'The First Lady' Cast and Their Real-Life White House Counterparts

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The First Lady Cast
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Coming to Showtime is the scripted anthology series The First Lady, which will go inside the lives of three influential first ladies of the United States. The show’s first season, which will be directed and executive produced by Susanne Bier, will star Viola Davis as Michelle Obama, Michelle Pfeiffer as Betty Ford, and Gillian Anderson as Eleanor Roosevelt. Most recently, 24 star Kiefer Sutherland was added to the cast as President Franklin D. Roosevelt. Here’s what you need to know about the star-studded historical drama and how the cast compares to their real-life counterparts. 

Series and Premiere Date 

According to the network, The First Lady “is a revelatory reframing of American leadership, told through the lens of the women at the heart of the White House.” Set in the East Wing, the series created by author Aaron Cooley, who is also writing several of the episodes, will show how “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 first season will go into the personal and political lives of three such “unique, enigmatic women,” recounting their journeys from wife to Washington.

With the key casting confirmed, production is expected to begin soon. No premiere date has been announced. 

The Star-Studded Cast

Viola Davis as Michelle Obama

The First Lady Cast
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Coming off her award-winning turn as legendary blues singer Ma Rainey in the Netflix film Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom, Davis will portray one of the most beloved former first ladies. “I am in the place of a little bit of fear, well, I am not going to lie, a lot of fear,” she told ET about preparing to play Obama, revealing she’s done it all. “I started last year... I had the privilege and honor and blessing to be able to talk to her and read her book of course, watch her documentary, look at every video.” 

Davis added that “she is all things. She is a hero. She is just one of those women and people who lives a life bigger than herself and I hope to honor that. [We’ve been doing] makeup tests at my house with my makeup artist and they are doing an extraordinary job with the transformation of it all.”

Michelle Pfeiffer as Betty Ford 

The First Lady Cast
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Pfeiffer’s turn as the one-term first lady of the 1970s marks her return to TV after portraying Ruth Madoff in HBO’s 2017 film The Wizard of Lies.

Gillian Anderson as Eleanor Roosevelt

The First Lady Cast
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Anderson’s portrayal of Roosevelt, who is the longest-serving first lady in history, follows her celebrated performance as Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher opposite Olivia Colman in the fourth season of The Crown

O-T Fagbenle as Barack Obama

The First Lady Cast
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After starring on The Handmaid's Tale and MaxxxFagbenlewill portray the first African American and 44th president of the U.S., from 2009 to 2017.

When first offered the role, Fagbenle recalled to ET how he asked himself, “Wow, could I play one of the most beloved characters of all time, who is super charming and intelligent?” He jokingly adds that there’s “no pressure” to play “a superhero amongst men.” 

With filming underway, the actor has been busy doing a lot of preparation for the role. “I read all of his books, I have read Michelle Obama's book, they are all great,” he shared. “I have spoken to Viola. So, it is slowly coming together... and I am really up for the challenge and it is something I have not tried before.”

Aaron Eckhart as Gerald Ford

The First Lady Cast
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Eckhart returns to TV after brief appearances on Frasier and The Romanoffs to play the one-term president from 1974 to 1977.

Kiefer Sutherland as Franklin D. Roosevelt

First Lady Cast
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After most recently playing President Thomas Kirkman on Designated Survivor, Sutherland is returning to TV to portray Roosevelt (FDR), who was the 32nd president, leading the country from 1933 until his death in 1945. He is the only president to serve for more than two terms. 

 

The rest of the cast includes  Judy Greer as Betty Ford’s trusted confidante and social secretary, Nancy Howe, Jayme Lawson as young Michelle Obama, Kristine Froseth as young Betty Ford, and Rhys Wakefield as President Ford’s Deputy Chief of Staff, Dick Cheney.

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