Viola Davis to play Michelle Obama in ‘First Ladies’ series in development at Showtime

It’s fair to say that Viola Davis’ potential next TV role will come with a lot of pressure.

The actress has signed on to play former First Lady Michelle Obama in a series titled “First Ladies” which is in the works at Showtime. The network has given the prospective one-hour drama a three-script commitment, with novelist Aaron Cooley on board to write and executive produce.

The series will peel back the curtain on the personal and political lives of First Ladies from throughout history, with season one focusing on Eleanor Roosevelt, Betty Ford and Michelle Obama. “First Ladies” will turns it lens on the East Wing of the White House, as opposed to the West, 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.

Davis and her partner Julius Tennon serve as non-writing executive producers on the project via their JuVee Productions banner, alongside Cathy Schulman via Welle Entertainment, Jeff Gaspin via Gaspin Media, and Brad Kaplan via LINK Entertainment. The series hails from Showtime and Lionsgate Television.

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Viola Davis out and about
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Viola Davis out and about
SUNDAY TODAY WITH WILLIE GEIST -- Pictured: (l-r) Viola Davis on May 5, 2019 -- (Photo by: Mike Smith/NBC/NBCU Photo Bank via Getty Images)
NEW YORK, NEW YORK - APRIL 25: (L-R) Dolores Grant, actress Viola Davis, Annabella Grant and Dianne Davis-Wright attend "A Touch Of Sugar" New York screening at The Roxy Cinema on April 25, 2019 in New York City. (Photo by Jim Spellman/Getty Images)
NEW YORK, NEW YORK - APRIL 24: Viola Davis visits "Extra" at Times Square on April 24, 2019 in New York City. (Photo by Theo Wargo/Getty Images)
NEW YORK, NEW YORK - APRIL 25: Actress Viola Davis attends "A Touch of Sugar" New York screening at The Roxy Cinema on April 25, 2019 in New York City. (Photo by Jim Spellman/Getty Images)
HOLLYWOOD, CALIFORNIA - MARCH 30: Viola Davis speaks onstage at the 50th NAACP Image Awards at Dolby Theatre on March 30, 2019 in Hollywood, California. (Photo by Kevin Winter/Getty Images)
LONDON, UNITED KINGDOM - 2019/02/10: Viola Davis and Julius Tennon at the EE British Academy Film Awards at the Royal Albert Hall, Kensington. (Photo by Keith Mayhew/SOPA Images/LightRocket via Getty Images)
PARK CITY, UTAH - FEBRUARY 01: Viola Davis attends "Troop Zero" Premiere during 2019 Sundance Film Festival at Eccles Center Theatre on February 01, 2019 in Park City, Utah. (Photo by Matt Winkelmeyer/Getty Images)
JIMMY KIMMEL LIVE! - "Jimmy Kimmel Live!" airs every weeknight at 11:35 p.m. EST and features a diverse lineup of guests that include celebrities, athletes, musical acts, comedians and human interest subjects, along with comedy bits and a house band. The guests for Tuesday, January 29, included Viola Davis ("How to Get Away with Murder"), Charles P. Pierce ("Politics with Charles P. Pierce"), and musical guest Cypress Hill. (Randy Holmes via Getty Images) VIOLA DAVIS
SANTA MONICA, CA - JANUARY 13: Viola Davis walks onstage during the 24th annual Critics' Choice Awards at Barker Hangar on January 13, 2019 in Santa Monica, California. (Photo by Kevin Winter/Getty Images for The Critics' Choice Awards)
HOW TO GET AWAY WITH MURDER - "Where Are Your Parents?" - Annalise gathers everyone together for the holidays while she wrestles over a difficult decision about her future, and the investigation into Miller's murder starts to widen on "How to Get Away with Murder," airing THURSDAY, FEB. 14 (10:00-11:00 p.m. EST), on The ABC Television Network. (Mitch Haaseth/ABC via Getty Images) VIOLA DAVIS
HOW TO GET AWAY WITH MURDER - "Be the Martyr" - Nate is on a mission to prove he was right about the culprit in his father's murder, while Bonnie begins to doubt herself; and Annalise turns the tables in the courtroom, on "How To Get Away with Murder," airing THURSDAY, JAN. 31 (10:00-11:00 p.m. EST), on The ABC Television Network. (Gilles Mingasson via Getty Images) VIOLA DAVIS
LOS ANGELES, CALIFORNIA - DECEMBER 05: Viola Davis attends The Hollywood Reporter's Power 100 Women In Entertainment at Milk Studios on December 05, 2018 in Los Angeles, California. (Photo by Presley Ann/Getty Images)
LOS ANGELES, CA - DECEMBER 05: Viola Davis accepts the Sherry Lansing Leadership Award onstage during The Hollywood Reporter's Power 100 Women In Entertainment at Milk Studios on December 5, 2018 in Los Angeles, California. (Photo by Jesse Grant/Getty Images for The Hollywood Reporter )
LOS ANGELES, CA - NOVEMBER 14: Viola Davis attends the gala screening of "Widows" during AFI FEST 2018 at the TCL Chinese Theatre on November 14, 2018 in Los Angeles, California. (Photo by Michael Kovac/Getty Images for AFI)
