Barack and Michelle Obama are making their presence felt at Netflix, using their star-power to lure A-list talent including Denzel Washington to the digital streaming platform, according to a new report.
The Hollywood Reporter said Wednesday that the former first couple is making a big impact on Netflix as they prepare to debut their first show as part of an ongoing deal between the streamer and the Obama’s production company, Higher Ground.
American Factory — a documentary about a Chinese billionaire who opens a factory in an abandoned General Motors plant in Ohio — is set to debut on Netflix on Aug. 21. Another documentary, Crip Camp, which follows a group of disabled teens at a New York camp, is expected to bow next year.
The Hollywood Reporter cited an anonymous source saying that Barack Obama helped to convince Denzel Washington to bring one of his projects — an adaptation of the August Wilson play “Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom” — to Netflix.
The Oscar-winning actor took a meeting with Netflix’s chief content officer Ted Sarandos in the fall, and Obama “just happened” to be in Sarandos’ offices to praise the streamer, according to the report. As a result, Washington, who is producing but not starring in the movie, moved the project from HBO to Netflix.
Obama also reportedly helped try to bring Will Smith’s King Richard — about the father of Serena and Venus Williams — to Netflix, though Warner Bros. won out at the end.
The Obamas’ have had a close relationship with Netflix for years. Sarandos has been a key donor to Obama and his wife, Nicole Avant, served as ambassador to the Bahamas during the Obama administration.
“Netflix staffers describe the surreal experience of the occasional office visit from the president, who reportedly enters the building via an underground tunnel connected to the parking garage,” the report states.
While the Hollywood Reporter notes that the bulk of the Obamas’ productions are non-partisan, they are developing a docuseries based on Michael Lewis’ The Fifth Risk: Undoing Democracy, which is critical of the Trump administration.