Cast and Character Guide for ‘The First Lady’: Who’s Who in the Patriotic Anthology Series

The upcoming Showtime series The First Lady is one of the most anticipated series of the spring, and it’s not hard to understand why. Boasting a cast of movie stars and pop culture icons, the series is a deep dive into three of the most impactful and celebrated First Ladies of the United States in American history. The political anthology series will be set in three different time periods and follow the lives of Eleanor Roosevelt, Betty Ford, and Michelle Obama as they perform their duties as first lady, in addition to exploring their childhoods and young adult life.

The First Lady will star Gillian Anderson as Eleanor Roosevelt, Michelle Pfeiffer as Betty Ford, and Viola Davis as Michelle Obama. Setting out to examine each woman’s life before they stepped foot in the White House, the series will reveal what their time was like inside, and how they both worked and clashed with their husbands during their time in Washington D.C amidst political scandals and political triumphs. Premiering on Showtime Sunday, April 17 at 9 p.m. E.T., the series has a long, prolific cast slated to play famous politicians, the first family’s children, journalists, and more. In preparation for episode 1, here’s the cast and character guide for The First Lady.

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Viola Davis as Michelle Obama

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Viola Davis is stepping into the shoes of First Lady Michelle Obama, wife to the 44th President of the United States, Barack Obama. Born Michelle LaVaughn Robinson to Fraser Robinson III and Marian Shields in 1964, she was raised on the south side of Chicago alongside her older brother Craig Robinson, and went on to become an attorney after attending Princeton University and Harvard University. One of the most impactful First Ladies in American history and the first African American First Lady, Mrs. Obama advocated for healthy eating and fitness, the importance of education, and women empowerment in addition to giving several memorable speeches throughout her time at the White House.

Beginning in 2008 when Mr. and Mrs. Obama arrive at the White House with their two young daughters, Malia and Sasha Obama, the series will highlight the various highs and lows of her career as the first lady, mother and wife. This marks Davis’s return to television in a leading role after starring as the lawyer and Professor Annalise Keeting in the ABC drama series, How to Get Away With Murder. For her role, she won an Emmy Award for Outstanding Lead Actress in a Drama series in 2015. Davis is also a four-time Academy Award nominated Actress, and won the Best Supporting Actress Oscar in 2014 for her performance in the movie Fences. Most recently Davis appeared in James Gunn’s The Suicide Squad reprising her role as Amanda Waller, she reprised the role again as a guest on Peacemaker. She starred alongside Sandra Bullock in Netflix’s hit drama The Unforgivable late in 2021. Next up for Davis is starring in Gina Prince-Bythewood‘s historical epic The Woman King at Sony.

O-T Fagbenle as Barack Obama

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O-T Fagbenle plays Barack Obama, the 44th President of the United States. Serving in office for two terms from 2009-2017, Obama was the first African American President of the United States and a member of the Democratic Party, with Joe Biden serving as his Vice President. Prior to his years in the White House, Obama served as an Illinois State Senator. Mr. Obama met Mrs. Obama in Chicago, Illinois, where both spent most of their childhood, and the pair got married in the early 90s. Fagbenle is best known for his work in the Hulu Original Series, The Handmaid’s Tale, for which he was nominated for an Emmy Award. His other acting credits include the HBO series Looking, Apple TV+’s WeCrashed, and the 2021 Marvel movie, Black Widow.

Michelle Pfeiffer as Betty Ford

Michelle Pfeiffer in The First Lady
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The First Lady marks Michelle Pfeiffer‘s first series regular role in a television series. With a prolific career that spans four decades, Pfeiffer is arriving to the small screen as Betty Ford, wife to the 38th President of the United States, Gerald Ford. Mrs. Ford served as first lady from 1974-1977 and was extremely active in the political world which then set a precedent for first ladies to come. Born Elizabeth Anne Bloomer in 1918 in Chicago, Illinois, she was a vocal feminist during her time in the White House and advocated for Breast Cancer awareness, the Equal Rights Amendment, and abortion rights amongst other things.

Mrs. Ford struggled with alcoholism and substance abuse before, after, and during her years as first lady, and she eventually got clean and founded the now well-known Betty Ford Center for substance abuse and addiction. The First Lady will follow Mrs. Ford over the course of her life, and the various initiatives she led during her time in the White House while suffering from her various addictions. Pfeiffer’s previous television ventures include the made for television HBO film, House of Lies, in which she co-starred opposite Robert De Niro and was nominated for an Emmy Award. She can next be seen in the 2023 Marvel movie, Ant-Man and the Wasp: Quantumania.

