“The First Lady” presents three influential women, three acclaimed actors playing them, and a century of history encompassing wars 

The ambitious Showtime drama series proved an irresistible challenge for Oscar-winning director Susanne Bier.  

While its subjects — Eleanor Roosevelt, Betty Ford and Michelle Obama — each have a “compelling and gripping" story, the sum is even greater, Bier said of her first biographical project.

“The First Lady," debuting 9 p.m. EDT Sunday, stars Gillian Anderson as Eleanor Roosevelt, Michelle Pfeiffer as Betty Ford and Viola Davis as Michelle Obama.  

In their younger iterations, the future first ladies are played by Eliza Scanlen (Roosevelt), Kristine Froseth (Ford) and Jayme Lawson (Obama).  

Schulman said. “We had to imagine what happened in between the events and the things that have been written about,” she said during a panel discussion.

Bier said the first-lady role doesn't exist in her native Denmark. While she was familiar with the women portrayed in the series, she gained new respect for them.

Bier said. “She obviously saved a lot of people's lives" and changed attitudes in the U.S. and other countries as well.