One of the splashiest drama due this year is Showtime’s anthology series, The First Lady, which depicts the lives of three former first ladies. Viola Davis stars as Michelle Obama, Michelle Pfeiffer as Betty Ford, and Gillian Anderson as Eleanor Roosevelt. The cast also includes Kiefer Sutherland, Aaron Eckhart, Dakota Fanning, Lily Rabe, O-T Fagbenle, and THE Judy Greer. It’s a stacked cast, is what I’m saying. The first trailer dropped in time for President’s Day here in the US, and it is certainly a lot of Great Actors Acting. It’s really hard to argue with anything that has Viola Davis making steely promises, Judy Greer being encouraging, Gillian Anderson doing A Voice (I froze up when Anderson first came on screen, still slightly traumatized after her Margaret Thatcher voice in The Crown, but her Eleanor Roosevelt voice seems a lot more lowkey), AND Michelle Pfeiffer coldly sipping a drink in the dark. This is going to make a very specific subset of people VERY happy.
This trailer is mostly concerned with showing off the cast and emphasizing big dramatic moments, but it seems that the shape of The First Lady is finding these three women at moments where they have to rally to perform the role of “first lady”, a role no one seeks for themselves but is thrust into because of a spouse’s political ambition. I’m sure that conflict of “I didn’t ask for this/I’m only here because of YOU” will come up in all three segments, especially as all three of these women put their stamp on the office of first lady and, to varying degrees, reshaped the role for the women who came after. With a cast this good, and such rich material, I’m sure The First Lady will be good, but I must admit, right now I am mostly here for Michelle Pfeiffer having the opportunity to turn in another memorably brittle performance and telling off Aaron Eckhart.