Aaron Eckhart as Gerald Ford

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Gerald Ford will be portrayed by actor Aaron Eckhart. The 38th President of the United States, Ford served for one term and was notably the Vice President to President Richard Nixon from 1973-1974 during Nixon’s second term. Shrouded in controversy in the aftermath of the Watergate Scandal, Nixon resigned from the presidency in 1974 and Ford took over the role. Though he ran for re-election in 1976 as a Republican, Ford lost to Democrat Jimmy Carter, who would go on to serve as President of the United States for one term from 1971-1981. Primarily a film actor, Eckhart is known for his roles in films Erin Brockovich, The Dark Knight, and Thank You for Smoking. His previous television credits include appearing in the episode “The Violet Hour” in the Amazon Prime Anthology series The Romanoffs, and a guest appearance role in the NBC series, Frasier.

Dakota Fanning as Susan Ford

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Dakota Fanning will star as Susan Ford, daughter to Gerald and Betty Ford. Susan was a teenager during her time in the White House and is the youngest and only daughter in the Ford family with three older brothers. The First Lady will explore how being a teenager at the White House affected Ford and the various relationships within her family during her adolescence, and what it was like growing up under the media spotlight. Fanning currently stars in the TNT thriller series The Alienist as journalist Sara Howard.

Gillian Anderson as Eleanor Roosevelt

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No stranger to the world of television, Gillian Anderson is slated to play Eleanor Roosevelt, a pioneering first lady and wife to Franklin D. Roosevelt, the 32nd President of the United States. Mrs. Roosevelt served as the first lady of the United States from 1933-1945 during one of the hardest periods in American history amidst both the Great Depression and World War II. An advocate for human rights in all regards, Mrs. Roosevelt was a vocal and unapologetic voice within the political world during a time when it was unprecedented for women to insert themselves into the male-dominated environment. Niece of Theodore Roosevelt, the 29th President of the United States, Mrs. Roosevelt was a prolific writer and radio show host and was immersed into the world of politics for her entire life.

Anderson has been in the world of television since 1993, when she began starring in the science fiction series The X-Files on Fox as FBI Agent Dana Scully. Her role as agent Scully had a massive impact within American culture and became a cultural phenomenon, leading Anderson to transform into a 90s icon. Known for playing headstrong women, she’s a two-time Emmy Award-winning actress for her work in The X-Files and for her supporting role in the fourth season of The Crown as another political figure, English Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher. Anderson currently stars in the Netflix Original Series Sex Education.

Kiefer Sutherland as Franklin D. Roosevelt

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Franklin Delano Roosevelt will be played by television star veteran Kiefer Sutherland. Frequently referred to as FDR, Roosevelt served as the 32nd President of the United States from 1933 up through 1945 when he died. Regarded as one of the greatest presidents in American history, Roosevelt led Americans through the Great Depression and World War II and is known for spearheading the New Deal agenda in order to help millions of struggling Americans.

FDR is the only president to be elected to a third term when he was re-elected in 1940, and once again when he won re-election in 1944 and began his fourth term as president. He then died in 1945 from an intracerebral hemorrhage after struggling with severe health issues and was succeeded by Vice President Gordon Woodbury. Sutherland is best known for his role as Jack Bauer in the Fox thriller series, 24. This also isn’t Sutherland’s first time stepping foot into the White House, as he portrayed the President of the United States in the ABC turned Netflix political thriller series, Designated Survivor.

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Lily Rabe as Lorena Hickok

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The groundbreaking journalist Lorena Hickock will be played by actress Lily Rabe. Hickok was known to be one of Eleanor Roosevelt’s greatest friends and peers, often giving her advice in both her professional and personal life. The First Lady will explore their friendship throughout the years, and how the two supported each other in all their endeavors. Rabe is best known for her work in the FX anthology horror series, American Horror Story, and most recently starred in the 2021 film, The Tender Bar.

Additional Cast and Characters

The Obama Family

Jayme Lawson as the young Michelle Obama

Regina Taylor as Marian Shields Robinson

Michael Potts as Fraser Robinson III

Lexi Underwood as Malia Obama

Saniyya Sidney as Sasha Obama

The Ford Family

Kristine Froseth as young Betty Ford

Ben Cook as Steven Ford

The Roosevelt Family

Eliza Scanlen as young adult Eleanor Roosevelt

Cailee Spaeny as young Eleanor Roosevelt

Ellen Burstyn as Sara Delano Roosevelt

Jeremy Bobb as Theodore Roosevelt

Viola Davis in 'How To Get Away With Murder,' 'The First Lady,' and 'Ma Rainey's Black Bottom'

Inspiring Viola Davis Performances to Watch While Waiting for ‘The First Lady’ TV Series

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