Tea Leoni: ‘Madam Secretary’

Actress Tea Leoni and Lynn Stratford from UNICEF.

Photograph by Stephanie Green/Bloomberg

Actress Tea Leoni and Lynn Stratford from UNICEF.

Actress Tea Leoni will portray the nation’s top diplomat in “Madam Secretary,” a new show on the CBS fall lineup.

“Listen, I’m not the secretary of state,” she told us, “I just play one on television.”

(A blonde-haired one as well.)

Maybe, yet she has some foreign relations bona fides.

Leoni has served as a UNICEF ambassador since 2001, following in the footsteps of her grandmother, a UNICEF founder in 1947, and father, a UNICEF board chairman.

Leoni, sporting nerdy eyeglasses, was in town last night for a Georgetown reception and fundraiser for UNICEF, the global organization that helps children in emergency situations.

Recently, Leoni traveled to the Zaatari refugee camp in Jordan to help some of the 5.5 million Syrian children affected by the Assad regime.

“I hesitated coming here tonight, because it was the most devastating thing I’ve ever seen, and it’s difficult to talk about,” she said in Georgetown.

She recounted to the crowd talking to a man whose young daughter’s head was partially blown off by a bomb.

UNICEF estimates that 40 percent of the Syrian population is in need of humanitarian assistance.

How would her TV character handle the crisis?

“Through humanitarian aid,” she said. “I’m familiar with many of the issues, and many of the solutions. I think if we’re waiting around for policy, we’re gonna be waiting around for a long time.”

Leoni plays one tough character on the CBS program. She says she’ll be learning from another Madam Secretary, Hillary Clinton.

“Oh, God, yeah,” she replied when asked if she plans to read Clinton’s anticipated memoir, “Hard Choices.”

“I’ve read all the books. I’m eating them up.”

And she’s watching Clinton’s next move.

“I hope to meet her,” Leoni said. “I hope to see her run. Don’t you want a woman president?”

 

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