What happens when a beloved Oscar, Tony, Obie, Emmy, Golden Globe, SAG, BAFTA, BET, and NAACP Award-winning actress (to name a few), meets a forever beloved, bestselling author first lady? Okay, Viola Davis and Michelle Obama have met before—in fact, they’re quite friendly—but never quite like this. As The Root reported over two years ago (and somewhat predicted back in 2013), Davis was the natural choice for the coveted role of Michelle Obama in Showtime’s upcoming limited series The First Lady, which also features fellow luminaries Gillian Anderson as Eleanor Roosevelt and Michelle Pfeiffer as Betty Ford in its upcoming first season. Entertainment Weekly obtained exclusive images of Davis in costume (as well as Anderson and Pfeiffer), and, well...it’s even better casting than we thought.
The pursed-lip grin! The perfect coif! The (formerly) over-plucked brows! It’s an exercise in nostalgia we didn’t know we needed, since, unlike first ladies Roosevelt and Ford, Mrs. Obama is still very much a part of our daily discourse. But without question, the Obama era was a far happier time and place than the one in which we’ve lived in since, making this a welcome trip down memory lane. We’re also here for the images of Regina Taylor as matriarch Marian Shields Robinson and Lexi Underwood and Saniyya Sidney as Malia and Sasha, respectively...not to mention The Handmaid’s Tale’s O-T Fagbenle as Barack Obama, because whew!
But of course, all eyes will be on Davis as she portrays the woman she called “a goddess” in an interview following her win at this year’s NAACP Awards, noting that she went into the role of Obama without any consultation or advice from the former first lady herself—though EW notes the two did chat. “I wish she had [given advice], because I could use that right now, Michelle,” Davis joked, later adding, “I love her beyond love, and I think she would never [advise me] because she has too much respect for people in whatever field they study. She is just a bastion of support.”
Instead, Davis reportedly studied the 2020 Netflix documentary Becoming to get Obama’s mannerisms and cadence down pat. With a first look at how Davis physically inhabits the political icon—including those incredible arms, no doubt—we’re eager to get lost in what we know will be a sensitive portrayal when the anthology debuts in Spring 2022.
“I feel very protective of Michelle,” Davis told EW. “It’s our job as actors not to judge whoever we are portraying, but I ended up thinking she’s just dope.” (As do we.)
“It was terrifying but an incredible honor to portray this extraordinary woman,” Davis added on Instagram. “Can’t wait to share Showtime’s The First Lady! ❤️”