Sean Penn, the controversial, two-time-Oscar-winning actor who, decades earlier, first achieved notable acclaim for playing one-liner-spouting stoner Jeff Spicoli, will do something that he’s never done in his storied acting career: headline a television series, specifically, streaming series The First for Hulu. The series will manifest as a space exploration-themed story set in a near-future, following humanity’s first mission to colonize Mars.
Beau Willimon — the creator, writer and executive producer of (Hulu streaming competitor) Netflix’s smash political drama House of Cards and the 2011 film, The Ides of March — serves as executive producer alongside Jordan Tappis. The series also carries a Six Degrees-eqsue association, since Penn’s ex-wife, Robin Wright, co-stars on House of Cards.
The First Trailer
The First has released its full official trailer. While the clip might come across as morose for a series about the ambitiously optimistic task of humanity colonizing Mars, it’s designed to drive home the idea that for the five astronauts tasked with the mission, the sacrifice involved in leaving their families behind might just outweigh the personal glory the would achieve. Indeed, the series tagline, “Five people will try to fulfill the destiny of eight billion” seems more profound in that context.
You can also catch the teaser trailer below for The First, which features inspirational dialogue from Sean Penn’s character, setting the tone for the show’s dramatic struggle to get to Mars.
The First Release Date
The First is now officially set to embark for a release on Hulu on Friday, September 14.
The release date announcement arrived with the first crop of photos from the series.
The First Details
As Willimon explained back in May 2017 upon the announcement of the series:
“It’s a story about the human spirit. About our indomitable need to reach for unknown horizons. About people working toward the greatest pioneering achievement in human history. And about the cost of that vision, the danger and sacrifice – emotional, psychological, and physical – that’s required to achieve it. How ordinary, imperfect people band together and overcome a myriad of obstacles to grasp the extraordinary.”
Star Sean Penn is primarily a film actor, having earned Best Lead Actor Oscar wins for roles in 2008’s Milk and 2004’s Mystic River, as well as nominations for 2001’s I Am Sam, 1999’s Sweet and Lowdown and 1995’s Dead Man Walking. Other memorable pictures include 2003’s 21 Grams, 1993’s Carlito’s Way, 1989’s Casualties of War, 1989’s We’re No Angels, 1988’s Colors and, as referenced, 1982’s Fast Times at Ridgemont High as Spicoli. His last headlining role was in the 2015 actioner The Gunman and he will next be seen opposite Mel Gibson and Natalie Dormer in historical dictionary-centric drama The Professor and the Madman.
The First won’t be Penn’s television first, since his earliest of roles were actually on television in low-profile 1970s-era guest spots on Little House on the Prairie and Barnaby Jones. Later in his career, he fielded guest spots on series such as Two and a Half Men, Friends, Ellen and The Larry Sanders Show (as himself). Moreover, Penn already has a major TV project on his docket in the HBO miniseries American Lion, in which he will play the seventh President of the United States, Andrew Jackson.
Penn is joined in The First cast by Natascha McElhone, Brian Lee Franklin, LisaGay Hamilton, T.C. Matherne, Rey Lucas, Melissa George and James Ransome.
The First is a production of Willimon’s Westward Productions with partner Jordan Tappis, who will collectively own the series, which was commissioned by Hulu and the UK’s Channel 4.