Barack and Michelle Obama announced an unprecedented multiyear production deal with Netflix just nine months ago, and now the former president and first lady have addressed one of the last remaining question marks surrounding their foray into original programming.
Former Annapurna Pictures executive Priya Swaminathan and Chernin Entertainment’s Tonia Davis have been named co-heads of the Obamas’ Higher Ground Productions, Deadline reports. Together with the couple, they will produce inspirational series and films for the streamer, which Netflix assures will not mean a political shift for the company. Qadriyyah “Q” Shamsid-Deen has also been named as a creative executive. Both Swaminathan and Davis have been working with Higher Ground for a while now.
Swaminathan produced and co-directed Very Young Girls, a powerful documentary about underage prostitutes in New York City, as well as entries in ESPN’s popular 30 for 30 series. She most recently served as director of development at Megan Ellison’s Annapurna Pictures.
Davis was with Disney before joining Chernin Entertainment in 2015 and has since scored producing credits on Amy Schumer’s Snatched, Hugh Jackman’s box-office smash The Greatest Showman and Kristen Stewart’s upcoming thriller Underwater. Shamsid-Deen was program director at Ryan Murphy Television’s Half Initiative.
“With Higher Ground Productions, we hope to bring people together around common values and uncommon stories—and Priya, Tonia and Q are precisely the people to bring that vision to life,” Barack Obama said, per Deadline. “They’re masterful storytellers. They’re veterans in the industry. And they not only bring their unique perspectives and life experiences to every project, but they’re committed to finding new voices who have their own stories to tell.”
Michelle Obama added, ““Our goal isn’t just to make people think—we want to make people feel and reach outside of their comfort zone. With their thoughtfulness, creativity and empathy, we know that Priya, Tonia and Q will find the common thread within every story to inspire us to be something more.”