By Lesley Goldberg, Rick Porter
January 21, 2021
Showtime has added a second A-list actress to its anthology series The First Lady.
Michelle Pfeiffer will play Betty Ford in the series, which will also star Viola Davis as Michelle Obama. Emmy winner Susanne Bier (The Night Manager, The Undoing) has also signed on to direct every episode of The First Lady — which is produced by Showtime and Lionsgate Television — and will be an executive producer.
“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 vp 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.”
The First Lady will focus on Michelle Obama, Betty Ford and Eleanor Roosevelt and the roles they played in shaping impactful and sometimes world-changing decisions during their time in the White House.
Betty Ford was first lady from 1974-77 during Gerald Ford’s presidency. She took an active role in social policy and was among the more outspoken and politically active first ladies in history. She also raised awareness of addiction and substance abuse by going public with her own alcoholism and co-founded the addiction treatment center that bears her name.
The part will be Pfeiffer’s first series regular since the very beginning of her career. The Oscar and Emmy nominee’s recent film credits include Ant-Man and the Wasp, French Exit and Murder on the Orient Express. She is repped by CAA, Management 360 and Hirsch Wallerstein. Bier is repped by CAA and Brillstein Entertainment Partners.
Aaron Cooley created the series and is writing several episodes. He executive produces with Cathy Schulman via her Welle Entertainment, Davis and Julius Tennon of JuVee Productions, Andrew Wang, Jeff Gaspin and Brad Kaplan.
Schulman and Gaspin helped bring the project together after reading a spec script from Cooley about former first lady Edith Wilson.