Viola Davis to Play Michelle Obama in TV Series—But That’s Just The Beginning

'First Ladies' is set up at Showtime.

viola davis, best performance, by mario sorrenti, styled by edward enninful. W magazine Feb 2012.jpg
Photo by Mario Sorrenti, styled by Edward Enninful.

Viola Davis will be rapping up her stint in Shondaland after this season of How To Get Away With Murder, but it seems you won’t have to wait long to see the Oscar winner back on your television. Davis is attached to star as Michelle Obama in the Showtime project First Ladies, which she’ll also co-produce, but that’s just the beginning. The potential anthology series will explore some of America’s most captivating first ladies during their times in the East Wing. In addition to Obama, the first season will also focus on Eleanor Roosevelt and Betty Ford.

Davis is a longtime admirer of the former First Lady, having wished her a happy birthday earlier this year on Twitter, calling her, “My image of grace and beauty and intelligence.” Davis has also long been mentioned online as a dream casting for the role of Obama.

According to Deadline, the project is in fast track development and has already received a three script commitment (novelist Aaron Cooley would write and produce the series). The series would focus on the First Lady’s personal and public lives, while shining light on the history-making decisions they made behind the scenes.

The trio of women chosen for the first season certainly offers an interesting cross section of life in 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue. Obama was not only the first African-American First Lady, but uplifted and inspired millions even at a time that American political discourse spun into the toilet.

Roosevelt, meanwhile, is not only the longest serving First Lady in history, but still stands alone for the amount of influence and power she wielded from her office. She carved out a media career for herself in the white house by writing regular columns, giving press conferences (from which male reporters were pointedly banned) and hosting a radio show, and was also noted for her fight for the civil rights of African and Asian Americans despite her husband’s more moderate positions.

Ford, meanwhile, is not only the only Republican spouse in the first season, but also had the shortest tenure in the East Wing. Still, she managed to create a lasting legacy by being outspoken about Feminism and her more liberal views of social issues. Though, she underwent a mastectomy to treat breast cancer just weeks into her tenure, and dealt with addiction issues in the White House, something she went on to be notably outspoken about. She’d go on to co-found the Betty Ford Center.

No casting announcement have been made when it comes to the roles of Roosevelt or Ford yet.

Of course, should the project succeed it’s certainly set itself up for a solid future as well. It could certainly provide some enticing material for a blue chip actress looking to do a season of television and possibly collect an Emmy nomination in return, and the list of First Ladies not included in the first season promises some enticing seasons down the road as well.

No one needs convincing that the First Ladyships of Hillary Clinton, Jacqueline Kennedy, and Nancy Reagan could make for intriguing television, but that’s just the beginning. Take Edith Wilson, for example, who actually married Woodrow Wilson while he was in office after his first wife died. She went on to stir controversy by exercising unprecedented power as First Lady after the President suffered a stroke. Rosalynn Carter sat in on cabinet meetings and fought for mental health advocacy. Dolly Madison was the fourth First Lady (long before the role was known as such), but the first to define the role as a hostess (there’s also the story of her saving a portrait of George Washington from a fire).

Though, we’re getting ahead of ourselves perhaps. Davis as Michelle Obama is more than enough to look forward to right now.