Viola Davis Plays Michelle Obama in Showtime's 'First Ladies' Anthology

Award-winning actor Viola Davis will portray former First Lady Michelle Obama in an anthology for Showtime on the nation’s first ladies. The “How to Get Away With Murder” star will also serve as an executive producer for the drama.

JuVee Productions, Davis and her husband Julius Tennon’s production company, is partnering with Lionsgate on the drama series, which tells the stories of the first ladies who have occupied the White House. The anthology, called “First Ladies,” will zero in on the personal and political lives of the country’s most powerful women.

“Proud to spotlight these brave, extraordinary women! #FirstLadies,” Davis wrote on Twitter. According to The Hollywood Reporter, the series is currently in development with an order for three scripts. The first season will take a look at the lives of Eleanor Roosevelt, Betty Ford, and Michelle Obama.

According to a synopsis Showtime provided to The North Star, “First Ladies” will be 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. This series will peel back the curtain on the personal and political lives of our most enigmatic heroes.

The script will be written by Four Seats: A Thriller of the Supreme Court author Aaron Cooley. The writer will also executive produce the series alongside Davis, Tennon, Jeff Gaspin, Brad Kaplan, and Oscar winner Cathy Schulman and her Welle Entertainment banner.

“Rosemarie Irving (#FourSeats) was my favorite character I’ve created for one of my novels,” Cooley wrote on Twitter, while announcing the show.

“So far writing 600 pages of a fictional First Lady, I thought maybe I should try my hand at some real ones.”

The series, which originated with Schulman, was inspired by a spec script written by Cooley about Lady Bird Johnson, Deadline reported. “First Ladies” will delve into American presidencies through the eyes of the first ladies, which is consistent with Welle Entertainment’s mission to focus on female facing content.

Showtime did not release an additional comment.

Davis currently stars in ABC’s “How to Get Away With Murder,” a legal drama entering its sixth and final season this September. The actor and producer has won an Oscar, Tony, and an Emmy. She previously starred in The Help and Fences.

According to Deadline, Davis and her husband joined forces with Golden State Warriors’ Steph Curry to executive produce the documentary “Emanuel” about the 2015 mass shooting at Emanuel AME Church.

In November 2018, the couple’s production company signed an exclusive first look feature production deal with Amazon Studios. In a statement at the time, Head of Amazon Studios Jennifer Salke said JuVee Productions “brings distinctive, fresh voices, and high-quality content to our customers in both theaters and on Prime Video,” Variety reported.

JuVee Productions has multiple projects in the works, including Amazon’s “Fast Color,” “Wild Seed,” and “The Asphalt Kiss.” If “First Ladies” moves to series, it would join Showtime’s “The L Word,” “The Chi,” “Penny Dreadful,” “Ray Donovan,” “On Becoming a God in Central Florida,” and others.

Former President Barack Obama and First Lady Michelle Obama have also moved into the entertainment business. The political power couple launched a production company called Higher Ground Productions and signed a multiyear production deal with streaming giant Netflix.

In April, the production company announced seven projects in the works as part of the partnership. The projects include several documentaries and a film about abolitionist and The North Star original founder Fredrick Douglass.

“Touching on issues of race and class, democracy and civil rights and much more, we believe each of these productions won’t just entertain, but will educate, connect, and inspire us all,” Obama said in a statement at the time, according to The New York Times.

The projects announced are: “Bloom,” a film adaptation of historian David W. Blight’s “Frederick Douglass: Prophet of Freedom,” an adaptation of a New York Times series called “Overlooked,” a series based on journalist Michael Lewis’ “The Fifth Risk: Undoing Democracy,” “Crip Camp,” and a series for preschoolers called “Listen to Your Vegetables & Eat Your Parents.”

The company released its first Netflix documentary, American Factory, on August 21. The film looks into the life of US workers in a Chinese-owned production line near Dayton, Ohio. The documentary has caused mixed feelings in China and has captivated Weibo, a Chinese social media site, Yahoo! Finance reported.


About the Author

Nicole Rojas is a breaking news writer for The North Star. She has published in various venues, including Newsweek, GlobalPost, IHS Jane’s Defence Weekly, and the Long Island Post. Nicole graduated from Boston University in 2012 with a degree in print journalism. She is an avid world traveler who recently explored Asia and Australia.