Former President Barack Obama and former First Lady Michelle Obama are now Hollywood power players, according to the latest top 100 list from The Hollywood Reporter.
Clocking in at number 50 ahead of top names like Jeffrey Katzenberg and James Cameron, THR said that the Obamas are soaring into Hollywood with deals from every corner:
Who wouldn’t take their call? The former president, 58, and first lady, 55, kicked off 2019 with a Sundance acquisition — doc American Factory, which premiered to strong reviews on Netflix in August en route to an awards-season run. Tonia Davis and Priya Swaminathan, co-heads of Obama banner Higher Ground, are steering projects under the couple’s deal with the streamer — including adaptations of David W. Blight’s Frederick Douglass bio and Michael Lewis’ Fifth Risk, and Bloom, a post-World War II-era show about fashion — plus podcasts under a new deal with Spotify.
Earlier this year, the Obamas’ production company, Higher Ground, announced an impressive slate of content for Netflix and Spotify. Netflix Chief Content Officer Ted Sarandos hailed their slate as a symbol of their commitment to “diverse creators and unique voices.”
“President Barack Obama, Michelle Obama, and the Higher Ground team are building a company focused on storytelling that exemplifies their core values,” Sarandos said. “The breadth of their initial slate across series, film, documentary, and family programming shows their commitment to diverse creators and unique voices that will resonate with our members around the world.”
In a statement announcing the projects at the time, former President Obama said that Higher Ground is proud to use the power of dramatic narrative to explore social justice issues. “We created Higher Ground to harness the power of storytelling,” he said. “That’s why we couldn’t be more excited about these projects. Touching on issues of race and class, democracy and civil rights, and much more, we believe each of these productions won’t just entertain, but will educate, connect and inspire us all.”
Michelle Obama said the projects will offer something “for everyone” that will likely generate conversations. “We love this slate because it spans so many different interests and experiences, yet it’s all woven together with stories that are relevant to our daily lives,” she said. “We think there’s something here for everyone — moms and dads, curious kids, and anyone simply looking for an engaging, uplifting watch at the end of a busy day. We can’t wait to see these projects come to life — and the conversations they’ll generate.”
In May of 2018, Netflix announced it would be adding to its board of directors former Obama administration United Nations Ambassador Susan Rice.
“We are delighted to welcome Ambassdor Rice to the Netflix board,” said Netflix co-founder and CEO Reed Hastings at the time. “For decades, she has tackled difficult, complex global issues with intelligence, integrity and insight, and we look forward to benefiting from her experience and wisdom.”
Former Ambassador Rice said she was “thrilled” to be joining the “cutting-edge” company. “I am thrilled to be joining the board of directors of Netflix, a cutting-edge company whose leadership, high-quality productions, and unique culture I deeply admire,” she said at the time.