Hillary Clinton and Chelsea Clinton are further cementing their special mother-daughter bond by redefining what the word “gutsy” means to pioneering women, celebrities, community leaders, and everyday heroes.
The result is a multi-generational approach to their thought-provoking adventure; an eight-episode docuseries currently streaming on Apple TV +.
The personal stories take these two women to wondrous destinations, including the famed Caroline’s comedy club in Manhattan, bowling with Wanda Sykes, and a clown school in Paris, complete with costumes and red noses.
The first episode, entitled Gutsy Women Have The Last Laugh, centers around comedy. Subsequent episodes focus on women breaking barriers regarding race, disability, gender, and edgy humor and address such bold topics as refusing hate, justice, rebels, forces of nature, and mothers.
Based on the Clintons’ New York Times bestselling book, The Book of Gutsy Women, among the celebrities involved include Kate Hudson and her mom, Goldie Hawn, Amy Schumer, Wanda Sykes, Abby Wambach, Kim Kardashian, Mariska Hargitay, and Jane Goodall.
Read on for more of how Hillary and Chelsea Clinton took a leap of faith and highlight the work and deeds of celebrities and community leaders who inspire us to be bold and brave.
Monsters and Critics: How did the two of you come up with the idea to film this docuseries?
Hillary Clinton: We wrote a book together that came out in the fall of 2019 called The Book of Gutsy Women. In it we each wrote profiles of about a hundred women who admired or who inspired us, and we had such a great time doing it, kind of learning what each of us considered gutsy and how we went about both defining it and then selecting the women that we profiled.
And we were really fortunate after the book came out that a number of people approached us about perhaps turning it into some kind of a series, and we were thrilled to work with Apple TV +. We filmed it during Covid-19, and so, it was [laughs] a doubly challenging time, but one that we got so much out of.
Chelsea Clinton: Yes, and I’m very proud that we didn’t have a single Covid-19 case on all of our adventures with gutsy women across the United States and a little bit around the world. I am really grateful to everyone who helped keep all of us safe so that we could spend such meaningful time with the women who we profiled. I’m so thankful that so many women wanted to participate, even in these precarious times to show their gutsiness, to talk about being gutsy, and to be proud of being gutsy.
M&C: How did you choose the women that are involved?
Chelsea Clinton: It was both a process when we were writing the book where we actually initially wrote twice as many profiles as wound up in the book because our publisher said, you know, we weren’t kind of creating something that people should work out with. We wanted it to be weighty because this subject is weighty. Then in making the docuseries, it was an ongoing conversation between, you know, the two of us and really the wonderful team at Apple TV +.
And to ensure that we had a real kind of dynamic spectrum of women who were being gutsy in so many different ways, whether, you know, our local firefighters here in New York City or the amazing Jane Goodall. It was just such a joy that we got to spend time with and speak to and highlight so many gutsy women who inspire us and some of whom we’d known about and some of whom we’ve met through this process.
M&C: So, first of all, what does it mean to you to be “a gutsy woman?”
Hillary Clinton: Of course, there are characteristics. Someone who is determined, courageous, and resilient. But not just on behalf of herself.
We decided that we wanted women who were gutsy in those ways but in addition, were trying to knock down barriers, right injustices, and provide opportunities for others as well. So, our definition is both individual, but also rooted in the values of the kind of women that we admire and respect and have literally looked up to for each of our lives.
M&C: Is there a particular conversation, interview, or anecdote that stuck with you after completing this documentary?
Chelsea Clinton: So many of them stuck with me. I think maybe just because I was referencing our firefighters, I certainly was full of so much gratitude and awe about our amazing women firefighters here in New York City. And those words feel so insufficient for the gutsiness that they display every day to help keep us safe. I think having put on the firefighting gear, having done even just a small bit of what they’re required to do to even qualify as firefighters was humbling. I was just full of awe and gratitude.
Hillary Clinton: One of the great things about the series that I think affected both Chelsea and me is the variety of women that we highlight. Chelsea and I could sit here and tell you what motivated and moved us throughout the entire filming.
We’re in a very fraught time in our country. There’s a lot of divisiveness. There are some serious challenges to our democracy. And actually, interviewing a woman who herself had been part of a white supremacy group and now tries to deprogram others so that they can leave the hate and the fear and the anger and violence that we have seen in the last couple of years, that point of view was very touching and inspiring to me.
M&C: I enjoyed watching your relationship and banter, and humor in this movie. Did working together change or transform your mother-daughter relationship in any shape or form?
