By Joe Otterson
January 21, 2021
Michelle Pfeiffer has signed on to star as Betty Ford in the upcoming Showtime series “The First Lady,” Variety has learned. In addition, Susanne Bier has signed on to direct and executive produce the anthology series.
Formerly known as “First Ladies,” the show is described as a reframing of American leadership, told through the lens of the women at the heart of the White House. Pfeiffer joins previously announced cast member Viola Davis, who will star as Michelle Obama. The first season of the series will also explore the life of Eleanor Roosevelt, with that role yet to be cast.
Ford was the First Lady of the United States from 1974 to 1977 as the wife of President Gerald Ford. She was active in social policy and set a precedent as a politically active presidential spouse and one of the most candid first ladies in history, commenting on every hot-button issue of the time. She also raised awareness of addiction when she made her long-running battle with alcoholism and substance abuse public.
“Michelle Pfeiffer and Susanne Bier have joined the brilliant and incomparable Viola Davis to bring the remarkable stories of these women into urgent, engrossing and long overdue focus,” said Amy Israel, executive vice president of scripted programming at Showtime. “Michelle brings authenticity, vulnerability and complexity to all her roles, and Susanne is a visionary director who commands the screen with fierce honesty and a singular visual style. With these formidable artists in front of and behind the camera, we couldn’t be more thrilled – especially at this unique moment in time for our nation – about the powerful promise of ‘The First Lady.’”
Pfeiffer won a Golden Globe Award and earned one of her three Oscar nominations for her performance in “The Fabulous Baker Boys.” She was also nominated for an Academy Award for the films “Dangerous Liaisons” and “Love Field.” She was also nominated for an Emmy for her role in the HBO film “The Wizard of Lies.” She is known for her starring roles in features such as “Batman Returns,” “White Oleander,” “Scarface,” and “Hairspray.”
She is repped by CAA, Management 360, and Hirsch Wallerstein.
Bier most recently directed the hit HBO limited series “The Undoing” starring Nicole Kidman and Hugh Grant. She previously won an Emmy for her work directing the AMC miniseries “The Night Manager.” Her feature directing credits include “Bird Box,” In a Better World,” “Love Is All You Need,” and “Things We Lost in the Fire.”
She is repped by CAA and Brillstein Entertainment Partners.
“The First Lady” is written and executive produced by Aaron Cooley. Davis is also executive producing along with Julius Tennon and Andrew Wang of JuVee Productions. Besides Bier, other executive producers are Cathy Schuman of Welle Entertainment, Jeff Gaspin via Gaspin Media, and Brad Kaplan of LINK Entertainment. It is produced by Showtime and Lionsgate Television.
According to an individual with knowledge of the project, Schulman and Gaspin read a spec script Cooley had written about First Lady Edith Wilson, which inspired them to re-examine the families in the White House through the eyes of the First Ladies.