In a small way, Stella Baker can look at what is happening in her own life to help her realize what her character in the new CW Network series, “The Republic of Sarah,” is going through.
The series looks at what occurs when a giant corporation tries to bulldoze their way through a small New Hampshire town. The only recourse to stall the takeover is for the city to declare its independence using a historical loophole.
Baker has to deal with the burdens that come with being the star of a TV show. Her character has to deal with the trials of being in charge of a new country when she is pushed into a leadership role.
“Sarah Cooper, the character I play on the show, certainly faces much greater challenges with much higher stakes than I think I have ever faced as an actor,” Baker says. “However, as a lead on a TV show, there were some moments when I felt challenged, or overwhelmed, or a huge sense of responsibility, and in those moments I often asked myself, ‘what would Sarah do?’
“And usually the answer to that question involved taking care of my community of cast members and crew members, showing up with a sense of optimism and excitement on set, and working really hard.”
How Baker and Sarah handle their challenges can be seen when “The Republic of Sarah” airs 9 p.m. Mondays on the CW.
Baker, who graduated from the Yale School of Drama in 2018, doesn’t bring a lot of credits to bring to her new series. She was in the limited series “Tell Me Your Secrets,” opposite Lily Rabe and Amy Brenneman and co-wrote, produced and starred in the short film “Candace.
The person willing to take a chance on Baker was series creator Jeffrey Paul King. He actually pitched the idea to CBS the same year Baker was graduating. Once CBS passed on making the show and the CW agreed, King made a few changes. The focus moved more toward the students who are being taught by Sarah including Los Angeles transplant Maya Jimenez (Izabella Alvarez), outsider Tyler Easterbrook (Forrest Goodluck) and preppy Bella Whitmore (Landry Bender).
Along with putting more emphasis on the younger cast members, the other change from the original version of “The Republic of Sarah” was to the overall tone of the show.
King says, “We sharpened a lot. It got a lot more fun, a lot edgier, a lot more specific in terms of who Sarah was as a person, what she wanted, what her style was, what the show sounded like.
“I am happy to take the blame for maybe it was a little less specific than it could have been the first time around. So I’m really grateful that with this iteration.”
Having Sarah teach history and geography was natural for King as he has always been a student of cultural geography and cryptography. He loved the idea of looking at all of the questions – some absurd and some very serious – that come with the establishment of a new country.
Items to be dealt with on the new country checklist include what color the money should be and what the national anthem sounds like. There are also big issues like keeping the lights on and security.
And all of these questions will be handled by a high school teacher who has been thrust into the role of being a leader. Baker is playing Sarah as both competent and a little reckless.
“I think Sarah’s basic knowledge of U.S. history and cartography, it’s just such a wealth of knowledge in that area. And it’s such a progressive outlook on the possibility of what a country can look like,” Baker says. “At the same time, she is a little bit impulsive. She can make quick, reckless decisions sometimes.
“She also sometimes thinks that she has the best ideas for everyone and needs help. So I think one of the biggest challenges for Sarah is figuring out how to, how to reach out and get help because you can’t do this task alone. “
That help will come from her students and others including: her mother, former state senator Ellen Cooper (Megan Follows); fellow teacher Corinne Dearborn (Hope Lauren); police officer Amy “AJ” Johnson (Nia Holloway); and diner manager Grover Simms (Ian Duff).
Both Baker and Sarah are facing big challenges. While Baker is certain Sarah will be able to handle being in charge of a new country, the series star would not want to be put in that situation
“I would not trust myself to run a country. Certainly not. I don’t, I don’t have the expertise for that. But I am a bit of a control freak, so I guess we share that,” Baker says.