The Julia Roberts Thriller About The Most Infamous Scandal Everyone Slept On

By April Ryder | Published

Julia Roberts stars as Martha Mitchell in a Starz miniseries called Gaslit. Centering around the Nixon administration’s involvement in the Watergate scandal, the series presents the historical story from the point of view of some of the most pivotal individuals on the periphery of the debacle. 

The Mouth Of The South

Martha Mitchell, the protagonist in Gaslit, is the wife of Nixon’s Attorney General, John Mitchell. She is widely known for her opinionated stances and her open communication with the press, which has earned her the nickname “The Mouth of the South.”  

Martha’s loose lips have also earned her a troublesome reputation with the U.S. government and her husband. Due to her knowledge of inside operations and sensitive subject matter, Martha is seen as a liability to both the government and her husband, John Mitchell, Nixon’s Attorney General. 

Gaslit Is Stacked With Stars Both Large And Small

In addition to Julia Roberts, Gaslit features the talents of Sean Penn as John Mitchell, Dan Stevens (Downton Abbey), Betty Gilpin (Glow, Mrs. Davis), Shea Whigham (Mission Impossible: Dead Reckoning, Part One), and Darby Camp (Clifford: The Big Red Dog). As the scandal engulfs more of Washington, Gaslit expands the cast with plenty of recognizable faces, including Chris Bauer (The Wire), comedian Patton Oswalt, Alison Tolman (Fargo), and the always underrated Reed Diamond (Dollhouse) as Mark Felt.

Martha Was Right, Watergate Was Wrong

Gaslit begins in early 1972, in the heart of the Watergate scandal, through the eyes of those who actually broke into the Watergate building. It then encompasses the political figures involved in ordering the break-in and all of the people who worked so diligently to cover it all up. Through it all, it’s easy to see how, in a backstabbing administration that encouraged paranoia, so many individuals could be swept up in a plan doomed to fail from the start.

Gaslit tells the story more from the point of view of Martha Mitchell (Julia Roberts’ character), and she is an interesting character, to say the least. The woman had no issue with standing up for what she deemed as right and honorable, even if it meant getting into hot water with some very powerful men. If you’re wondering what the title has to do with Watergate, look no further than the treatment Martha received from the Nixon administration, which went so far that psychiatrists would later coin the term “The Martha Mitchell Effect.”

Sean Penn’s Transformation

Sean Penn’s performance in Gaslit is also noteworthy. After the first glance of the trailer for the miniseries, you may struggle to even find Sean Penn in the cast because his makeup is so extraordinary. The makeup team used 11 prosthetics and a bodysuit to completely transform Penn into John Mitchell in a process that took more than three hours every day. 

Streaming Now On Starz

Gaslit was first released in 2022, and critics received it well. Review aggregator Rotten Tomatoes gives the show an 88 percent approval rating. The consensus on the Gaslit review page reads, “Fronted by a nervy Julia Roberts, Gaslit is less a slow burn (a nice little hint referring to the origin of the show, podcast Slow Burn) than an acting extravaganza of big personalities enmeshed in historic scandal.”

Gaslit is currently streaming on Starz, Apple TV+, and The Roku Channel, while it’s available for purchase on Amazon.