By Nellie Andreeva
January 21, 2021
Oscar and Emmy nominee Michelle Pfeiffer (French Exit) will portray Betty Ford in The First Lady (working title, fka First Ladies), Showtime’s anthology, executive produced by Viola Davis who stars as Michelle Obama. Emmy and Golden Globe winner Susanne Bier (The Undoing) will direct and executive produce the series.
Co-produced by Showtime and Lionsgate TV, The First Lady hails from writer Aaron Cooley, Davis and Julius Tennon’s JuVee Productions, Cathy Schulman’s Welle Entertainment and Jeff Gaspin’s Gaspin Media.
The First Lady is a revelatory reframing of American leadership, told through the lens of the women at the heart of the White House. Written by Cooley, it is set in the East Wing of the White House, where 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 series will peel back the curtain on the personal and political lives of our most enigmatic heroes, with Season 1 focusing on Eleanor Roosevelt, Betty Ford and Michelle Obama.
Ford was the First Lady of the United States from 1974 to 1977. 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, EVP, Scripted Programming, Showtime Networks. “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 idea for the series originated with Schulman and Gaspin, who were inspired by a spec script Cooley had written about First Lady Edith Wilson. In line with the mission of Schulman’s company Welle Entertainment, which is dedicated to making female facing content, the series will re-examine the families in the White House through the eyes of the First Ladies.
Cooley executive produces along with Davis, Tennon and Andrew Wang via their JuVee Productions, Schulman via Welle Entertainment, Gaspin via Gaspin Media, Brad Kaplan via LINK Entertainment and Bier.
Pfeiffer won a Golden Globe Award and earned one of her three Oscar nominations for her performance in The Fabulous Baker Boys. She received another Oscar nomination and earned a BAFTA award for her work in Dangerous Liaisons. She has received seven Golden Globe nominations, for roles in films from Married to the Mob to the Oscar-nominated Love Field and The Wizard of Lies, for which she also received an Emmy nomination.
Bier most recently directed HBO’s hit limited series The Undoing, starring Nicole Kidman and Hugh Grant. She won the Emmy in 2016 for directing the six-part AMC miniseries The Night Manager. In 2018, she directed the thriller Bird Box, starring Sandra Bullock, which at the time became the most-watched movie of all time on Netflix. Her film In a Better World won both the Oscar and the Golden Globe for Best Foreign Language film in 2011, as well as Best Director at the European Film Awards.