By Denise Petski
July 23, 2021
EXCLUSIVE: Showtime is round out casting for the Roosevelt family on its upcoming anthology series The First Lady. Oscar, Emmy and Tony winner Ellen Burstyn, (Alice Doesn’t Live Here Anymore), Eliza Scanlen (Sharp Objects) and Cailee Spaeny (Mare of Easttown) are set for recurring roles on the series 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).
Burstyn will play Sara Delano Roosevelt (SDR), President Franklin Delano Roosevelt’s (Kiefer Sutherland) mother and Eleanor Roosevelt’s (Anderson) mother-in-law. Fiercely devoted to her only son, she commissioned a pair of houses as a wedding present for Franklin and his wife, on the strict condition that she could move in next to them. She had a complex and often domineering relationship with Eleanor, but the pair eventually grew close.
Scanlen will portray young Eleanor Roosevelt. The favorite niece of President Theodore Roosevelt, Eleanor lost both of her parents at a very young age. At 15, Eleanor was sent to Allenswood Academy, where she became an independent thinking, progressive and self-confident young woman. She married her fifth cousin Franklin in 1905.
Spaeny will play Anna Eleanor Roosevelt, the eldest child and only daughter of President Franklin D. Roosevelt and Eleanor Roosevelt. Anna was a writer, newspaper editor and special aide-de-camp to her father, acting as his assistant during World War II. Beloved by both parents, Anna also carried the burden of being the peacekeeper in her parents’ unconventional marriage.
Series also stars Kiefer Sutherland as President Franklin Delano Roosevelt, 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.
Burstyn became the third woman in history to win both a Tony Award and an Academy Award in the same year for her work in Same Time, Next Year on Broadway and in the film Alice Doesn’t Live Here Anymore, for which she also received the BAFTA Award for Best Actress. She has won Emmys for her work on Law & Order: SVU and Political Animals. Her recent films include Pieces of a Woman, The House of Tomorrow, The Tale, Nostalgia and Lucy in the Sky. Burstyn is repped by by UTA and MGMT. Entertainment.
Australian actress Scanlen played Amma in Sharp Objects and Beth in Little Women. She won the Australian Academy of Cinema and Television Arts (AACTA) Award for Best Lead Actress for her role in Babyteeth. She’ll next be seen in the film Old and the Australian series Fires. Scanlen is repped by WME and Independent Management Company.
In addition to her role as Erin McMenamin on Mare of Easttown, Spaeny recently appeared in How It Ends, which premiered at the 2021 Sundance Film Festival. Spaeny made her feature film debut in Pacific Rim: Uprising, followed by Bad Times at the El Royale, On the Basis of Sex and The Craft: Legacy. She made her television debut in Devs. Spaeny is repped by WME, Sugar23 and HJTH