Viola Davis Talks About Her Role As Michelle Obama In “The First Lady”

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Viola Davis has been hired in the latest Showtime anthology series “The First Lady,” which aired on April 17 and chronicles the stories of three former first ladies and their time in the White House.

Other notable performers in the cast include Michelle Pfeiffer as Betty Ford and Gillian Anderson as Eleanor Roosevelt, in addition to Davis, who also has an executive producer credit for the series.

Davis’s job, according to interviews, is particularly challenging: unlike Pfeiffer and Anderson, Davis is portraying a first lady who can watch the program — and the pressure got to her.

Viola Davis

The Oscar and Emmy winner (and executive producer of The First Lady) met and read Michelle Obama’s memoir. Before agreeing to star in the anthology series about the previous First Lady’s 8 years at 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue, she starred in the film Becoming.

Michelle Obama’s experience is still fresh: she served as the first lady of the United States from 2008 and 2016, during Barack Obama’s (in the series, O.T. Fagbenle) term. The other examples, on the other hand, are less well-known throughout the world, but no less intriguing.

The anthology drama series also stars Michelle Pfeiffer as Betty Ford and Emmy winner Gillian Anderson as Eleanor Roosevelt, in addition to Davis as Mrs. Obama. President Franklin D. Roosevelt is played by Kiefer Sutherland, President Gerald Ford is played by Aaron Eckhart, Susan Elizabeth Ford is played by Dakota Fanning, and Mrs. 

Obama’s mother Marian Shields Robinson is played by Regina Taylor, Lorena “Hick” Hickok is played by Lily Rabe, Jayme Lawson is played by Jayme Lawson, and President Barack Obama is played by O-T Fagbenle.

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More About The First Lady

While we are at it, let us also go ahead and learn more about The First Lady, the different characters, and who played them!

Betty Ford Is Played By Michelle Pfeiffer

“Michelle had a very intimidating part to play — since Betty’s life was out of control so many times because of her dependency,” says Schulman of Pfeiffer, who is featured above with Dakota Fanning (as Susan Ford’s first daughter) and Aaron Eckhart (as President Gerald Ford).

“Michelle is gorgeous and fragile and sensitive and strong all at the same time,” Schulman says of the actress’s portrayal of Betty Ford, a fiery first lady known for vocal advocacy of hot-button topics despite her addictions. “That’s exactly what we need because Betty was like that.”

Eleanor Roosevelt Is Played By Gillian Anderson

Anderson didn’t have the benefit of studying documentary films or old news clips to portray our lengthiest first lady — the wife of President Franklin D. Roosevelt (Kiefer Sutherland), whose relationship with Lorena Hickok will be explored — because she was fresh off playing the Iron Lady on The Crown.

“There’s a poetic aspect about Gillian,” adds Bier, who directed all 10 First Lady episodes and continues in awe of these White House spouses: “Want to live your own life while still being someone’s wife and making a significant impact? I was smitten by all three of them.” 

Viola Davis

Review Of The First Lady

In two areas, the reviews for The First Lady were unanimous. The first is that the storytelling style, which spans ten episodes and relates the stories of three women from different eras, fails to bring additional depth to the story by including flashbacks to their childhood and youth. The second is that Davis, Anderson, and Pfeiffer’s portrayals are “among the greatest on television this year,” according to NPR, and “among the finest of their careers.”

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She also had the added responsibility of portraying a lady with whom she had spoken on the phone to compose her portrait: “I felt limited and terrified.” She is still alive and well. We really can not put anything at all in the script simply because it appeared dynamic: the consequences would be far more far-reaching than Eleanor and Betty’s. ‘I can’t say anything because my view can influence the way the nation perceives us, it can make a program or a legislation fail to prosper,’ Michelle Obama stated at the release of her book [bestseller Becoming]. On paper, I felt the same type of constraint.”

About The First Lady

Designated Survivor’s Kiefer Sutherland will reprise his role as President Franklin D. Roosevelt in the upcoming anthology series The First Lady, with Gillian Anderson as his wife Eleanor.

The series, which will air on Showtime in the United States and Paramount Plus in the rest of the world, is described as “a revelatory reframing of American leadership, told and through the lens of the women at the heart of the White House,” with Michelle Pfeiffer portraying Betty Ford, who first entered the White House in 1974, and Viola Davis portraying Michelle Obama, a much more recent First Lady.”

Viola Davis

How To Get Free Showtime Access To The First Lady?

If you’re interested in seeing The First Lady, you’ll have to watch it on Showtime. Don’t have access to Showtime? You may stream the anthology series for free if you sign up for a free 30-day trial. After the free trial period expires, a Showtime membership will cost $3.99 a month for the first four months, with the option to cancel at any time.

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Bundle Showtime and Paramount+ for $11.99 per month to get the most bang for your cash (after a free 30-day trial). You may also receive a free Showtime trial through Hulu or Amazon Prime Video. 

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