Michelle Obama's 'Becoming' Director Reveals the Surprising Thing She Learned About Her (Exclusive)
Becoming began as the story of Michelle Obama's life, which she put to paper in a memoir and which is now a documentary following the former first lady behind the scenes of her 34-city book tour and billing itself as a "rare and up-close look at her life" after leaving the White House.
For director Nadia Hallgren, who previously served as cinematographer on the 2016 special, We Will Rise: Michelle Obama's Mission to Educate Girls Around the World, it's also a look at the resilience Obama has shown throughout her entire life.
"What's really interesting about Mrs. Obama's story and why it's an important story to tell [is] even before her eight years in the White House, she has had some incredible experiences," Hallgren tells ET. "She had to find deep within herself how to persevere through. For me, that's an extraordinary quality that really resonated."
Ahead of Becoming's debut on Netflix, ET spoke with the director about working with the former FLOTUS, what in her life was off limits and those iconic book tour fashion moments.
ET: As the director, what was it like getting to work with Michelle Obama on this project?
Nadia Hallgren: Having an opportunity to work with Mrs. Obama on this project was just such a joy, getting to spend up close and personal time with Mrs. Obama, as well her family and all the folks that work with her. We had a lot of laughs. It was a very cool experience.
Was she involved in the creative process? Was she watching footage or in edit rooms at all?
Mrs. Obama did watch the film at a point. But we went out, we shot the film, we edited the film that we wanted to make. And at some point, of course, she did watch it.
What is one thing you learned working with her that might surprise us?
Just her incredible sense of humor. I had no idea how funny she was, and I think that really comes across in the film -- especially when she is with her big brother, Craig, and with her mom. They have this wonderful family dynamic, and that's really when that shines.
The documentary really gives you an all-access pass into this book tour. But was there anything off limits to you while shooting?
Filming during the tour, there was nothing that was off limits. You really get to see that intimacy in the film. I'm riding with her and her motorcade, we're backstage at the shows, there's moments when she's with her husband and I was right there.
One of the things we loved during the book tour was her fashion. Why was it important for you to highlight what a fashion icon she is?
One thing I found really interesting about Mrs. Obama's relationship to fashion is how she used it as a tool [as first lady]. She really understood that if folks were paying attention to what she was wearing and she was going to be photographed, that she wanted to be photographed while doing something that was important to her. You know, meeting with young people or talking about girls education. And then post-White House, it was really an opportunity for her to express herself in a way that she hadn't been able to when she was in the White House.
Lastly, what do you hope viewers take away from this documentary?
Something I hope viewers take away is the power of storytelling, what it means to go out and share your story. What we see in this film is how Mrs. Obama telling her story encouraged other people to share their stories and the transformative experience in that process.