Two-time Academy Award-winning actor Sean Penn is teaming up with Beau Willimon in upcoming Hulu original drama series, The First. According to the official press release, The First will be set in the near future and will revolve around the first human mission to Mars, exploring the various obstacles of taking the first steps toward interplanetary colonization. The story will not only focus on the main characters, which in this case are the astronauts, but also the friends and families of those involved in this mission as well as the ground team on Earth.
Hulu and Channel 4 have given a straight-to-series order for The First. Willimon is the brains behind Netflix's hit TV Series, House of Cards, starring Kevin Spacey and Robin Wright. Besides House of Cards, Willimon is also the screenwriter for the acclaimed political thriller, The Ides of March for which he received an Oscar nomination for Best Writing, Adapted Screenplay.
Willimon who also serves as an executive producer for the new series claims that he considers himself very lucky to be working with Sean Penn. He says:
"I have such deep admiration for Sean’s immense talent and extraordinary body of work. I feel very lucky to be collaborating with an artist of his caliber."
This will be Sean Penn's first tango on the small screen, joining a growing list of Oscar-winning actors and actresses who went on to star in TV shows. Thus far, Penn has five Oscar nominations under his belt as Best Actor in Leading Role for Dead Man Walking, Sweet and Lowdown, I am Sam, and won his first Oscar in 2003 for Clint Eastwood's Mystic River, and his second Oscar in 2009 for Milk. Safe to say, Penn is incredibly talented. However, he has been taking on some questionable projects as of late. In 2015, Penn starred in The Gunman, which turned out to be a critical and box office failure. In 2016, Penn lent his voice to The Angry Birds Movie. So, it'll be interesting to see which side of the coin The First will end up being. One can only hope it's more of Mystic River than it is Angry Birds.
Westward Productions – an independent film and television studio founded by Willimon and Tappis – will own and produce The First. The series, commissioned by Channel 4 and Hulu, will be co-financed by Hulu, Channel 4, IMG and AG Studios. The First will premiere on Hulu in the US and on Channel 4 in the UK and Ireland.
The series will go into production this year and is slated to premiere on Hulu and Channel 4 in 2018. Executive producers are Beau Willimon and Jordan Tappis for Westward. The series was commissioned for Channel 4 by Simon Maxwell, Head of International Drama, and Beth Willis, Head of Drama. For Hulu the series was commissioned by Craig Erwich, Senior Vice President of Content and Beatrice Springborn, Vice President of Content Development.