It was announced on Monday that Gillian Anderson (The X-Files, Sex Education), a recent Golden Globe nominee for portraying Margaret Thatcher on The Crown, will fill the shoes of yet another prominent political figure as Eleanor Roosevelt on Showtime’s upcoming series The First Lady. Deadline describes the series as “a revelatory reframing of American leadership, told through the lens of the women at the heart of the White House” with the first season focusing on Eleanor Roosevelt, Betty Ford and Michelle Obama.
From the Iron Lady to The First Lady. Hello, @GillianA!
📸: Richard Phibbs pic.twitter.com/iaQu9G5QLj
— SHOWTIME (@Showtime) February 22, 2021
Anderson joins Michelle Pfeiffer (Batman Returns, Dangerous Minds) as Betty Ford and Viola Davis (How to Get Away with Murder, Fences) as Michelle Obama for season one of The First Lady’s political anthology. Deadline mentions that all three of the series’ titular First Ladies are current Golden Globes nominees. Additional cast on the series includes Aaron Eckhart (The Dark Knight, Thank You for Smoking) as Gerald Ford, Judy Greer (13 Going on 30, Archer) as Nancy Howe, Jayme Lawson (Farewell Amor) as young Michelle Obama, Kristine Forseth (Apostle, Looking for Alaska) as young Betty Ford and Rhys Wakefield (True Detective, Home and Away) as Dick Cheney, via The Hollywood Reporter.
This stellar line-up, that will see Davis serve as producer as well as star, has led Vulture to determine that The First Lady cast likely has accolades in their future, saying that: “awards-show voting bodies are gonna lose it over this one.” If biographically adjacent FX miniseries Mrs. America, which racked up Emmy and Golden Globe nominations and was featured on mxdwn’s “Top 10 Television Shows of 2020” list, serves as an example, The First Lady may be able to secure similar critical success for it’s portrayal of influential women in American politics.
As the longest-serving First Lady in American history, Eleanor Roosevelt left an indelible mark on the office. Deadline describe the leader as “controversial for her outspokenness, particularly on civil rights, she was the first presidential spouse to hold regular press conferences, write a daily newspaper column and host a weekly radio show.” Additionally, Roosevelt championed United States’ participation in the United Nations and served as its first delegate.
While Roosevelt influenced the First Ladies that followed, Anderson herself is taking up the mantle from a long-line of women in Hollywood who have portrayed the leader. The biographical depictions of Eleanor Roosevelt and her husband, President Franklin Delano Roosevelt, across the miniseries Eleanor and Franklin and Eleanor and Franklin: The White House Years garnered a cumulative 18 Emmy Awards. Eleanor Roosevelt has likewise made notable fictionalized appearances in Annie, The Tuskegee Airmen, Truman, Warm Springs, Hyde Park on the Hudson, Another Period and Drunk History and was the subject of the 2016 film Dear Eleanor. Actresses who have assumed the role prior to Anderson include Jean Stapleton (All in the Family), Cynthia Nixon (Sex and the City, Ratched) and Olivia Williams (Rushmore, Dollhouse).
At the moment, Eckhart’s role of Gerald Ford marks the only presidential casting announced for The First Lady. With many recent casting announcements from the historical Showtime series, news regarding the roles of President Franklin Delano Roosevelt and President Barrack Obama should be expected in the coming months as The First Lady continues in it’s development process.