Gaslit: Watergate Scandal Retold, Starring Julia Roberts and Sean Penn

Julia Roberts, Sean Penn Star in Watergate Drama

Julia Roberts and a transformed Sean Penn star in the Starz’ limited series Gaslit, which promises a fresh take on the well-worn Watergate scandal.

Gaslit is the Watergate story you’ve never heard before,” says showrunner Robbie Pickering. “At the center of the show is Martha Mitchell (Roberts), an unlikely whistleblower who is the first person to bust the whole scandal wide open and ultimately becomes the subject of a vicious White House smear campaign enacted in part by her own beloved husband, Attorney General John Mitchell (Penn).

We also feature John Dean (Dan Stevens), a hotshot administration lawyer dragged into the coverup and thrust into the spotlight with his acerbic, whip-smart wife, Mo (Betty Gilpin).”


Sean Penn
“The goal in making this project has always been to bring a real humanity to this subject, which yields a far richer and more relatable story than the standard male-driven political dramas about the period,” he adds.
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Sean Penn and Julia Roberts in ‘Gaslit.’ COURTESY OF STARZ

Gaslit is described as “a modern take on Watergate that focuses on the untold stories and forgotten characters of the scandal — from Nixon’s bumbling and opportunistic subordinates to the deranged zealots aiding and abetting their crimes to the tragic whistleblowers who would eventually bring the whole rotten enterprise crashing down.”

Exec-producer Sam Esmail told reporters at the show’s Television Critics Association’s press tour panel on Wednesday, “I don’t think it’s a mistake the women who played such an instrumental role in this scandal were ignored and silenced. I think it’s by design. That’s the perspective shift this story takes on.”

Adds Gilpin, “It’s not a girlboss overcorrection history rewrite. I don’t like it when all of a sudden there’s an overcorrect to just give women all the answers. They’re still women in 1972 struggling with the obstacles that women of the time dealt with.”

The production made headlines last July as Penn refused to work on the production until the entire cast and crew was vaccinated. At the time, Gaslit studio NBC Universal had more limited, union-negotiated vaccination requirements. Penn returned to the production in September.

Gaslit is based on the first season of Slate’s Slow Burn podcast. Matt Ross directed and executive produced. Esmail and Chad Hamilton served as executive producers along with Roberts, Lisa Gillan, Marisa Yeres Gill, Gabriel Roth and Josh Levin.