Streaming Network Coup: Natascha McElhone Quits ABC’s ‘Designated Survivor’ for Hulu’s ‘The First’

Actress will star opposite Sean Penn in Beau Willmon’s new drama

Natascha McElhone Designated Survivor

“Designated Survivor” female lead Natascha McElhone is moving from the White House to Mars. The actress is quitting the ABC series to star opposite Sean Penn in the new straight-to-series drama “The First” on Hulu and Britain’s Channel 4.

“House of Cards” creator Beau Willimon is executive producing the new show about the first human mission to Mars and the challenges that astronauts face in the journey towards interplanetary colonization.

“What I so admire about Natascha’s work is the fearlessness and honesty she brings to every role,” Willimon said in a statement. “She’s a wonderfully talented adventurer of the spirit, and I’m thrilled to be embarking on this journey with her.”

Details about McElhone’s role are being kept under wraps, as are Penn’s.

She’ll be leaving “Designated Survivor,” where she’s starred opposite Kiefer Sutherland as Alex Kirkman since the show debuted last fall.

According to an individual close to the production, McElhone will finish her commitment to “Designated Survivor” Season 2 and then move on to “The First.”

“I am so excited to work with original, maverick artists like Beau Willimon and Sean Penn — it’s a real privilege to be invited,” said Natascha McElhone. “As well as exploring Mars; I am thrilled to be accommodated by the brilliant planet Hulu and my favourite homegrown one of Channel 4.”

McElhone is a recognizable face across Hollywood, having starred opposite David Duchovny in “Californication” for seven seasons and in “The Truman Show,” “The Devil’s Own,” “Solaris,” and “Love’s Labour’s Lost.”

The series will premiere on Hulu in the U.S. and Channel 4 in the U.K. and Ireland.

Willimon and Jordan Tappis, from Westward Productions, are executive producing. Westward owns and will produce the series, which is co-financed by Hulu, Channel 4, IMG and AG Studios. IMG will handle all international rights.

“The First” is set to go into production this year and will debut sometime in 2018.