You’ve seen Lexi Underwood before. She’s the brilliant young actress from Little Fires Everywhere. Now she’s an American royal in Showtime’s The First Lady.
As President Obama’s eldest daughter, Malia, Lexi Underwood conveys a sense of what it was like to spend adolescence in the White House as part of the first non-white First Family. But portraying Malia was not easy, as the President’s daughter is guarded from the public eye, and beyond that, Malia is a private citizen with her own identity. “There’s not a lot of information regarding Malia or Sasha out on the internet,” Underwood explains, “and it was incredibly hard to find videos that I could draw from when it comes to how she talks – the cadence, the facial expressions that she makes, and the little things that make Malia… Malia.”
To prepare for the role, Underwood read A Promised Land and Becoming (President Obama’s and the First Lady’s memoirs, respectively). “I wanted to really get a sense of who the Obamas were – outside of just the First Family,” she says. She also made a video playlist of any clips she could find of Malia. “I was on YouTube almost every single day. I still have my playlist,” she beams with pride. Underwood reveres the show’s writers: “The script is phenomenal. Seeing that contrast between how Malia was out in public and how she was in the White House, at home, and going between those different versions was incredibly interesting. It was also something so outside of what I’ve done before.”
Underwood also attributes her success to working with the incredible Viola Davis (playing Michelle Obama), who guided her along the way. “I remember being in a wordy scene. It just did not feel right when we were rehearsing it,” she recalls. “Miss Viola stopped and said, ‘Forget everything. Forget the words. Forget what’s on the paper and just do what feels authentic to you in this moment.’ I swear, something changed in me. I thank Miss Viola for that, for giving me that space, because it’s so rare that young actors are given that space. She made me feel comfortable from the start and it set the tone for the rest of filming.”
Join Lexi Underwood on Instagram @WeTheVoicesofGenZ.
The First Lady is airing on Showtime now.
Sneakerella is now available on Disney+.
This digital cover + editorial from Schön! 42 has been produced by
photography + direction. Mynxii White @ Exclusive Artists using Leica SL2-S
production. James Kristofik
fashion. Britton Litow
talent. Lexi Underwood
casting + set design. Alabama Blonde
hair. Preston Wada
make up. Pircilla Pae
set design assistants. Lloyd Galbraith + Lyena Kang
retouch. Studio Navona
special thanks. Bella Marjike
words. Mike Furey