The cast of Showtime's new series — including Kiefer Sutherland and Dakota Fanning — reflect on bringing the Obamas, Fords, and Roosevelts to the screen.
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No one really knows what it's like to serve as the first lady aside from those who have served in the role themselves — but Viola Davis, Michelle Pfeiffer, and Gillian Anderson now have a better idea than most.

The actresses star as Michelle Obama (Davis), Betty Ford (Pfeiffer), and Eleanor Roosevelt (Anderson) in Showtime's new drama The First Lady, which chronicles the lives of the infamous former White House residents. "I did a lot, a lot, a lot of research — and I found myself just completely gobsmacked with how much Eleanor accomplished, and how much I didn't know," Anderson tells EW of preparing to take on the role opposite Kiefer Sutherland as Franklin D. Roosevelt. "And I was initially stuck a little bit on the fact that she's so much taller than I am. She is notoriously tall. And I really wanted to know how production was going to deal with the fact that she had almost seven inches on me, and..."

"They hired me," interjects Sutherland, who joined the leading ladies and Dakota Fanning (who stars as Ford's daughter, Susan) for a session of EW's Around the Table video series.

"That's why they hired you," Anderson replies with a laugh. "I just didn't want audiences to watch and immediately dismiss the interpretation because of that. I had in my head that that was going to be a problem. And being offered a role like Eleanor Roosevelt is not one of those things one, I think, can say no to. It's such a gift. And then one has to get over whatever hang ups one has, whatever fears, in order to be able to show up and do the best version that you have inside of you."

To hear Davis and Pfeiffer share the fears, joys, and obsessive preparation that went into their First Lady experience; Fanning and Pfeiffer gush about reuniting 20 years after I Am Sam; and the one thing Davis definitely does not share in common with Michelle Obama, watch the full video above.

Starting April 17, The First Lady airs Sundays at 9 p.m. ET/PT on Showtime.

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