Sometimes, Hollywood and reality overlap in unexpected ways. When Jennifer Aniston and Reese Witherspoon set out to create The Morning Show, #MeToo hadn’t happened yet. But when it did, the trajectory of the AppleTV+ show, set to debut November 1, completely shifted.
“Once #MeToo happened, obviously the conversation drastically changed,” Aniston said at an October 13 press junket for the show in West Hollywood, California. “We all sat and thought about what the tone would be. We wanted it to be raw and honest, and vulnerable and messy, and not black and white.”
Witherspoon, dressed to channel an anchorwoman in a pink pantsuit and statement-making dark-framed glasses, added, “As we were all stumbling along trying to figure out what it this new narrative, the show was writing itself. The news was helping it.”
Aniston explained that she based her own character on a “Diane Sawyer kind of archetype,” noting that she was able to sit with Sawyer and ask numerous questions to inform the role.
Witherspoon was inspired by the likes of Katie Couric and Meredith Viera. “We’ve been so lucky to get to know a lot of these women who were so open about their lives,” she said, with a tone of seriousness and respect for the women in the real-life roles. “They’re excited for some truth to be told as well.”
Witherspoon said that writer Kerry Ehrin “did a great job of creating really nuanced and different characters that are established in the pilot. They all come from different backgrounds, different levels of success, they all come from different motivations and different ideologies, and they’re all highly motivated. And they’re all working at cross purposes at all times — so when they collide, it’s fascinating.”
The Morning Show set out to capture the zeitgeist of the #MeToo moment, which is a tall order. “It’s about this moment when a whole construct explodes,” Witherspoon said. “It starts so dismantle slowly over the 10 episodes and then it culminates in a gigantic seismic shift In the corporate culture of this one network — which is extraordinary and reflects what’s happening in the real world.”
She explained that writer Ehrin’s approach to “taking real life and synthesizing it into fiction and art” creates a vehicle through which “we start to understand ourselves.”
For her part, Ehrin underscored that her writing decisions were informed not just by the movement itself, but by the complexity of it — and indeed of life itself, in particular the female experience. “It’s impossible to talk about morning news and not talk about #MeToo,” Ehrin said. “It would be negligent. It is actually just nuanced.”
The The Morning Show gathering also provided an opportunity for Carrell to voice his admiration for Aniston in a way that seemed to sincerely surprise — and charm — the actress.
Recalling the first day he saw her at work, on the set of Bruce Almighty, he remembered having a bit of a fanboy moment. “I saw her one day across the way in a crowd scene,” he said. “I was so excited just to be on set with her; to get to be on set with her was the coolest thing ever.”
Aniston seemed legitimately moved. “Wow, I just blushed,” she said. “That was the sweetest thing ever.”
Carrell’s reaction to working with Aniston for the first time was a bit of a departure from Witherspoon’s own memory of working with Aniston for the first time: She recently noted she was downright “nervous” to encounter Aniston on the set of Friends when she arrived to play her sister as a 23-year-old new mom in the ’90s.
Aniston and Witherspoon star in The Morning Show alongside a gaggle of other fantastic actors, including Steve Carrell, Gugu Mbatha-Raw, Billy Crudup, Néstor Carbonell, and Mark Duplass. The scripted series will be one of the first to debut on the new streaming service.
If you’re anything like us, you’re definitely going to want to watch it unfold — yes, for the entertainment value provided by the incredibly talented actors, but also for the way it holds the mirror up to some of the most salient real-life dramas du jour.
The show, based on Brian Stelter’s book Top of the Morning, focuses on the cutthroat world of morning news broadcasting, and it’s not hard to imagine that the show’s central conflicts are pulled right from real-life headlines. Specifically, in presenting the experience of women in the newsroom environment, the show deals with many themes that overlap the #MeToo movement. And — sigh — it will probably get us to subscribe to AppleTV+. How can we resist?