Showtime has given a straight-to-series order to one-hour drama First Ladies, whose first season stars Viola Davis as former first lady Michelle Obama. Davis also executive produces the series, which was put on fast-track development at the premium cabler last August with a three-script commitment.
It hails from writer Aaron Cooley (novels Four Seats: A Thriller of the Supreme Court, The Guns of Ridgewood), Davis and Julius Tennon’s JuVee Productions, Cathy Schulman’s Welle Entertainment (Otherhood), Jeff Gaspin’s Gaspin Media (LA’s Finest) and Brad Kaplan (The Intruder). Showtime and Lionsgate TV co-produce.
Written by Cooley, First Ladies is set in the East Wing of the White House, where many of history’s most impactful and world-changing decisions have been hidden from view, made by America’s charismatic, complex and dynamic first ladies. The series will peel back the curtain on the personal and political lives of our most enigmatic heroes, with Season 1 focusing on Eleanor Roosevelt, Betty Ford and Michelle Obama.
“Throughout our history, presidents’ spouses have wielded remarkable influence, not only on the nation’s leaders but on the country itself.” said Jana Winograde, President of Entertainment, Showtime Networks. “First Ladies fits perfectly within the Showtime wheelhouse of drama and politics, revealing how much personal relationships impact both domestic and global events. Having Viola Davis play Michelle Obama is a dream come true, and we couldn’t be luckier to have her extraordinary talent to help launch this series.”
The idea for the series originated with Schulman, who was inspired by a spec script Cooley had written about Lady Bird Johnson. In line with the mission of Schulman’s company Welle Entertainment, which is dedicated to making female facing content, the series will look at American history presidencies through a female lens — the first ladies.
Cooley executive produces along with Davis and Tennon via their JuVee Productions, Schulman via Welle Entertainment, Gaspin via Gaspin Media and Kaplan via LINK Entertainment.
Material for First Ladies comes entirely from the public domain. Several years ago, Reese Witherspoon and Anonymous Content teamed to produce a TV series based on Kate Andersen Brower’s bestseller First Women: The Grace & Power of America’s Modern First Ladies, with Robin Wright attached to direct and executive produce.
Davis earned Emmy, Golden Globe and SAG awards for her lead role in How To Get Away With Murder, which is wrapping up its sixth and final season on ABC. She and Tennon most recently executive produced with Steph Curry the documentary Emanuel, about the mass shooting at Emanuel AME Church on June 17, 2015. JuVee’s Davis and Tennon also are executive producing Fast Color, a TV series based on the 2018 sci-fi film, for Amazon.
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