09/15/2003 at 01:00 AM EDT
Former PEOPLE Sexiest Man Alive George Clooney played the nervous, expectant father at Washington D.C.'s Palm steakhouse over the weekend as he permitted Washington's power brokers a first peek at his directorial and executive-producing project, HBO's "K Street," reports PEOPLE.
Clooney, 42, pulled an all-nighter with co-executive producer Steven Soderbergh to finish the 30-minute episode, which premiered on the cable network Sunday night. (HBO, like PEOPLE, is part of AOL Time Warner.)
"Wish us luck. I'll be drinking in the corner if you need me," joked Clooney, standing on a banquette with one of The Palm's famous wall caricatures -- Ted Kennedy -- staring out over his shoulder.
Clooney brushed off a bouncer's offer to clear him a path through the crush of top White House figures (including Laura Bush's chief of staff, Andrea Ball, and former press secretary Ari Fleischer), network news stars (NBC's Campbell Brown and Norah O'Donnell) and political names (former senator and "Law and Order" star Fred Thompson and Democratic Party chief Terry McAuliffe).
The debut episode of the series, which HBO describes as a "collision of fact and fiction," focuses on Democrat operative James Carville's decision -- over the vehement objections of his very Republican wife, Mary Matalin -- to play debate coach for presidential candidate Howard Dean.
"I like Dean," Clooney tells PEOPLE. "His being on the show was a one-time thing. We're not focusing on a candidate. I'm an old liberal. But the whole point of this is to show both sides. That's why we have Mary and Stuart Stevens (another Republican strategist). We want to make sure we have all sides."
The show hasn't been without controversy. The Senate's Rules and Ethics Committee sent a letter to staff members last week saying the filming of the show inside the Capitol violates rules against using the space for commercial purposes.
Still, "K Street" has already made news on the presidential campaign trail. One of Dean's best lines in a recent Democratic debate was spoon-fed by Carville: "If the percentage of minorities that's in your state has anything to do with how you connect with African-American voters, then Trent Lott would be Martin Luther King," quipped Dean.
"It was a brave thing for Dean to do, and that's what we want the show to be about -- the really human moments in politics that people don't often get to see," said a proud Clooney.