Santa Monica, CA (September 20, 2017) – Academy Award®-winning actor Sean Penn has joined Beau Willimon’s upcoming Hulu original drama series “The First.” Though details about the role remain under wraps, this marks the acclaimed actor’s first foray into television. Set in the near future, “The First” will follow the first human mission to Mars exploring the challenges of taking the first steps toward interplanetary colonization. The story focuses not only on the astronauts, but also on their families and loved ones, as well as the ground team on Earth. Hulu and Channel 4 have given a straight-to-series order for the show, created by Willimon (House of Cards, Ides of March), who also serves as executive producer alongside his producing partner Jordan Tappis under their Westward Productions banner. IMG will handle sales in all territories.
“I have such deep admiration for Sean’s immense talent and extraordinary body of work,” said Willimon. “I feel very lucky to be collaborating with an artist of his caliber.”
Penn has been nominated five times for the Academy Award® as Best Actor for “Dead Man Walking,” “Sweet and Lowdown,” “I Am Sam” and won his first Oscar® in 2003 for his searing performance in Clint Eastwood’s “Mystic River” and his second Oscar® as Best Actor in 2009 for Gus Van Sant’s “Milk.” Additionally, Penn received Best Actor awards at the Cannes (“She’s So Lovely”) and Berlin (“Dead Man Walking”) Film Festivals, as well as being a two-time winner of Best Actor honors at the Venice Film Festival (“Hurlyburly,” “21 Grams”). Penn will be honored next month with a career tribute at the Mill Valley Film Festival.
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.
Hulu is a leading premium streaming service that offers instant access to live and on demand channels, original series and films, and a premium library of TV and movies to millions of subscribers in the U.S. Since its launch in 2008, Hulu has consistently been at the forefront of entertainment and technology. Hulu is the only streaming service that offers both ad-supported and commercial-free current season shows from the largest U.S. broadcast networks; libraries of hit TV series and films; and acclaimed original series including Emmy Award-winning series The Handmaid’s Tale, The Mindy Project, The Path, 11.22.63, the Golden Globe® nominated comedy series Casual, as well as the upcoming Future Man, Castle Rock, Marvel’s Runaways and The Looming Tower. In 2017, Hulu added live news, entertainment and sports from 21st Century Fox, The Walt Disney Company, NBCUniversal, CBS Corporation, The CW, Turner Networks, A+E Networks and Scripps Networks Interactive to its offering – making it the only TV service that brings together live, on-demand, originals, and library content all in one place, across living room and mobile devices.
About Channel 4
Channel 4 is a publicly-owned, commercially-funded, not-for-profit public service broadcaster and has a remit to be innovative, experimental and distinctive. Its public ownership and not-for-profit status ensure all profit generated by its commercial activity is directly reinvested back into the delivery of its public service remit. As a publisher-broadcaster, Channel 4 is also required to commission UK content from the independent production sector and currently works with 300 creative companies across the UK every year. In addition to the main Channel 4 service, its portfolio includes: E4, More4, Film4, 4Music, 4seven, Channel4.com and digital service All 4.
IMG is a global leader in sports, events, media and fashion, operating in more than 30 countries. The company represents and manages some of the world’s greatest sports figures and fashion icons; stages hundreds of live events and branded entertainment experiences annually; and is a leading independent producer and distributor of sports and entertainment media. IMG also specializes in sports training; league development; and marketing, media and licensing for brands, sports organizations and collegiate institutions. IMG has led the market in global co-productions recently selling “The Night Manager” and “Dirk Gently” in over 190 territories; handling territorial sales for “Top of the Lake: China Girl,” “The Young Pope,” and the upcoming Sky / Amazon series “Britannia.” In addition to “The First,” it is also co-financing and handling sales on the upcoming projects “Killing Eve” from Phoebe Waller-Bridge and “The Eddy” from Damien Chazelle.