Inside the halls of power. The new Showtime series “The First Lady” tells about what happens in the White House through the prism of the presidents’ wives — and several stars have undergone significant changes to play them.
Viola Davis plays former First Lady Michelle Obama, who lived in the White House from 2009 to 2017, while her husband Barack Obama was the 44th president of the United States. The 56-year-old graduate of the film “How to Get Away with Murder” won an Oscar, an Emmy and two Tony Awards, but she was still terrified by the prospect of playing a 58-year-old writer.
“Every time you start working, you’re terrified because you’re afraid of being recognized—it’s a big impostor syndrome,” Davis told Entertainment Tonight on Wednesday, April 13. over Michelle Obama. … Everyone knows how she looks, how she sounds, what kind of hair she has.”
Davis was also unique among the show’s two other lead actresses, Gillian Anderson and Michelle Pfeiffer, as the only one who played the first lady who is still alive. The 53-year-old “X-Files” graduate plays Eleanor Roosevelt, who died in 1962, and the 63-year-old “Batman Returns” actress plays Betty Ford, who died in 2011.
The Fences actress also had the opportunity to talk to the Harvard Law School graduate before the show’s premiere, but she said she didn’t want to talk too much about what they discussed because of confidentiality. However, Davis hinted that Michelle told her that some public assumptions about her character are very wrong.
“She said: “I’m not even an evil person,” the Oscar winner told Deadline earlier this month. “Isn’t that something? Look, I’m kind of an evil person, and she’s not. And so I wanted to honor her, not the idea of what black women should be like.”
O-T Fagbenle, who plays Barack, who is now 60, was unable to meet his on-screen colleague because the former president was “busy,” but he was still diligently preparing for the role. “Playing him for 15 years is also a challenge, but it was a wonderful challenge,” the 41—year-old “Black Widow” star told Variety in March, adding that the prosthetic ears were an important finishing touch.
However, even they required some adjustment for accuracy. “I was given prosthetics his size, but they seemed too big on my head,” explained Fagbenle. “They actually had to make my ears smaller than his to make it look realistic.”
The premiere of “The First Lady” will take place on Showtime on Sunday, April 17, at 21:00 ET.
Keep scrolling to see how the First Lady’s actors compare to their real-life counterparts:
Davis plays a lawyer, and Jamie Lawson plays a young version of a Chicago native.
Fagbenle plays a Columbia University graduate who was the first black president of the United States, Julian De Niro appears as a young Barack.
Pfeiffer plays Betty, who was First Lady from 1974 to 1977, while her husband Gerald Ford was the 38th president of the United States. Betty was also second lady from 1973 to 1974, when her husband was vice president. After leaving the White House, the Chicago native became famous for founding the Betty Ford Center after her own recovery from alcoholism and addiction to painkillers.
Aaron Eckhart appears alongside Pfeiffer as a Nebraska native who became president after Richard Nixon resigned following the Watergate scandal. He lost his re-election campaign in 1976.
Anderson plays Roosevelt, who was First Lady from 1933 to 1945, making her the longest-serving first lady in U.S. history.
Franklin Delano Roosevelt
Kiefer Sutherland appears as Eleanor’s husband, Franklin, who was the 32nd president of the United States. He was elected to a record four terms because Congress did not pass the 22nd Amendment limiting presidents to two terms until 1947. He died in April 1945 during the World War. II is still in progress.
Dakota Fanning plays Susan, the youngest daughter and only daughter of Gerald and Betty Ford. She has been the chair of the Betty Ford Center since 2005.
Rhys Wakefield appears as a young Cheney who worked in Ford’s White House and later became campaign manager for Gerald’s unsuccessful re-election bid. Cheney was also George W. Bush’s vice president from 2001 to 2009.
Lily Rabe plays Hickok, a journalist who was also a confidant of Eleanor Roosevelt. It has long been rumored that the duo had a romantic relationship, although historians still disagree about the nature of their relationship.