Barack and Michelle Obama are taking their talents to Tinseltown. The former US president and first lady have inked a wide-ranging deal with Netflix to produce original TV shows and movies.
The agreement, which was rumored in the New York times in March, was made official today (May 21) in a tweet from Netflix.
The Obamas’ deal with the streaming service is still in the very early stages, but it’s also clear that it has enormous potential. Hardly anyone, let alone former politicians with no filmmaking experience, get such sweeping production deals like this one. The arrangement is similar to what prolific TV showrunner Ryan Murphy enjoys at Netflix, or what musician, actor, and filmmaker Donald Glover has at FX. Netflix is essentially giving the Obamas carte blanche to make whatever they want, in any way they want to.
The deal speaks to the Obamas’ sustained post-presidency popularity, as well as their unique (and uniquely valuable) influence in American culture. This makes them bona fide Hollywood auteurs, and now they have the opportunity to create their own imprint on global entertainment.
“We hope to cultivate and curate the talented, inspiring, creative voices who are able to promote greater empathy and understanding between peoples, and help them share their stories with the entire world,” the former president said in a statement.
Most media observers expect that the Obamas will not overtly address the current occupant of the White House (who no doubt will be jealous over this news) and the New York Times reported (paywall) that the former first couple will not try use the deal to create a more progressive media rival to Fox News. Rather, it’s expected that they will focus on more uplifting stories that are important to them.
Barack Obama has mostly stayed out of the public eye since Donald Trump became president last year. He does have a prior relationship with Netflix, though: In January, Obama made his first post-presidency talk show appearance on the streaming service, when he spoke with David Letterman on the comedian’s Netflix series, My Next Guest Needs No Introduction.
That appearance marked a massive coup for Netflix, which battled other networks and streaming services for the rights to Obama’s first interview after leaving office. This new production deal, however, is much bigger than that, and fitting for a company known for a long list of big moves.