Chelsea Clinton: I don’t know if it transformed or changed it because I think you can tell, [laughs] we are already quite close. I think, though, it was an unexpected gift, at least for me. After having been in the depths of Covid-19 for so long, mindful of how lucky and privileged we’ve been to have been able to be safe, to then have this experience together was such a gift.
One that I know enabled this because a lot of people worked very hard to ensure that we and everyone who was part of this could be safe while being Gutsy. I think it had just a particular meaning for me because I love spending time with my mom. Also, to be able to spend this time together after kind of everything that, you know, we’ve all been through in this country and in this world.
Hillary Clinton: Well, of course, I think [everyone] got a front-row seat to how my daughter makes fun of me. She is still trying to make sure that I am fully present and aware of the modern world. So, that’s a very true reflection [laughs] of our relationship, for which I’m very grateful because, you know, it’s wonderful to have an adult child with whom you love to spend time, but we also have differences, disagreements, some of which are in the series.
But it’s a real generational story. Gutsy women are a bunch of mothers was personally one of my favorite episodes because it was so much fun seeing other mother-daughter relationships in real time.
Hillary Clinton: In each of the episodes with everybody we interviewed, you know, we asked them, “What do you want to do with us?” because we didn’t want it to be just a static interview program. We wanted it to be very active and dynamic. So, when [laughs] we were told that Goldie and Kate wanted to tango… and they were quite supportive of me as we tried to learn the tango. [laughs]
Chelsea Clinton: Yes, because it wasn’t within your comfort zone. We need to celebrate that so that you keep getting out of your comfort zone.
Hillary Clinton: We got to talk to some of the great comics and then go to clown school in Paris. Which, I have to tell you, when they said, when Apple TV + said, “How about going to clown school in Paris?
Chelsea Clinton: My mother said, “That’s such a wacky idea.” I’m more up for everything. I was like, “Well, why not? That sounds great.” I didn’t even know I could go to clown school. But now that I know, I want to go. And she was very, like, skeptical. Even cynical. But she learned a lot and had a good time.
M&C: Why did you decide to team up to write your Gutsy Women book, and launch your production company?
Hillary Clinton: Well, it’s so interesting because when our book Gutsy Women came out, we received a lot of interest from people about perhaps optioning it. But we were intrigued by an interest from Sam Branson who had a small production company in the U.K. and knew Chelsea.
We met with him, and we had such a great conversation. He said, “Let’s do this together.” Because sometimes when you option something, it’s gone. You don’t have any role in it. And we felt very personally both connected to and invested in The Book of Gutsy Women. So, we worked with Sam and his great team to create our own production company called HiddenLight, which was co-produced for Apple TV +. It was such a great learning experience and an eye-opener for us.
Now, through HiddenLight, we have a film that will be at the Toronto Film Festival called In Her Hands, and we’re both going up there because Netflix bought it, but Toronto put it into the festival. We’re excited about that. It’s about a gutsy woman; an Afghan woman who was the mayor of her village. We started filming before the evacuation and the takeover by the Taliban and then continued afterward. So, we really feel great with our work on these projects with HiddenLight, and find Sam to be a terrific partner.
M&C: What did you learn about yourself doing the series?
Chelsea Clinton: Oh, goodness I learned so much about myself. I learned that thankfully when I think I am up for anything, I actually am generally up for anything. That wasn’t just sort of a narrative I had told myself. I learned that making something of this scale with this level of kind of integrity and care requires more people than I had ever envisioned.
I’m so thankful to everyone who was on the set at any given moment and also to those who were never on the set, but working on color correction or sound levels. I mean, all the different jobs that I candidly didn’t know existed, and now I’m so thankful that they do because I think clearly their work is part of what has enabled us to do our work. I learned so much about myself and also just about the enterprise of making what we hope is a really, you know, high-quality, compelling, resonant docuseries.
M&C: And Hillary?
Hillary Clinton: I learned that I can keep learning as I get older. And I enjoy it. And that I’m willing, as Chelsea said earlier, to get outside my comfort zone and do things I never would have even imagined doing a few years ago. I felt so strongly committed to this project and to telling the stories of the women that we were showcasing. And, you know, I’m very aware of how fortunate I am to have opportunities like this.
But I hope that maybe through this series, women my age will think of things that they can continue to learn from that will be exciting to them.
M&C: Why do you feel it’s such an important message for women, particularly during this day and age?