NEW YORK, NY - NOVEMBER 13: Actress Viola Davis attends the discussion of the film 'Widows' at 92nd Street Y on November 13, 2018 in New York City. (Photo by Gary Gershoff/Getty Images)
NEW YORK, NEW YORK - NOVEMBER 13: Actress Viola Davis visits "The Tonight Show Starring Jimmy Fallon" at Rockefeller Center on November 13, 2018 in New York City. (Photo by Mike Coppola/Getty Images for NBC)
TORONTO, ON - SEPTEMBER 08: Viola Davis attends the premiere of 'Widows' during the 2018 Toronto International Film Festival at Roy Thomson Hall on September 8, 2018 in Toronto, Canada. (Photo by Tara Ziemba/WireImage)
TORONTO, ON - SEPTEMBER 08: SEPTEMBER 08: Viola Davis attends the premiere of 'Widows' during the 2018 Toronto International Film Festival at Roy Thomson Hall on September 8, 2018 in Toronto, Canada. (Photo by Tara Ziemba/WireImage)
NEW YORK, NY - APRIL 27: Executive producer Viola Davis speaks onstage for 'The Last Defense' during the 2018 Tribeca Film Festival at SVA Theatre on April 27, 2018 in New York City. (Photo by Ben Gabbe/Getty Images for Tribeca Film Festival)
NEW YORK, NY - APRIL 27: Actor Viola Davis attends 'The Last Defense' during the 2018 Tribeca Film Festival at SVA Theatre on April 27, 2018 in New York City. (Photo by Ben Gabbe/Getty Images for Tribeca Film Festival)
NEW YORK, NY - APRIL 13: Julius Tennon and Viola Davis are seen on April 13, 2018 in New York City. (Photo by JNI/Star Max/GC Images)
Actor Viola Davis speaks onstage at the 2018 Women In The World Summit at Lincoln Center on April 12, 2018 in New York City. / AFP PHOTO / ANGELA WEISS (Photo credit should read ANGELA WEISS/AFP/Getty Images)
HOLLYWOOD, CA - MARCH 04: Viola Davis arrives at the 90th Annual Academy Awards at Hollywood & Highland Center on March 4, 2018 in Hollywood, California. (Photo by Steve Granitz/WireImage)
HOLLYWOOD, CA - MARCH 04: Viola Davis arrives at the 90th Annual Academy Awards at Hollywood & Highland Center on March 4, 2018 in Hollywood, California. (Photo by Steve Granitz/WireImage)
HOLLYWOOD, CA - MARCH 04: Actor Viola Davis speaks onstage during the 90th Annual Academy Awards at the Dolby Theatre at Hollywood & Highland Center on March 4, 2018 in Hollywood, California. (Photo by Kevin Winter/Getty Images)
BEVERLY HILLS, CA - MARCH 02: Viola Davis arrives at the 11th Annual Celebration Of The 2018 Female Oscar Nominees Presented By Women In Film at Crustacean on March 2, 2018 in Beverly Hills, California. (Photo by Steve Granitz/WireImage)
BEVERLY HILLS, CA - MARCH 02: Viola Davis attends Women In Film Pre-Oscar Cocktail Party presented by Max Mara and Lancome with additional support from Crustacean Beverly Hills, Johnnie Walker, Stella Artois and Cambria at Crustacean Beverly Hills on March 2, 2018 in Beverly Hills, California. (Photo by Emma McIntyre/Getty Images for Women in Film)
HOW TO GET AWAY WITH MURDER - 'Nobody Else Is Dying' - Annalise and her inner circle deal with the aftermath of a suspicious death that culminates with a shocking arrest. Meanwhile, a new development involving one of their own changes everything, on the season finale of 'How to Get Away with Murder,' THURSDAY, MARCH 15 (10:00-11:00 p.m. EDT), on The ABC Television Network. (Mitch Haaseth via Getty Images) VIOLA DAVIS
LOS ANGELES, CA - JANUARY 20: Actress Viola Davis speaks during the Women's March Los Angeles 2018 on January 20, 2018 in Los Angeles, California. (Photo by Chelsea Guglielmino/Getty Images)
HOW TO GET AWAY WITH MURDER - 'Lahey v. Commonwealth of Pennsylvania' - As Annalise's class-action case hangs in the balance, a meeting with the esteemed Washington D.C. fixer, Olivia Pope, proves to be crucial in getting the opportunity to argue her case in the nation's highest court. Meanwhile, Bonnie discovers concerning information pertaining to Simon that threatens to expose what really happened during night he was shot, on a special, TGIT Crossover Event episode of 'How to Get Away with Murder,' THURSDAY, MARCH 1 (10:00-11:00 p.m. EST), on The ABC Television Network. (Mitch Haaseth/ABC via Getty Images) VIOLA DAVIS
BEVERLY HILLS, CA - JANUARY 07: Viola Davis arrives at the 75th Annual Golden Globe Awards at The Beverly Hilton Hotel on January 7, 2018 in Beverly Hills, California. (Photo by Steve Granitz/WireImage)
BEVERLY HILLS, CA - JANUARY 07: Actress Viola Davis arrives at 2018 American Rescue Dog Show on January 7, 2018 in Beverly Hills, California. (Photo by Jerod Harris/WireImage)
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Michelle Obama has been portrayed on film before, but never on television. She was notably played by Tika Sumpter in the 2016 picture “Southside With You.”

