By Paige Gawley
January 22, 2021
Michelle Pfeiffer, a three-time Oscar nominee, is stepping into some iconic shoes. Showtime announced on Thursday that the 62-year-old actress will star as Betty Ford in its upcoming anthology series, The First Lady.
Ford, who served as first lady from 1974 to 1977, set a precedent as a politically active presidential spouse through her candid nature and work in social policy. She frequently commented on hot-button issues and was open about her long-running battle with alcoholism and substance abuse. Ford also founded The Betty Ford Center, a non-profit residential treatment center in Rancho Mirage, California, for those struggling with substance dependence. She died in 2011, almost five years after her husband, President Gerald Ford.
The network describes the series, which will be directed and executive produced by Susanne Bier, as “a revelatory reframing of American leadership, told through the lens of the women at the heart of the White House.”
“In the East Wing of the White House, many of history’s most impactful and world-changing decisions have been hidden from view, made by America’s charismatic, complex and dynamic First Ladies,” the network says. “This series will peel back the curtain on the personal and political lives of three unique, enigmatic women, tracing their journeys to Washington through an enlightening intimacy.”
In addition to Pfeiffer as Ford, Oscar winner Viola Davis will play former first lady Michelle Obama. Season one will also focus on Eleanor Roosevelt, but the actress for that role has yet to be announced.
“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,” Israel continued. “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.”
When ET spoke to Davis about her role in the project, which she’s also executive producing, the 55-year-old actress admitted that she’s “a little scared” to play Michelle Obama, whom she described as “awesome in every way.”
“She’s smart. She’s confident. She’s articulate. She believes in sisterhood,” Davis said of Barack Obama’s wife. “… I wanna honor her. I wanna honor her with this portrayal because that’s what drama is. That’s what we do as actors, we want to honor the human being. We don’t want to give a portrayal that isn’t easy for people to swallow.”