Oscar (and Emmy, and Tony)-winning actor Viola Davis is moving from Widows to First Ladies: Showtime has ordered an hourlong drama bearing the latter title to series, with Davis starring as former first lady Michelle Obama, the network announced Wednesday. The news comes as ABC’s Shonda Rhimes-produced, Davis-starring drama How to Get Away With Murder winds down.
“In the East Wing of the White House, 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,” a press release explains. “This series will peel back the curtain on the personal and political lives of these enigmatic women, with season one focusing on Eleanor Roosevelt, Betty Ford and Michelle Obama.”
No word yet on who will play Roosevelt or Ford, but casting Davis as Obama is a coup that starts this project out on the right foot. First Ladies has the potential to thrive as a history-based prestige drama a la Netflix’s The Crown, which has cast the likes of Claire Foy and Olivia Colman as Queen Elizabeth II at various stages in her life, to the tune of four Emmy wins to date. It appears Showtime’s new series will attempt a similar blend of historical drama and anthology-esque reshufflings, buoyed by both rising and A-list stars.
“Throughout our history, presidents’ spouses have wielded remarkable influence, not only on the nation’s leaders but on the country itself,” says Showtime Networks Inc. President of Entertainment Jana Winograde in a statement. “First Ladies fits perfectly within the Showtime wheelhouse of drama and politics, revealing how much personal relationships impact both domestic and global events. Having Viola Davis play Michelle Obama is a dream come true, and we couldn’t be luckier to have her extraordinary talent to help launch this series.”
A Showtime and and Lionsgate Television production, First Ladies is created and written by author Aaron Cooley (Four Seats: A Thriller of the Supreme Court), and executive produced by Julius Tennon, Oscar winner Cathy Schulman (Crash, Five Feet Apart), Jeff Gaspin (Rhythm + Flow, L.A.’s Finest) and Brad Kaplan (Mr. Church).
No word yet on when First Ladies will begin production, much less premiere, but we’ll continue to update you as more details emerge.