The Obamas are making the leap into content production themselves via their recently launched Higher Ground Productions. So far, the company’s originals slate is staying away from anything directly involving politics, with “Bloom,” an upstairs/downstairs drama series set in the world of fashion in post-WWII New York City, and a feature film adaptation of author David W. Blight’s “Frederick Douglass: Prophet of Freedom” high up on the list.

Davis’ TV schedule is set to clear up in early 2020 as her five-year, six-season stint on “How to Get Away with Murder” comes to an end. Speaking at Variety’s Inclusion Summit earlier this year, Davis discussed some of her upcoming projects with JuVee and how to stop Hollywood from “dictating the storytelling” for people of color.

“If you look to the past and look at storytelling where there’s a huge deficit in terms of our voice and our presence, that’s not a good place to start,” she said. “What we have to fight for, and this is what I’m proud about with JuVee, is autonomy in storytelling and production and all of it. Don’t just tell me that the only way Viola can exist in the story is if a white person is leading the charge and I’m in the background.”

36 PHOTOS
Michelle Obama's show-stopping looks on tour
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Michelle Obama's show-stopping looks on tour
ATLANTA, GEORGIA - MAY 11: Former First Lady Michelle Obama attends 'Becoming: An Intimate Conversation with Michelle Obama' at State Farm Arena on May 11, 2019 in Atlanta, Georgia. (Photo by Paras Griffin/Getty Images)
ATLANTA, GEORGIA - MAY 11: Former First Lady Michelle Obama attends 'Becoming: An Intimate Conversation with Michelle Obama' at State Farm Arena on May 11, 2019 in Atlanta, Georgia. (Photo by Paras Griffin/Getty Images)
Former US First Lady Michelle Obama talks about her autobiography 'Becoming' as she sits on stage at the Ziggo Dome in Amsterdam on April 17, 2019. (Photo by Remko de Waal / ANP / AFP) / Netherlands OUT (Photo credit should read REMKO DE WAAL/AFP/Getty Images)
ATLANTA, GEORGIA - MAY 11: Former First Lady Michelle Obama attends 'Becoming: An Intimate Conversation with Michelle Obama' at State Farm Arena on May 11, 2019 in Atlanta, Georgia. (Photo by Paras Griffin/Getty Images)
Former US First Lady Michelle Obama during a book tour for her memoir, Becoming, at the London O2 Arena. (Photo by Kirsty O'Connor/PA Images via Getty Images)
LONDON, ENGLAND - APRIL 14: Michelle Obama on stage as part of her "Becoming: An Intimate Conversation With Michelle Obama" tour at The O2 Arena on April 14, 2019 in London, England. (Photo by Mike Marsland/WireImage)
Former US first lady Michelle Obama gestures on stage of the Royal Arena in Copenhagen on April 9, 2019 during a tour to promote her memoir 'Becoming'. (Photo by Martin Sylvest / Ritzau Scanpix / AFP) / Denmark OUT (Photo credit should read MARTIN SYLVEST/AFP/Getty Images)
Former US first lady Michelle Obama gestures on stage of the Royal Arena in Copenhagen on April 9, 2019 during a tour to promote her memoir 'Becoming'. (Photo by Martin Sylvest / Ritzau Scanpix / AFP) / Denmark OUT (Photo credit should read MARTIN SYLVEST/AFP/Getty Images)
Former US first lady Michelle Obama speaks on stage of the Royal Arena in Copenhagen on April 9, 2019 during a tour to promote her memoir 'Becoming'. (Photo by Martin Sylvest / Ritzau Scanpix / AFP) / Denmark OUT (Photo credit should read MARTIN SYLVEST/AFP/Getty Images)
TACOMA, WASHINGTON - MARCH 24: Michelle Obama (L) speaks with Jimmy Kimmel live onstage about her book 'Becoming' at the Tacoma Dome on March 24, 2019 in Tacoma, Washington. (Photo by Jim Bennett/Getty Images)
