Julia Roberts is a movie star through and through, which means that you don’t often see the Oscar-winning 54-year-old on the small screen. Of course, there are notable exceptions—that episode of Friends where she steals all of Chandler’s clothes; Amazon Prime’s Emmy-nominated *Homecoming—*but her next TV role is set to be her buzziest yet. In the upcoming Starz series Gaslit, the actor will play Martha Mitchell, the Arkansan socialite who was married to John Mitchell (Sean Penn), the U.S. attorney general under Richard Nixon, and became a controversial figure after sounding the alarm on the president’s involvement in the Watergate scandal.
Instantly recognizable thanks to her giant bouffant, cat-eye sunglasses, and flamboyant frocks, Martha had been enormously influential since her arrival in Washington—a regular on talk shows who also had a penchant for gossiping to reporters about her husband’s work. When John tried to prevent her from learning the details of the Watergate break-in, she became suspicious and attempted to alert the press. She was then allegedly held captive, beaten, and widely discredited by those defending the government. She and John eventually separated and he was jailed for perjury, conspiracy, and obstruction of justice. In Nixon’s interview with David Frost in 1977, the former leader said, “If it hadn’t been for Martha, there’d have been no Watergate.”
Based on the gripping first season of the Slate podcast Slow Burn—which explores Martha’s position as an unlikely whistleblower—Gaslit will capture this extraordinary moment in history in sumptuous detail, as evidenced by the first stills and teaser trailer released on February 2. They show an almost unrecognizable Roberts and Penn becoming engulfed in Watergate, and the former being spied on and later physically restrained as she tries to get the word out. We also catch glimpses of Dan Stevens as hotshot lawyer John Dean who is dragged into the cover-up, Betty Gilpin as his acerbic wife Mo, and Shea Whigham as Watergate mastermind G. Gordon Liddy.
The first full-length trailer followed on March 16. It opens with shadowy shots of the Watergate break-in before showing much of the press and public fawning over Martha. Government officials, however, begin to view her as a liability and go to great lengths to silence her. In one scene, her husband slaps her and tells her to take a breath. She, however, hits back hard. In another sequence, a reporter asks her, “Should the Nixon administration be afraid of you?” Once again, she doesn’t miss a beat, growling back, “I think you know the answer to that.”