When Lauren Underwood decided to run for U.S. representative in Illinois’ District 14, she said she didn’t think of herself as revolutionary or inspiring; she was just a public health professional who wanted to protect people with preexisting conditions.
Now, as the youngest Black woman ever to be elected to Congress, a documentary on the landmark 2018 campaigns of Underwood and two other female congressional candidates is set to premiere Tuesday.
“I just felt so compelled to do something and to run,” Underwood said in an interview Wednesday. “I didn’t think that people would want to tell the story. I wasn’t prepared for that.”
"SURGE" is a new documentary that follows the 2018 campaigns of Underwood as well as Indiana District 9 candidate Liz Watson and Texas District 6 candidate Jana Lynne Sanchez.
Back in 2018, Underwood defeated incumbent Republican candidate Randy Hultgren, who had represented District 14 since 2011, by a 5% margin.
While Watson and Sanchez did not win their bids to serve in the U.S. House of Representatives, all three women ran as Democrats in historically Republican districts in an election year that set a new record for the number of first-time female candidates.
“[The filmmakers] have been with us throughout this whole journey, and that’s what makes it so special,” Underwood said. “There’s so many moments, little moments, that they captured along the way that show the strength of [Watson], [Sanchez], my strength and the strength of the women in our community.”
The documentary is not just about these three candidates, but, rather, it gives a deeper look into the communities that came together to push for more women to have a voice in Congress, she said.
In a world of political candidates that Underwood said can sometimes feel “larger than life,” she was glad that the film focuses on her and the other two candidates as “real, regular women who go through regular things.”
The documentary captures all of the women’s struggles on the campaign trail, from sexism and double standards down to the rather concerning noises that Underwood’s car makes, she said.
Underwood said she hopes the documentary will show other women and girls who have big dreams, whether they are political or otherwise, that they are not limited in what they can achieve.
“Oftentimes when I speak to young people, I tell them that their voices are so powerful … and that they shouldn’t ever doubt themselves and their ability to drive change, and I think that this film is a manifestation of that,” Underwood said.
The film crew itself is emblematic of this idea, as its directors, editor, adviser, producers and cinematographers all are women, according to a news release on the documentary.
Now, as Underwood is working to be reelected in November, she said she is counting on the same kind of grassroots activism that brought her victory back in 2018.
“Each campaign is so hard and this year is no different, in that respect, than what we set out to do in 2018; it’s just extremely difficult,” Underwood said. “But we’ll be able to make it through. There’s only 62 days left in this election, and so it’s a sprint now and we’re going to just run through the tape.”
“SURGE” will premiere at 8 p.m. Tuesday on Showtime. The premiere will air on SHOxBET – a new partnership between Showtime and Black Entertainment Television.