TACOMA, WASHINGTON - MARCH 24: Michelle Obama speaks live onstage with Jimmy Kimmel (not shown) about her book 'Becoming' at the Tacoma Dome on March 24, 2019 in Tacoma, Washington. (Photo by Jim Bennett/Getty Images)
TACOMA, WASHINGTON - MARCH 24: Michelle Obama speaks live onstage with Jimmy Kimmel (not shown) about her book 'Becoming' at the Tacoma Dome on March 24, 2019 in Tacoma, Washington. (Photo by Jim Bennett/Getty Images)
TACOMA, WASHINGTON - MARCH 24: Michelle Obama (L) greets members of a local book group to discuss her book 'Becoming' at the Tacoma Public Library main branch on March 24, 2019 in Tacoma, Washington. (Photo by Jim Bennett/Getty Images)
TACOMA, WASHINGTON - MARCH 24: Michelle Obama (C) speaks with Lestraundra Alfred (R) and other members of a local book group about her book 'Becoming' at the Tacoma Public Library main branch on March 24, 2019 in Tacoma, Washington. (Photo by Jim Bennett/Getty Images)
AUSTIN, TEXAS - FEBRUARY 28: Former First Lady Michelle Obama attends 'Becoming: An Intimate Conversation with Michelle Obama' at the Frank Erwin Center on February 28, 2019 in Austin, Texas. (Photo by Rick Kern/WireImage)
AUSTIN, TEXAS - FEBRUARY 28: Former First Lady Michelle Obama attends 'Becoming: An Intimate Conversation with Michelle Obama' at the Frank Erwin Center on February 28, 2019 in Austin, Texas. (Photo by Rick Kern/WireImage)
NEW YORK, NEW YORK - DECEMBER 19: Former first lady Michelle Obama discusses her book 'Becoming' at Barclays Center on December 19, 2018 in New York City. (Photo by Dia Dipasupil/Getty Images)
NEW YORK, NEW YORK - DECEMBER 19: Former first lady Michelle Obama (L) discusses her book 'Becoming' with Sarah Jessica Parker at Barclays Center on December 19, 2018 in New York City. (Photo by Dia Dipasupil/Getty Images)
NEW YORK, NEW YORK - DECEMBER 19: Former first lady Michelle Obama discusses her book 'Becoming' at Barclays Center on December 19, 2018 in New York City. (Photo by Dia Dipasupil/Getty Images)
SAN JOSE, CA - DECEMBER 14: Former First Lady Michelle Obama speaks during her 'Becoming' book tour stop at the SAP Center in San Jose, Calif., on Friday, Dec. 14, 2018. Obama's memoir was released on November 13th. (Anda Chu/Digital First Media/The Mercury News via Getty Images)
SAN JOSE, CA - DECEMBER 14: Former First Lady Michelle Obama, left, speaks with moderator Michelle Norris during her 'Becoming' book tour stop at the SAP Center in San Jose, Calif., on Friday, Dec. 14, 2018. Obama's memoir was released on November 13th. (Anda Chu/Digital First Media/The Mercury News via Getty Images)
SAN JOSE, CA - DECEMBER 14: Former First Lady Michelle Obama, left, waves to the crowd as moderator Michelle Norris looks on during her 'Becoming' book tour stop at the SAP Center in San Jose, Calif., on Friday, Dec. 14, 2018. Obama's memoir was released on November 13th. (Anda Chu/Digital First Media/The Mercury News via Getty Images)
Michelle Obama acknowledges the crowd at the Royal Festival Hall in London during her visit to the UK to publicise her memoir Becoming, which tells of her personal journey to becoming First Lady and her time in the White House. (Photo by Yui Mok/PA Images via Getty Images)
DENVER, CO - DECEMBER 13: Former First Lady of the United States, Michelle Obama, left, and actress Reese Witherspoon have a laugh together on stage during Becoming: An Intimate Conversation at the Pepsi Center December 13, 2018. (Photo by Andy Cross/The Denver Post via Getty Images)
Michelle Obama (left) in conversation with writer Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie at the Royal Festival Hall in London during her visit to the UK to publicise her memoir Becoming, which tells of her personal journey to becoming First Lady and her time in the White House. (Photo by Yui Mok/PA Images via Getty Images)
