By Denise Petski
June 14, 2021
EXCLUSIVE: Rosalind Chao (The Joy Luck Club), Michael Potts (Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom) and Donna Lynne Champlin (Crazy Ex-Girlfriend) are set for recurring roles on Showtime’s upcoming anthology series The First Lady (working title), starring Viola Davis — who also executive produces — Michelle Pfeiffer and Gillian Anderson. Cathy Schulman serves as showrunner. Susanne Bier (The Undoing) will direct and executive produce.
Created by Aaron Cooley and produced by Lionsgate TV and Showtime, The First Lady is a revelatory reframing of American leadership, told through the lens of the women at the heart of the White House. Season 1 focuses on Eleanor Roosevelt (Anderson), Betty Ford (Pfeiffer) and Michelle Obama (Davis).
Chao plays Tina Tchen, a brilliant lawyer known for her strategy and wit, who was Chief of Staff to the First Lady Michelle Obama and served as Executive Director for the Council on Women and Girls.
Potts portrays Fraser Robinson III, the father of Michelle Obama.
Champlin is Melissa “Mel” Winter, a democratic political aide who was Michelle Obama’s first hire during Barack Obama’s presidential campaign and continues to serve as her trusted Chief of Staff.
Additionally, Paul Wilson (The Conjuring: The Devil Made Me Do It) will guest on the series as Richard Nixon, the 37th president of the United States and the only president to resign from the office, following the Watergate scandal. He was pardoned by Betty Ford’s husband, President Gerald Ford.
Series also stars Aaron Eckhart as President Gerald Ford, O-T Fagbenle as President Barack Obama and Dakota Fanning as Susan Elizabeth Ford.
Produced by Showtime and Lionsgate Television, The First Lady is executive produced by Schulman, Davis, Julius Tennon, Andrew Wang, Bier, Jeff Gaspin and Brad Kaplan. Cooley will write several of the episodes and executive produce.
Known for her role as Rose in The Joy Luck Club, Chao most recently was seen in the live-action Mulan as well as Together Together and The Laundromat and soon will be seen in The Starling. She’s repped by Buchwald.
Potts, known for his role as Brother Mouzone on The Wire, most recently was seen in the Oscar-winning film Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom. Potts also played the lead role of Maynard Gilbough in Season 1 of True Detective. His other TV credits include Here and Now, Prodigal Son, Madam Secretary, Person of Interest, Show Me a Hero, Gotham, Nurse Jackie, among others. Potts is repped by Artists & Representatives and Blue Ridge Entertainment.
In addition to playing Paula Proctor on Crazy Ex-Girlfriend, Champlin has appeared on screen in projects including Another Period, Feel the Beat, Downsizing, Birdman and Yes, God, Yes. An Obie Drama Desk and Gracie Award winner, Champlin has credits on Broadway that include Sweeney Todd, Billy Elliot: The Musical, James Joyce’s The Dead, By Jeeves and Hollywood Arms. Champlin is repped by the Talent House and Forward Entertainment.
Wilson, who also appeared in projects including Big Stone Gap and The Right Stuff, is repped by Lonesome Pine.