Hulu isn’t wasting any time capitalizing off of the Emmy success of their series adaptation of The Handmaid’s Tale, with the streaming service announcing that two-time Oscar winner Sean Penn (Dead Man Walking, The Game) has been tapped to lead their science fiction-drama series The First. Beau Willimon’s (House of Cards) straight-to-series drama marks Penn’s first major regular TV role and is set to premiere on Hulu and the U.K.’s Channel 4 in 2018.
Written by Willimon, The First examines the first human mission to Mars, exploring the triumphs and challenges that come with taking the first steps toward interplanetary colonization. The focus of the series will not be solely on the astronauts, but also on their families and loved ones, as well as the ground team on Earth responsible for keeping them alive. While no specific details of Penn’s Tom Haggerty have been revealed, it’s believe that he’s a former NASA astronaut.
Having an actor of Penn’s caliber attached to the project isn’t lost on Willimon:
“I have such deep admiration for Sean’s immense talent and extraordinary body of work. I feel very lucky to be collaborating with an artist of his caliber.”
Penn has been nominated five times for the Best Actor Oscar, winning for Clint Eastwood’s Mystic River (2003) and Gus Van Sant’s Milk (2008). Though beginning his career with roles in Little House on the Prairie and Barnaby Jones, Penn’s television appearances are rare. Some of his more “recent” television stints included appearances on Friends, Family Guy, Viva la Bam, and Two and a Half Men.
Hulu has a number of new series of note coming to the streaming service between now and the end of 2018, including a series adaptation of the Joe Hill/Gabriel Rodriguez comic book series Locke & Key from It‘s Andy Muschietti; a series adaptation of Marvel’s Runaways comic book series; and Castle Rock, a horror series that creates a Stephen King shared universe between a number of the author’s works.
Scheduled to begin production later this year, The First is being executive produced by Willimon and his producing partner Jordan Tappisis. The series is owned and produced by Westward Productions and co-financed by Hulu, Channel 4, IMG, and AG Studios.