What comes to mind when you think of the White House? Maybe it's the president; maybe it's the Oval Office. After watching Showtime's new anthology series, "The First Lady," out April 17, you're likely to think of the women who have inhabited those hallways over the years.
"The First Lady" focuses on three of those women, who used the office of first lady to effect change. The cast transforms into a host of real-life figures from three eras in the 20th and 21st centuries.
The intimate series takes audiences behind-the-scenes to the executive residence of the White House, where the first lady and president reside. In doing so, we see the role these prominent figures had in shaping American culture — and how the role of first lady shaped them.
In addition to showing how they approached being first lady, the 10-episode series will put a spotlight on their closest relationships. Deadline reported that the storylines are "so intimate, it's as if the White House walls were talking."
Aside from Davis, Pfeiffer and Anderson, other are other prominent names in Hollywood are poised to appear in the show such as O-T Fagbenle as Barack Obama, Dakota Fanning as Susan Elizabeth Ford, Kiefer Sutherland as Franklin Delano Roosevelt, Lily Rabe as Lorena Hickock, and more.
Read on to get a list of the full cast compared to their real-life counterparts.
Viola Davis as Michelle Obama
Unlike some of the other stars of "The First Lady," Davis is playing a person who can actually watch the show — and she reportedly feels the pressure.
During a CTAM panel in Feb., Davis said the thought of Michelle Obama watching her portrayal of her "keeps her up at night," per Deadline. “You don’t want to insult them by your portrayal," she said.
While there is ample information available about Obama, including her recent memoir, Davis knew she had to take creative liberties with the part.
"I don’t know how she lays in bed with Barack or how she disciplines her children. There are small minutiae that I can just take creative license with and hope that I’m not insulting her with it. That’s what you have to navigate as an artist," she said.
Based on Obama's comments about "The First Lady," Davis's fears should be assuaged. Obama told Entertainment Tonight that she thinks that Davis is "the greatest."
“I feel that I’m not worthy,” she told ET. “I wish I could be better to live up to the character that Viola has to play, but it’s exciting.”
In a flashback episode, Jayme Lawson will play a younger version of Michelle Obama.
Michelle Pfeiffer as Betty Ford
Michelle Pfeiffer told TODAY she agreed to play Betty Ford before before reading the script for "The First Lady."
"She saved hundreds of thousands of people's lives," Pfeiffer said on TODAY, referring to her work with the Betty Ford Center, now called the Hazeldon Betty Ford Clinic, a treatment center for people with substance dependence issues.
Ford, who served as first lady from 1974 to 1977, was remarkably open about topics considered taboo at the time, like her journey with substance abuse and cancer treatment. She was diagnosed with breast cancer seven weeks into her tenure in the White House.
“She was really popular, and it was because of her candor and because she was so open and transparent about her struggles, first of all. She talked about — freely — subject matter that was very taboo at the time," Pfeiffer said.
Ford spoke about her approach to being the First Lady in her memoir. “I figured, OK, I’ll move to the White House, do the best I can and if they don’t like it, they can kick me out, but they can’t make me somebody I’m not,” she wrote.
Kristine Froseth will play a younger version of Betty Ford.
Gillian Anderson as Eleanor Roosevelt
After playing Margaret Thatcher in "The Crown," Anderson is on to another political figure. She plays Eleanor Roosevelt, wife to Franklin D. Roosevelt, in the series.
In the show, Roosevelt reckons with her own ambition to change the world, bucking against societal expectations of what a woman's place should be (especially in the White House). The show also explores her relationship with her husband in different stages, including after he contracts polio.
O-T Fagbenle as Barack Obama
You may recognize Fagbenle from his work in “The Handmaid’s Tale” and “WeCrashed.” He plays Barack Obama, the 44th President of the United States, and the country’s first Black president, in “The First Lady.”
Ahead of filming, the British actor tried to get in touch with the former president through co-star Davis's connection to Michelle Obama.
