom McCarthy, Alaska Daily’s showrunner.
Swank spoke to Newsweek about the drama, which premieres on October 6, saying that the real case “blew [her] mind” and she felt it was immensely important to be a part of the project.
Hilary Swank Reflects on True Story Behind ‘Alaska Daily’: ‘Blew My Mind’
In Alaska Daily, Swank plays Eileen Fitzgerald, a hardened, no-nonsense New York journalist whose story about the new Secretary of Defense goes wrong, leading to her to lose her job and get “canceled” publicly.
In the aftermath, she is approached by her old boss, Stanley (Jeff Perry), who asks her to work for him at a local paper in Alaska. There, she comes to learn of the death of an indigenous woman in a suspected murder that was all but ignored several years earlier, and she begins to investigate the case and several others, alongside reporter Rosalind ‘Roz’ Friendly (Grace Dove).
When asked if she hoped Alaska Daily would shed a light on the issue, Swank responded fervently: “Absolutely, that is 100 percent [why], it’s the reason why I stepped onto the show.
“Tom McCarthy, I’m a huge fan of and I am I’ve been a fan of [his film] Spotlight, actually since The Station Agent, and when he said that this was based on a story, called “Lawless,” I read the article.
“I knew about the missing, murdered indigenous women, I knew about that. But the story was just [shocking].
“To me, I knew about that, and yet so many people don’t know about it and it’s happening right now, right this second, and no one’s doing anything about it, it is horrific and something needs to be done.
“So, yes, that was a big part of me being in the show and then there’s other things that the article tackles that I had no idea about, and it just blew my mind.”
The two-time Oscar winner added that she hoped the show could make a difference by bringing the matter to the public’s attention: “Well, that’s just the thing, being a storyteller we get the opportunity to shine a bright light on these stories that matter and, in doing so, help give voice to them and start a conversation, and hopefully ignite change.”
Despite the show being based on a real-life case, Swank and her fellow cast members don’t play real people, and so the Million Dollar Baby actor said that she didn’t feel the need to try and base Eileen on anyone in particular.
“I just took what was off the page and working with it and growing with it, you know. The characters are fictionalized, all of the journalists that are portrayed, so I’m not planning her off of [someone], or acting off of anything other than [what has been written] with the pen,” she said.
On Her Character and Cancel Culture
Swank is still filming Alaska Daily, explaining that she has finished shooting five episodes out of a total of 10, but that she already has a love for her character, Eileen.
“I love that she doesn’t accept nonsense and and doesn’t suffer fools, she is a go getter [and wants] to find the truth,” Swank reflected. “She’s just all about being a truth seeker and I love that about her, she’s really driven and she built her career when it was very much a man’s world. So she has a lot of grit and determination.”
Early on in the show Eileen becomes a victim of cancel culture when the sourcing of a story is questioned, promptly leading to her work being deemed a lie and her being “canceled” by the public, and fired from her job.
Looking at this storyline and how it reflects reality, Swank said: “I think we are living in a world right now that is very much about learning new ways of respecting people, and it’s exciting, it’s important, it’s timely. I’m not speaking about Eileen specifically right now, I’m just talking about [cancel culture].
“And, you know, there’s a lot of catching up to do in a lot of people’s hearts, so that’s great. I think sometimes people do get canceled not necessarily for the truth and sometimes they do, it’s just it’s case by case. And what people get canceled for is, like I said, it’s just case by case.
“In her case, you know I don’t know if she had been a man would she have gotten canceled? I don’t really know, I don’t know the answer to the conversation. But she just speaks her mind and she was on a deadline, and she maybe was quicker than she should have been [to publish her story] but where’s the give and take in that?”
Alaska Daily premieres on ABC at 10 p.m. ET.