Gillian Anderson

The First Lady: Gillian Anderson is taking on the role of Eleanor Roosevelt in a new period drama

Posted by for TV

The anthology series will see Anderson star alongside Viola Davis as Michelle Obama and Michelle Pfeiffer as Betty Ford.

Off the back of her success as Margaret Thatcher in season four of The Crown, Gillian Anderson is set to star as another historical figure in her latest role – this time, as the influential Eleanor Roosevelt.

The role will see her star alongside Viola Davis and Michelle Pfeiffer in the new three-part anthology series The First Lady, which will take a look at America’s historic presidencies through a female lens. Davis and Pfeiffer will play Michelle Obama and Betty Ford respectively.

As previously reported by Stylist, the series will be set in the White House’s residential East Wing rather than the West, and will explore the influential role America’s First Ladies have played in many of the country’s big historical moments.  

While season one of the series will focus on Roosevelt, Ford and Obama, there’s plenty of scope to expand the series to focus on the many First Ladies the country has seen throughout its history.

In taking on Eleanor Roosevelt, Anderson has got some pretty big shoes to fill. Not only is Roosevelt the longest-serving First Lady in history (she took on the role from 1933 to 1945), she was also the first to hold regular press conferences, to which she only invited women reporters (a move which forced many newspapers to hire women as reporters for the first time).  

Eleanor Roosevelt sat with headphones on at a 1946 UN conference
Eleanor Roosevelt at a UN conference in 1946.

She was also outspoken about human rights, and in the years after her husband’s death in 1945, she became the first woman to serve as a delegate on the new United Nations General Assembly. She later went on to be the first chairperson of the United Nations Commision on Human Rights, and is said to have played an influential role in drafting the Universal Declaration of Human Rights.

Alongside Davis and Pfeiffer, other confirmed cast members for the series include Aaron Eckhart as Garald Ford, Judy Greer as Nancy Howe (Betty Ford’s social secretary), Jayme Lawson as a young Michelle Obama and Kristine Forseth as a young Betty Ford. Rhys Wakefield has also been confirmed as Dick Cheney, President Ford’s deputy chief of staff. 

Susanne Bier, who recently directed Nicole Kidman and Hugh Grant’s smash hit drama The Undoing and has worked on projects including The Night Manager and Bird Box, is taking on the role of director and executive producer.

Although we don’t know much about when we can expect the series to air, it’s safe to say the cast line-up has left us feeling pretty damn excited.  We’ll update you with more information when we get it.

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Lauren Geall

As Stylist’s junior digital writer, Lauren Geall writes on topics including mental health, wellbeing and work. She’s also a big fan of houseplants and likes to dabble in film and TV from time-to-time.