It has been dubbed “Modern Family” meets “The West Wing” – and marks the first time an American “First Family” has been brought to life as a small screen comedy.
Cue NBC’s “1600 Penn” starring the Gilchrist’s. They’re a typical family with typical problems, like a grown kid who is forced to move back home, children who are smarter than their teachers and a stepmom (Jenna Elfman) who is desperately trying to win over the kids. Just one difference: They happen to call the White House home. And while it’s a work of fiction, the starring president (Bill Pullman) channeled some real life first couples to get into character.
“I think of Laura Bush because she is a supporter of the arts and I did a little show at the Eisenhower Theater and she would make a point to come back stage and she had her own little way of getting there. And I think of her and George’s relationship,” he told FOX411’s Pop Tarts column. “I always felt he was on his best behavior whenever she was in his company and you never heard him having an affair or anything. He had a thing about him that was mischievous and playful, but he always changed when he was around her. I felt like that with Jenna.”
However, it seems Elfman drew on a few other presidential wives for inspiration.
“I wanted her (character) to be fresh and have good style. I felt ultimately that the first lady should send a good message to women in America and take care of herself and have pride in how she looks. I was definitely inspired by Michelle Obama in that regard, but I also wanted to push the boundaries a little with bolder fashion choices,” she explained. “Also Eleanor Roosevelt, because she always had a strong point of view and she never seemed overwhelmed where she fell victim to her husband being present in term of her goals for humanity.”
And Pullman, who played the U.S. president in the 1996 blockbuster “Independence Day,” is happy to be back in the oval office – but he said acting for the small screen is pretty much a whole new ball game.
“I’ve been playing a number of serial killers, pedophiles, murders and I am glad to not be repeating those roles. I’ve never really been a television watcher and watched comedies, and I have gotten a number of invitations to be on television as the dad,” he quipped. “I thought I would be a touchy, feely, affable guy. That doesn’t really feed me. But this character is like the anti-dad because he has so much going on, and he’s not touchy feely.”
And although no real-life political figures have confirmed cameo appearances, we can expect plenty of Hollywood figures to show their faces throughout the highly-anticipated series, like Henry Winkler and Stacy Keach.
“And Bruce Campbell plays my brother,” Pullman added. “I don’t think I have heard anyone talk about his movies as much as my real-life brother, so it was perfect to have the competitive brother played by Bruce Campbell.”
“1600 Penn” premieres on NBC January 10, 9.30pm E.T.
Danielle Jones-Wesley contributed to this report