“Politics aren’t always pretty.”
This is the tagline to Riley Del Rey’s project, “Capitol Barbie.”
The TV series pilot was filmed in New Mexico in spring 2020 and it comes from a personal place for Del Rey.
“It’s about Latinos working on Capitol Hill,” Del Rey says.
Del Rey wrote it based on her time working as a congressional intern for Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham, when she was a U.S. house representative in 2015.
The fictional pilot follows a new congressional intern, Dolly Golightly, played by Elese Jones, as she navigates the realities of working in Washington, D.C., facing constant reprimands over her dress and relationships with fellow Latino interns. When an unwanted advance by a congressman reveals that Dolly is transgender, her boss, Representative Melissa Lopez-Gaffney, played by Jeanette Aguilar Harris, terminates her. Golightly ruffles the feathers of a politician vying to become the first Latina president, who then tries to kick her off the Hill. Dolly begins to realize that this hill isn’t going to be easy to climb.
According to Del Rey, her actual experience as Lujan Grisham’s intern was terminated due to the alleged fact that she didn’t disclose her transgender identity. Lujan Grisham’s office denied the allegations. Del Rey filed an ethics complaint against Lujan Grisham in 2018, but the Office of Congressional Ethics has not released an official report on the complaint.
The pilot premiered at the Santa Fe Film Festival on Feb. 4. It is also available to view virtually through xerb.tv through Feb. 21.
Del Rey directed and produced the pilot and employed all New Mexicans – 40 New Mexico crew members, 20 principal New Mexico actors and 40 New Mexico background talent. Production took place at Amy Biehl High School and the University of New Mexico’s West Wing in Albuquerque.