Jay Hayden on Hulu’s ‘Battleground’ – Exclusive

One of the stars of Hulu's original series tells us about his role and his most famous TV ad.

Fred Topelby Fred Topel

Hulu’s first scripted series "Battleground" is about the drama of a local election campaign. Jay Hayden plays Chris "Tak" Davis, the campaign manager in creator J.D. Walsh’s series. When Hulu presented the show to the Television Critics Association, I got to stay behind with Hayden for a little exclusive on the Hulu show. The first episodes are now available on Hulu with new ones rolling out every Tuesday.


Crave Online: Tell us about Tak Davis.

Jay Hayden: He’s the head campaign strategist. Tak kind of makes everything run this season in the campaign. Kind of beleaguered with a lot of faults, a lot of problems going on in his life behind the scenes and personally, but at the same time trying to get someone elected that he believes in, trying to make everyone around him a better person than he is. That’s kind of Tak. He’s very flawed but wants to be a better man.

Crave Online: Managing people is drama anyway. Does Tak have a different approach for everyone he deals with?

Jay Hayden: Yeah. There’s a lot of colorful characters in the show, the techie, the young canary in the coal mine, the naïve kid that comes to the campaign as a volunteer, his speech writer, his media relations person that he may or may not have had relations with before. So he handles all those relationships differently, he directs them differently, he manages them differently.

Crave Online: So the reason he’s having trouble balancing work and family might not be just that he’s a workaholic?

Jay Hayden: It may not be just because he’s a workaholic. In one case, elections are a 24 hour seven day a week your entire life, but at the same time you’re working with these people so closely, and you kind of go through the fire with them. And when you get that close to people, sometimes they become family. Sometimes they become maybe more. The lines get blurred and remembering that you have responsibilities at home, family at home, that’s something that Tak struggles with.

Crave Online: Were you going out for leads in network pilots too?

Jay Hayden: Yeah, my first pilot season was last year and I went out for leads in pilots last year, and ended up booking the lead in a Spike pilot. Two days after we found out our show did not get picked up, I auditioned for this and booked this. So yeah, before last pilot season was just the beginning of being a commercial actor, doing little supporting roles in films, tiny little supporting things in television shows and then it suddenly all became, “Oh, now you’re going out for leading man.”

Crave Online: How did you get started?

Jay Hayden: I got started doing commercials. I did a lot of commercials, a few that people recognize me from. From that, I got a manager and theatrical agent and just started going out for pilots.

Crave Online: Thanks to DVR I haven’t watched commercials in decades. What are your noteworthy spots?

Jay Hayden: There was an AT&T commercial where they depicted the future president of the United States and then his parents in the crowd and it rewound through time when that father first met the wife in a train station, changed his ticket. It was a little mini love story in 30 seconds, so that commercial I was recognized a lot from. In fact, when I would go in for pilots, they’d say, “Oh, I love that spot, when you get on the train” and I’d be like, “Yeah, yeah, it’s pretty good.”

Crave Online: Did you have a chance to meet with any real campaign managers?

Jay Hayden: I read that book by Dick Morris, “Behind the Oval Office.” Then I spent a lot of time with JD who worked for a lot of campaigns. I myself didn’t get a chance to volunteer and completely immerse myself because we didn’t have time. Once I got cast, they were like, “Okay, so here are 13 episodes. Start learning them and we’re going to head up to Wisconsin in about two weeks and we’re going to start rehearsal and go, go, go.”

Crave Online: Are there any scenes you’re not in?

Jay Hayden: Not many. Not many. I mean, once you get into each day of the campaign, the mockumentary, the full camera crew kind of follows the different volunteers and media relations and stuff going on, but I’m pretty much directing traffic through all the episodes. So yeah, you’re going to have to get used to my ugly face.