Jennifer Aniston and Reese Witherspoon had wanted to find a project to do together ever since Witherspoon appeared on Friends playing Aniston’s sister in 2000. They found it with The Morning Show, in which the pair play anchors on a chaotic network morning show rocked by sexual harassment scandals. That is what Aniston, now Emmy-nominated for Outstanding Lead Actress in a Drama Series, told me during today’s final panel for Apple TV+ at our livestreamed Contenders Television: The Nominees virtual event.
And then all hell broke loose, and the series became more timely than they could have imagined.
“It was the summer before we were getting ready to go, and then the #MeToo movement happened and we had to incorporate that into the show of course,” Aniston said during the panel, which also included co-stars Billy Crudup, Mark Duplass and Martin Short and EP and Emmy-nominated director Mimi Leder.
Leder explained why it was important to make changes. “We really had to incorporate what was happening in the world and really get into the complexities and nuances,” she said. “And we had to do it with each of our characters. … They all have some sort of discovery, or epiphany and/or growth or explosion.”
Aniston noted that she met with such real-life morning show veterans as Robin Roberts, Gayle King and Diane Sawyer, who Aniston said was “the epitome of my archetype,” and, as part of her research, spent time observing Good Morning America. Nominated Supporting Actor Duplass talked about how his own experience as a top producer of indie films was fairly similar to what he had to do in playing Chip, the producer of the fictional show. “You have the fake smile you have to put on for everyone and trying to keep the ship afloat with some of that false dad positivity,” he said.
Duplass also spoke of the evolution of his character and “the toxic male behavior” on the show.
“You start to realize that just because you are not actively doing bad things doesn’t mean you are on the right side of the story. It’s a journey all are going through right now,” he said. “It’s not enough to just be passively not bad, you have to be actively routing out that toxic behavior.”
Crudup, nominated opposite Duplass for his portrayal of slick network exec Cory, told how going to high-end New York City charitable events informed his own understanding of characters like the one he plays.
And Martin Short, up for Guest Actor in a Drama Series as the predatory director Dick Lundy, said he liked the change of pace. “It is constantly interesting for yourself to mix things up,” he said. “Obviously I love doing comedy, but I think of myself as a comic actor. In this case, it is just a different muscle, but it is kind of the same muscle you use in comedy.”
Aniston summed it all up about why she, Witherspoon, co-star Steve Carell and the others signed on. “One of the things so exciting about this is it creates conversation afterwards,” she said.
That will likely continue as, unwittingly foreshadowing what was to come, the Season 1 finale of the Kerry Ehrin-run series last fall featured the news of an American cruise ship where the crew and passengers had been quarantined with a mysterious virus. Production on Season 2 of The Morning Show was shut down in March due to the coronavirus outbreak, which hit American cruse ships before taking hold in continental U.S.
Check back for a video of the panel soon.