Former US first lady Michelle Obama greets well-wishers after speaking to an audience during a visit to Elizabeth Garrett Anderson School in London on December 3, 2018, to discuss education issues during her tour to promote her memoir, 'Becoming'. - Former US first lady Michelle Obama's book, 'Becoming,' sold more than two million copies in North America in its first 15 days. She said Sunday she was canceling book tour visits to Paris and Berlin to attend the funeral of former president George H.W. Bush, who died Friday aged 94. (Photo by Ben STANSALL / AFP) (Photo credit should read BEN STANSALL/AFP/Getty Images)
Former US first lady Michelle Obama (L) share's a stage with executive headteacher Jo Dibb (not pictured) and Nusrath Hassan (R) a girls' education activist and public speaker during a visit to Elizabeth Garrett Anderson School in London on December 3, 2018, to discuss education issues during her tour to promote her memoir, 'Becoming'. - Former US first lady Michelle Obama's book, 'Becoming,' sold more than two million copies in North America in its first 15 days. She said Sunday she was canceling book tour visits to Paris and Berlin to attend the funeral of former president George H.W. Bush, who died Friday aged 94. (Photo by Ben STANSALL / AFP) (Photo credit should read BEN STANSALL/AFP/Getty Images)
NEW YORK, NEW YORK - DECEMBER 01: Former first lady Michelle Obama and Executive Director for the 'Let's Move!' campaign Sam Kass visit The Lower Eastside Girls Club to meet and greet the members and discuss her new book 'Becoming' on December 01, 2018 in New York City. (Photo by Roy Rochlin/Getty Images)
NEW YORK, NEW YORK - DECEMBER 01: Former first lady Michelle Obama visits The Lower Eastside Girls Club to meet and greet the members and discuss her new book 'Becoming' on December 01, 2018 in New York City. (Photo by Roy Rochlin/Getty Images)
BOSTON, MA - NOVEMBER 24: Former First Lady Michelle Obama and moderator Michelle Norris address the crowd at the TD Garden before conversing about Obama's new book, Becoming on November 24, 2018.
BOSTON, MA - NOVEMBER 24: Former First Lady Michelle Obama and moderator Michelle Norris address the crowd at the TD Garden before conversing about Obama's new book, Becoming on November 24, 2018.
BOSTON, MA - NOVEMBER 24: Michelle Obama discusses her new book 'Becoming' with Michelle Norris in front of a sold out audience of more than 20,000 people at TD Garden on November 24, 2018 in Boston, Massachusetts. (Photo by Paul Marotta/Getty Images)
INGLEWOOD, CA - NOVEMBER 15: Former First Lady and author Michelle Obama appears onstage at Becoming: An Intimate Conversation with Michelle Obama at the Forum on November 15, 2018 in Inglewood, California. (Photo by Kevin Winter/Getty Images)
SAN JOSE, CA - DECEMBER 14: Former First Lady Michelle Obama speaks during her "Becoming" book tour stop at the SAP Center in San Jose, Calif., on Friday, Dec. 14, 2018. Obama's memoir was released on November 13th. (Anda Chu/Digital First Media/The Mercury News via Getty Images)
SAN JOSE, CA - DECEMBER 14: Former First Lady Michelle Obama speaks during her "Becoming" book tour stop at the SAP Center in San Jose, Calif., on Friday, Dec. 14, 2018. Obama's memoir was released on November 13th. (Anda Chu/Digital First Media/The Mercury News via Getty Images)
Former US First Lady Michelle Obama talks about her autobiography 'Becoming' as she sits on stage at the Ziggo Dome in Amsterdam on April 17, 2019. (Photo by Remko de Waal / ANP / AFP) / Netherlands OUT (Photo credit should read REMKO DE WAAL/AFP/Getty Images)
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