Seth MacFarlane (The Orville), Sienna Miller (Live by Night), Simon McBurney (The Theory of Everything) and Annabelle Wallis(Peaky Blinders) are set to star opposite Russell Crowe and Naomi Watts in Showtime’s upcoming eight-episode limited series about Fox News founder Roger Ailes, played by Crowe.
All four will play key figures in the Ailes real-life saga: MacFarlane will portray Ailes’ former confidant Brian Lewis, McBurney will play Fox head Rupert Murdoch, Miller is Ailes’ ex-wife Beth, while Wallis is former Fox News exec Laurie Luhn.
This is a rare drama acting gig for MacFarlane who stars on his latest series, Fox’s The Orville, and voices characters on some of his animated series, most notably Family Guy. It took weeks of trying to make the deal for the Showtime limited series work around his busy schedule on The Orville, which he also showruns, writes for and directs. In June, MacFarlane made headlines with his tweet criticizing Fox News’ coverage.
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.
MacFarlane will play Brian Lewis, Fox News’ former public relations chief for more than 17 years and Ailes’ closest confidant and supporter. Lewis spent his career promoting and protecting Ailes until the media machine turned against Lewis and ended his career.
Miller will portray former NBC news producer Elizabeth ‘Beth” Ailes, who married Roger, 22 years her senior, in 1998, shortly after the founding of Fox News. Following their marriage, Beth devoted herself to raising their son Zachary as well as serving as the editor of the Putnam County News & Recorder newspaper in their home of Garrison, NY. Beth was a steadfast champion of Roger until his death in 2017 and, to this day, refutes any charge that her husband was less than innocent.
McBurney will play media magnate Rupert Murdoch. Murdoch built his father’s Australian newspaper company into a worldwide media empire. But his single greatest media move might have been hiring Roger Ailes to run Fox News, who, against all odds, created a conservative cable news network from the ground up and built it into a multi-billion dollar profit machine.
Wallis is Laurie Luhn, a volunteer who, under Ailes’ mentorship, rose to head of booking at Fox News. Giving into Ailes’ growing demands, she began a long abusive relationship with him that impacted the rest of her life.
Watts plays former Fox News anchor Gretchen Carlson.
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.
Four-time Emmy winner and Oscar nominee MacFarlane created and stars in Fox’s hit animated series Family Guy, and stars as Captain Ed Mercer in The Orville, which he created, writes, directs and executive produces. He is repped by CAA, Jackoway Austen and manager Joy Fehily.
Miller will next be seen in Jake Scott-directed American Woman set for release later this year. Her other feature credits include The Catcher Was A Spy, Live By Night and The Lost City of Z.
McBurney recently wrapped the first season of Amazon’s Carnival Row. He’s repped by UTA, Circle of Confusion and Troika in the UK.
Wallis was most recently seen in the feature film comedy Tag and recently wrapped production on Boss Level, opposite Mel Gibson. She’s repped by UTA, Untitled Entertainment and attorney Karl Austen.