Hillary Clinton: I think it’s really important because we are at a turning point in so many ways in not just our country but in many places in the world where we are having to struggle about what it means to be a woman.
What it means to be, you know, gutsy. What it means to make tough decisions. And as Chelsea said earlier, certainly with the Supreme Court’s action in our country reversing Roe v. Wade, there is such a need for women to have their voices heard, to have their experiences respected.
And we want to help to amplify that in every way possible because it’s very clear that there is something of an effort to push back women’s rights. It doesn’t have to be as extreme as we see with the Taliban in Afghanistan. It can be with our Supreme Court and the politicians and others who support that decision. So, we want to keep pushing back at those who are trying to roll back rights and undermine freedoms.
To say that women have to be a certain way, make a certain decision, live a certain kind of life; and we reject that. And the stories that we’re telling, I hope can give heart to a lot of women and men who will see themselves, will hear something that helps them be a little gutsier in the face of whatever challenges they face.
Chelsea Clinton: I think, too, the reversal of Roe v Wade. It’s the attack on, you know, an honest telling of American history. It’s an attack on the kind of person who is thought to be able to teach children. It’s an attack on parents wanting their children to have the best care possible, including gender-affirming care.
M&C: What is the gutsiest thing that you’ve ever done?
Hillary Clinton: The gutsiest decision I ever made in my private life was to stay in my marriage, which, as everybody knows, was playing out on the global stage and very difficult to deal with in a way that gave me the confidence to make the decision that was right for me and my family. And I did that and have no regrets.
And then in my public life, running for president. I mean, this was a tightrope with no net, and it was really difficult because of all of the unprecedented questions that were raised about a woman being president. Obviously, I’m very proud of our campaign and very proud of getting more votes. I am very sorry that I didn’t actually win the seat, but it was a very gutsy undertaking.
Chelsea Clinton: I think the gutsiest thing I’ve ever done is to lead my life. I am thinking about both of us being so prominently featured in the public eye. There was a photograph of me in our local newspaper the day after I was born. I don’t know what it’s like to not be under kind of the public gaze and to not have an enormous amount of expectations for good and ill, for people who want to see me succeed and want to see me, you know, flounder or fail or worse.
I just think I’ve had to find gutsiness to lead my life in a way that has kind of integrity, meaning, purpose, and value to me as a kid, adolescent, teenager, young adult, and now as a mom myself.
M&C: Which women were you most in awe, and nervous about interviewing and why?
Chelsea Clinton: Although I had met Jane Goodall a few times through conservation work that my mom and I have done together over many years, I will [always be] in awe of her. As someone who grew up looking up to her, part of me will always be that six-year-old girl who admired her from afar. I was quite nervous when we spoke, and maybe I was a little less nervous at the end of the conversation, but the nerves certainly hadn’t gone away.
Hillary Clinton: Well, I think I was the most nervous when I was in Paris getting the clown lesson. I mean, there I found myself on the stage of the Moulin Rouge, putting on a red nose and thinking, “What am I doing here?” I have to say, it was an extraordinary experience. Our teacher, the other clowns who were with us, made it so.
Yet, at the same time, it was nerve-wracking to follow their direction, do what we were told to do, and to learn about something that, in clowning, is called the flop, F-L-O-P, the flop. It’s when you’re out there trying to make people laugh, and they’re not.
M&C: Lastly, what surprised you the most about your conversation and this whole experience?
Hillary Clinton: You know, it was a very diverse group. But there were common threads running through it. There was a joy about these women despite what they’d been through or what obstacles they had faced.
It was very life-affirming to sit there and talk with them or to do the activities that we did together. So, in addition to the gutsiness and the determination, the persistence, the resilience, I was very impressed by the joy, and I felt that. And as we were doing this, you know, during Covid-19, and it was not easy, and we had lots of protocols we had to keep up with, that joy really kept me going. And sometimes it was like laugh-out-loud joy, and sometimes it was like Jane Goodall having her glass of whiskey. “This is good for my voice,” she would say.
I came away loving how each of these women that we were so lucky to meet and the interview got through life. It really was impressive, wasn’t it?
Chelsea Clinton: Hugely impressive. I think a good reminder to us, too. Because we were working so hard on this and so hard on other projects that we care deeply about, and the joy of the work, even when it was really hard…
So, it was not only a reminder, but it was also a challenge to us to think oh, well, we have to ensure that we are also finding joy in the process of this incredible privilege of making life “Gutsy” in other parts of our lives.
The docuseries Gutsy is currently streaming on Apple TV +
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