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'The First Lady' Premieres on Showtime

Marion Charatan

Posted on April 17, 2022 14:17

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A new 10-episode series created by Aaron Cooley about Presidents' wives airs Sundays on ShowTime at 9pm ET/PT.

Stories about First Ladies make intriguing narratives for television. Throughout U.S. history, a FLOTUS has been either an asset or a liability to arguably the most powerful man in the world. Whether you liked her or not, Nancy Reagan made an impact by 'just saying no' to drugs. And Laura Bush had a huge influence on literacy, crafting the National Book Festival. 

A new 10-episode Showtime series, The First Lady, focuses on three former First Ladies from different eras: Michelle Obama, Betty Ford, and Eleanor Roosevelt. Mrs. Obama, some assert, was even more popular than her spouse, former President Barack Obama, who was the first U.S. black President.

Viola Davis, an Oscar winner for Fences, was cast as Michelle Obama. The actress had reservations about playing such a well-known figure. Davis told Forbes, "I'm not going to lie. I was absolutely terrified.” She felt the public's familiarity with Mrs. Obama made her job hard: "It's so specific. And I had the insurmountable task of everyone knows who Michelle Obama is. Everybody has claimed ownership of her. Everybody has a time period where they loved her hair or hated her hair or loved her eyebrows or hated her eyebrows. There is nothing about her that they want desecrated.” 

Davis prepared for her role by listening to Mrs. Obama's podcasts. She was able to get a better sense of the Harvard-educated lawyer--who advocated STEM education for women, promoted healthy nutrition and exercise for kids, and championed military families.

Michelle Pfeiffer tackled the reenactment of Betty Ford. Mrs. Ford famously went into treatment for alcoholism and pill addiction (The Betty Ford Center is her namesake). She brought conversations about breast cancer to the forefront and overcame the disease publicly with grace. Pfeiffer said of Mrs. Ford, that it was "very important" to reveal her demons. Mrs. Ford's transparency helped many other people who were fighting cancer or addictions.

Finally, Gillian Anderson plays the venerable Eleanor Roosevelt. Mrs. Roosevelt changed the face of a First Lady--from primarily being a hostess in the White House to becoming a spokesperson for significant causes. The First Lady was a newspaper columnist for 20 years. Eleanor Roosevelt was credited for her husband's inspiring inauguration words, "We have nothing to fear but fear itself." Mrs. Roosevelt gleaned the words from the poet/philosopher Henry David Thoreau, whose original quote was “Nothing is so much to be feared as fear.” 

The series shows how determined, yet vulnerable First Ladies are. It becomes apparent that the role of FLOTUS is a true balancing act. A First Lady has the responsibility of representing the U.S. on the world stage, supporting probably the most influential person on the planet, and maintaining her principles simultaneously--while not ruffling the feathers of the political party in power. She has to take harsh criticism from all sides, all the time. Intense scrutiny and a constant lack of privacy cannot be easy for anyone: First Ladies are tougher than we think.

 

Marion Charatan

Posted on April 17, 2022 14:17

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Source: NBC Chicago

Irish mixed martial arts artist Conor McGregor announced his retirement on social media on Saturday night.

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