“This is what happened: Viola knows Michelle, and Viola had been chatting to Michelle, so I was like, ‘Yo, ViVi, yo, help me out, bro, you got a hook up!’ So she put me in contact with the personal assistant of the president, and I’m like, I’m in. Yo, me and B are gonna play a bit of golf together,” Fagbenle recalled to Variety.
However, he was told Obama was “booked up,” and resorted to preparing for the role by studying (and putting on prosthetics, like the ears he wears in the show). Does Fagbenle nail Obama’s voice? You tell us.
Lexi Underwood as Malia Obama
Lexi Underwood, who you can see in the Hulu series “Little Fires Everywhere,” will play Malia Obama, the oldest daughter of Barack and Michelle Obama.
Saniyya Sidney as Sasha Obama
Saniyya Sidney previously starred as Venus Williams in “King Richard.” Here, she sees Sasha Obama, the Obama’s younger daughter, through the transition of becoming a “first daughter.”
The 15-year-old actor preciously worked with Davis for the movie “Fences.” Speaking to TODAY, she said it was a “gift” to reunite with Davis.
“Not only have I grown as an actress, but I’ve grown as a person,” said Sidney. “I got to sit down with Miss Viola and have, you know, grown-up conversations. It was really something special and something that I always cherish for sure.”
Regina Taylor as Marian Shields Robinson
Emmy Award-winning actor Regina Taylor plays Michelle Obama's mother, who moved into the White House in 2009 to support her daughter and her growing granddaughters.
"My job here is the easiest one of all: I just get to be Grandma," Robinson wrote in an essay about her time in the White House for Essence. "One of my biggest blessings is getting to see my granddaughters grow up before my eyes. I go to all their school plays and sports games; I’ll answer their questions, and like any grandparent, I try to make myself scarce when their friends are around."
Aaron Eckhart as Gerald Ford
Eckhart (“The Dark Knight,” “Sully”) takes on the role of Gerald Ford, 38th President of the United States, in “The First Lady.” Ford assumed the presidency after Richard Nixon resigned in 1974.
Dakota Fanning as Susan Elizabeth Ford
Dakota Fanning ("The Alienist," "I Am Sam") plays Susan Elizabeth Ford Bales, daughter of Betsy and Gerald Ford. Bales went on to become a photojournalist and the author of two White House-set novels, both having a first daughter as a protagonist.
Bales worked with her mother on many of her initiatives. They launched Breast Cancer Awareness Month in 1984, and in 2005, she succeeded her mother as as Chairman of the Board for the Betty Ford Center, a position she held for five years.
Kiefer Sutherland as Franklin Delano Roosevelt
Sutherland previously played a president on TV — albeit under much different circumstances. In "Designated Survivor," he stars as Thomas Kirkman, a low-ranking government official who becomes president after an explosion kills everyone ahead of him in the presidential line of succession.
"The First Lady" shows Roosevelt at various stages of his lauded political career, including leading the country through the Great Depression.
Cailee Spaeny as Anna Eleanor Roosevelt Halstead
Anna Eleanor Roosevelt, played by Cailee Spaeny ("Pacific Rim: Uprising," "On the Basis of Sex"), was the oldest child and only daughter of the Roosevelts. She became a writer and PR professional, and once hosted a radio show with her mother.
Rhys Wakefield as Dick Cheney
Rhys Wakefield ("The Purge," "True Detective") takes on the role of Dick Cheney, who was chief of staff under President Gerald Ford. Cheney went on to become vice president under George W. Bush.
Lily Rabe as Lorena Hickock
Lily Rabe ("American Horror Story") plays Lorena Hickock, a journalist who formed a friendship with Eleanor Roosevelt while covering FDR's campaign.
Derek Cecil as Donald Rumsfeld
Rumsfeld was the secretary of defense under President Ford from 1975-1977. At that time, he was the youngest secretary of defense to serve — and later became the oldest while working in George W. Bush's administration. In "The First Lady," he's played by Derek Cecil ("House of Cards.")
Correction, 4/18 at 2:59 p.m.: Correctly attributed the portrayal of Marian Shields Robinson.