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'The First': Natascha McElhone Joins Hulu Series, Exits ABC's 'Designated Survivor'
Looks like the crew of Hulu's first dramatic mission to Mars to starting to take shape, as the streaming service has signed actress Natascha McElhone (Californication) to star opposite Sean Penn in science fiction-drama series The First from Beau Willimon (House of Cards).
McElhone currently stars opposite Kiefer Sutherland on ABC's drama series Designated Survivor, playing President Tom Kirkman's (Sutherland) wife, Alex Kirkman. McElhone is still filming Designated Survivor's second season, transitioning to The First once she's wrapped her filming commitment to ABC.
Willimon welcomes the creative spirit that the actress will bring to the series:
"What I so admire about Natascha's work is the fearlessness and honesty she brings to every role. She's a wonderfully talented adventurer of the spirit, and I'm thrilled to be embarking on this journey with her."
Written by Willimon, The First examines the first human mission to Mars, exploring the triumphs and challenges that come with taking the first steps toward interplanetary colonization. The focus of the series will not be solely on the astronauts, but also on their families and loved ones, as well as the ground team on Earth responsible for keeping them alive. While no specific details about McElhone's role have been revealed, Deadline Hollywood reports that her character is the British CEO of the company behind the mission to Mars.
For her part, McElhone is excited for the opportunity to work with Willimon and Penn:
"I am so excited to work with original, maverick artists like Beau Willimon and Sean Penn-it's a real privilege to be invited. As well as exploring Mars; I am thrilled to be accommodated by the brilliant planet Hulu and my favorite homegrown one of Channel 4."
Scheduled to begin production later this year, The First is being executive produced by Willimon and his producing partner Jordan Tappisis. The series is owned and produced by Westward Productions and co-financed by Hulu, Channel 4, IMG, and AG Studios. It's expected to premiere some time in 2018.