From the Studio:
First Lady, starring Nancy Stafford and Corbin Bernsen, is a modern fairytale for the whole family about an autumn romance with a twist. A woman not married to the President runs for first lady, but she winds up getting a better proposal than she ever expected.
Behind the Story:
Accomplished actress Nancy Stafford shares the story of how First Lady almost didn’t happen. When she first read the script, she immediately knew she wanted to play a part in it. But writer-director Nina May never received her answer. This simple glitch almost derailed the entire project.
“She assumed that I didn’t like it and wasn’t interested. So, she went on to do another project and then we ran into each other about 18 months ago at a Christian media conference and got to chatting. I said to her ‘Whatever happened to First Lady?’ and she said, ‘Oh, I thought you didn’t like it!’ We decided then and there we are going to do it. And from that moment on it’s been only 18 months from the time I said yes to when we began casting and started preproduction till we’re releasing in theaters on Valentine’s day weekend.”
Nancy stars as Kate, the widow of the previous president, who decides to run as a non-spousal first lady in order to protect the integrity of the office. Kate is introduced as a strong woman from the beginning of the film and faces obstacles and decisions without diverting her moral compass. So often in movies, women are portrayed as being empowered through aggression, their sexuality, and even promiscuity. Nancy is proud to portray a woman who deviates from this norm, and describes Kate as using “neither her sexuality nor abrasiveness or feeling like she’s got to be aggressive and manly, and mean and arrogant…she’s a woman of tremendous dignity and grace who cares deeply about the integrity and the history of the office.”
Nancy’s description of her character brought up a good point and adds that while running as a non-spousal first lady, Kate “exercises her authority in that role in a beautiful way and follows her calling.”
I asked how she has seen women in Hollywood evolve over the almost four decades she has been in the business.
“The stereotypical sorts of way women were portrayed as the subservient one to men – many of those sort of traditional roles – are changing. However, then you look back at people like Lucille ball and Laverne and Shirley, there were trendsetters and trailblazers and women portrayed as strong and funny without losing femininity. We’ve always had great role models, but I do find that more and more women are being written as lead characters and characters of high position.”
With no shortage of admirable first ladies from which to model her own character, Nancy said said she incorporated traits from the women who have served in her own lifetime, including the dignified grief of Jackie Kennedy.
“[Kate] is made a little bits and pieces of some of my favorite attributes of other first ladies in my lifetime. I picked and chose the very best of the best. A little bit of feistiness and loyalty and dogged determination from Barbara Bush, from Laura Bush her grace and dignity and tremendous humor and compassion, from Melania Trump her dignity and beauty and strength in face of lots of opposition and tremendous pressure.”
Nancy has carried her faith into roles and throughout her career, and it required that she make difficult choices which came at a cost. There were some offers that “would’ve benefitted [her] career, but they would have diminished [her] soul,” even turning down parts in faith-based productions when the theology behind the content was suspect. Her goal is to follow the boundaries that the Lord has set for her in making these choices, and so she evaluates a movie or TV show as a whole and not just her part.
“We forget the power of media. Those of us who are in it all the time, forget [that] we in the U.S. are the largest exporters of our value system to the world.
“The world is being bombarded by American-made entertainment. We’re telling the world what to think. And when we are exporting things that do not line up with who Christ has called us to be and who He is, we’re doing a disservice to an audience.
“I really think that this is the Lord’s hand and it’s a time for a film like this. A feel-good romantic comedy that everybody can come together. A PG movie – family, friends, girls’ night out – it’s kind of the perfect recipe.
“I think we’re starving for it and Hollywood doesn’t quite get it, but independent filmmakers are getting it more and more and hopefully we’re going to send a message this weekend at the box office when they begin to see this thing go viral – that people do want it.”
First Lady opens on February 14th in theaters nationwide. Check out the trailer below!