In his first major TV role, two-time Oscar winner Sean Penn has been tapped as the male lead of The First, House of Cards creator Beau Willimon’s straight-to-series drama, slated to premiere on Hulu and Channel 4 in 2018.


Written by Willimon, The First follows the first human mission to Mars, exploring the challenges of taking the first steps toward interplanetary colonization. The story focuses not only on the astronauts, but also on their families and loved ones, as well as the ground team on Earth.

Details of Penn’s role are not being revealed but his character, referred to as Tom Haggerty, is believed to be a former NASA astronaut.

Willimon is executive producing the series with his producing partner Jordan Tappis,

“I have such deep admiration for Sean’s immense talent and extraordinary body of work,” said Willimon. “I feel very lucky to be collaborating with an artist of his caliber.”

The First is one of several high-profile upcoming series for Hulu, which is riding high on the Emmy success of The Handmaid’s Tale. 

Penn has been nominated five times for the Best Actor Oscar, winning twice for Clint Eastwood’s Mystic River and Gus Van Sant’s Milk. His rare TV appearances include guest stints on comedies Friends, The Larry Sanders Show, Ellen and Two and a Half Men. 

The First, which will go into production later this year, is owned and produced by Westward Productions, founded by Willimon and Tappis, and co-financed by Hulu, Channel 4, IMG and AG Studios. IMG will handle all international rights.