These days it seems every great film actress is on television. Even more so than their male peers, A-List actresses are flooding the small screen. Seriously, at last count, 18 Oscar Best Actress winners have TV projects on air or in the works.
This is in no small part to the work of super producer Ryan Murphy. The floodgate seemed to open when he cast Jessica Lange, a two-time Academy Award winner, in a supporting part in the first season of American Horror Story. She soon became the franchise’s bona fide star for the next three seasons, and despite the shows knowing campiness and at times disjointed plot lines, Lange won two Emmys for her work on the show.
Since then Murphy has used Horror Story to breath new life into the careers of Kathy Bates and Angela Bassett. He’s got Jamie Lee Curtis on Scream Queens. From what we’ve seen, Susan Sarandon looks good enough on Feud that we’re willing to put aside our differences with her unique take on presidential politics. Gwyneth Paltrow wasn’t a full-time cast member of Glee, but you could tell she kind of wished she was. The New Normal may not have been a hit, but Ellen Barkin, in her first major recurring television role, was undoubtedly the best thing about it.
Now—and it’s almost surprising that it hasn’t happened yet—Murphy is luring non-other than Annette Bening into his world. The four-time Oscar nominee (and in many people’s views, her work in 20th Century Women should have warranted a fifth this year) is joining the next season of American Crime Story.
This is the season that will feature on the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina (as opposed to the also announced third season, which will fictionalize the murder of Gianni Versace). Bening will play Kathleen Blanco, the governor of Louisiana at the time who took quite a bit of blame for the shortcomings of the state government’s immediate response to the disaster. The series is based on the book The Great Deluge, and Blanco, along with New Orleans Mayor Ray Nagin and FEMA director Michael Brown, also feature prominently in the narrative, but those roles have not been cast. In fact, aside from Sarah Paulson, who is returning in an unspecified role, Bening is the first actor tied to the season.
It’s also a first for, as in her first major episodic television role. Well, aside from popping up in five episodes of PBS Kids series Liberty’s Kids to voice Abigail Adams.
The second installment of American Crime Story will not premiere until 2018; the third Versace-themed season will air shortly after. Then the fourth season will reportedly focus on the impeachment of Bill Clinton, which only begs the question as to what film actresses Murphy will lure to TV with the promise of the roles of Donatella Versace, Monica Lewisnky and Hillary Clinton.