Michelle Pfeiffer says she’ll never play a real person again after playing Betty Ford in The First Lady

Michelle Pfeiffer scored a Cool Rider, was the bat meow and was sprinkled with Stardust — but nothing prepared her to play Betty Ford in Showtime’s new drama The first lady.

Not to say she was unprepared.

“I had three scripts running,” the actress says in EW’s latest article. Around the table video, which she filmed with co-stars Viola Davis, Gillian Anderson, Kiefer Sutherland and Dakota Fanning. “I had my one script which had all of my notes in it. And then I had my other script which I was constantly revising with new changes coming in. And then I had another one for something… I don’t remember not what was the point.”

“The week?” suggests Fanning, who first played with Pfeiffer in 2001 I am sam and plays Susan, Betty Ford’s daughter, in First lady.

“It was a rundown of the time breakdown and scene numbers for me to have a quick reference,” continues Pfieffer, who had to jump to different points in Betty Ford’s life during filming. “And I laminated it and it was kind of like an accordion. It was very colorful…It was unfolded and everything.”

“Just a little OCD,” jokes Anderson, who plays Eleanor Roosevelt on the show.

Michelle Pfeiffer as Betty Ford in The First Lady;  Betty Ford in 1976

Michelle Pfeiffer as Betty Ford in The First Lady; Betty Ford in 1976

Murray Close/SHOWTIME; Archives Hulton/Getty Images Michelle Pfeiffer as Betty Ford in “The First Lady”; the real Betty Ford in 1976

It’s not the first time that Pfeiffer has played a character based on a real person – having starred as teacher LouAnne Johnson in dangerous spirits and Ruth Madoff in the Bernie Madoff biopic The magician of lies – but this may be his last.

“I said I wouldn’t do it again,” Pfeiffer says after finishing First lady. “It’s just, it’s very, very heavy. And it’s with you all the time. Every choice you make, and you just want to honor the person you’re playing and you want to be as authentic as possible, knowing that there will be times when you are not and you cannot be. I will never do that again.

Still, she’s “proud” to have honored the first lady’s legacy.

“I didn’t know half of Betty Ford’s contribution,” she says. “Of course, like most people, I knew about his struggle with alcohol abuse and drug addiction, and his founding of the Betty Ford Clinic, but that’s really kind of the scale of the problem. And I want say, if that’s not enough, there’s so much more to her. I’m truly honored to have had the opportunity to share this story with everyone.

For more on the cast of the new series, check out the full EW Around the table interview. The first lady airs Sundays at 9 p.m. ET/PT on Showtime from April 17.

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