Oscar-nominated Naomi Watts is set to star as anchor Gretchen Carlson opposite her longtime friend Russell Crowe in Showtime’s upcoming limited series about Fox News founder Roger Ailes. Oscar winner Crowe plays Ailes in the project, which is set to start production next month. Emmy nominee Kari Skogland (The Handmaid’s Tale) will direct the first two episodes.
The as-yet untitled series (fka Secure and Hold: The Last Days of Roger Ailes), a Blumhouse Television and Showtime co-production, is based on Gabriel Sherman’s bestselling book The Loudest Voice in the Room and his extensive reporting for New York magazine about the sordid allegations of sexual harassment that prompted the late Ailes’ ouster at Fox News. Sherman co-wrote the first episode with Spotlight writer Tom McCarthy, who executive produces with Jason Blum.
Watts will portray journalist Carlson, who rose to prominence over a decade ago at Fox News – from a co-anchor at Fox and Friends to anchoring her own show, The Real Story. As the first woman to file a sexual harassment suit against Ailes, Carlson was pivotal in changing the conversation in the U.S. before the #MeToo movement and in bringing down the previously untouchable media titan.
In Annapurna’s Fox News feature, which also is gearing up, Carlson will be portrayed by another longtime friend of Watts’, and fellow Aussie, Nicole Kidman.
According to the producers of the Showtime series, telling the story of Ailes, who molded Fox News into a force that irrevocably changed the conversation about the highest levels of of government, will help understand the events that led the rise of Donald Trump. The series focuses primarily on the past decade in which Ailes arguably became the Republican Party’s de facto leader, while flashing back to defining events in Ailes’ life, including an initial meeting with Richard Nixon on the set of The Mike Douglas Show that gave birth to Ailes’ political career and the sexual harassment accusations and settlements that brought his Fox News reign to an end. Told through multiple points of view, the limited series aims to shed light on the psychology that drives the political process from the top down.
Crowe, McCarthy, Blum and Alex Metcalf executive produce with Marci Wiseman and Jeremy Gold for Blumhouse Television, along with Liza Chasin (Darkest Hour) of 3dot Productions, who recently joined as executive producer.
Watts, a multiple Oscar, SAG and Golden Globe nominee, recently reunited with her Mulholland Drive director David Lynch to co-star on his 18-part Showtime limited series Twin Peaks. She is now reuniting with the pay cable network. She is repped by CAA.