Abu Dhabi, UAEFriday 22 November 2019

How #MeToo influenced Jennifer Aniston and Reese Witherspoon's 'The Morning Show'

In order to prepare for their roles, Aniston and Witherspoon met with Katie Couric, Robin Roberts, George Stephanopoulos, and Diane Sawyer

Jennifer Aniston and Reese Witherspoon at Apple’s press day for 'The Morning Show', a new drama premiering on Apple TV+ on November 1 on the Apple TV app. Courtesy Apple
Jennifer Aniston and Reese Witherspoon at Apple’s press day for 'The Morning Show', a new drama premiering on Apple TV+ on November 1 on the Apple TV app. Courtesy Apple

On November 1, Apple TV+ will propel the tech giants into the world of streaming services.

In order to instantly appeal to subscribers that are already paying for the likes of Netflix, Hulu, Amazon, and are also considering Disney+, those behind Apple TV+ need to launch with shows that are relevant, powerful, creative, packed with stars and will raise the bar for TV even higher.

That’s exactly why they greenlit The Morning Show, which provides an inside look at the lives of the cast and crew of America’s most popular breakfast programme. Starring both Jennifer Aniston and Reese Witherspoon, who are also executive producers, The Morning Show kicks off with the firing of Steve Carell’s Mitch Kessler, the co-host alongside Aniston’s Alex Levy for 15 years, after he becomes embroiled in a sexual misconduct scandal.

Reese Witherspoon and Jennifer Aniston in a scene from 'The Morning Show'. Courtesy Apple.
Reese Witherspoon and Jennifer Aniston in a scene from 'The Morning Show'. Courtesy Apple.

But rather than being written as a response to the #MeToo movement, which has been so powerful in changing working environments for women across the world, Aniston told a press conference in Los Angeles that The Morning Show actually existed before the movement.

She revealed to select media, including The National, that it was originally “going to pull the curtain back on the New York media world and the morning talk shows,” but they then decided to incorporate the conversation because it had "drastically" changed the landscape.

Making 'The Morning Show' relevant in a post #MeToo world

Kerry Ehrin, who previously wrote for The Wonder Years, Friday Night Lights, and co-created Bates Motel, was brought on to oversee The Morning Show in April 2019, and quickly recognised it would have been “negligent” to set a show in the world of morning news “and not talk about #MeToo”. However, she wanted to go deeper with the characters and explore “dark people” who know how to “lie to themselves”.

Mark Duplass, who plays executive producer Charlie “Chip” Black, was astounded by how The Morning Show managed to balance complex social and political issues with “good character development” and nuanced dialogue, all while finding the human angles into the drama.

Steve Carrel and Jennifer Aniston in 'The Morning Show'. Courtesy Apple
Steve Carrel and Jennifer Aniston in 'The Morning Show'. Courtesy Apple

While Witherspoon, whose character Bradley Jackson is the obsessive and intelligent aspiring journalist who becomes a rival for Aniston’s Levy, was immediately impressed by the manner in which Ehrin was able to make the entire ensemble “really nuanced and different” straight from the pilot.

“They all come from different backgrounds,” Witherspoon explains. “They all have different levels of success. They all have different motivations and ideologies. They are all highly motivated. They are all working for different purposes at all times.”

Witherspoon says the collision of these characters over the course of the show’s ten-episode first season isn’t just “fascinating,” but also “reflects what is happening in the real world and “is about this moment when a whole construct explodes”.

The dynamic between Aniston and Witherspoon is important

The relationship between Aniston and Witherspoon’s characters is destined to be the most alluring aspect of The Morning Show. Not only is it still rare for a major television show to have two female protagonists, but the drama, conflict and set-pieces that are ever present in The Morning Show means that Jackson and Levy repeatedly collide, while there’s also a plethora of material for them to play with individually.

“What is interesting about our characters is that she [Levy] has existed in a system that barely makes space for her,” explains Witherspoon. “She felt lucky to be the only woman in that space. My character comes in and says, ‘Hold on! One woman isn’t enough. There needs to be more.’ There are clashing ideologies that contribute to a singular purpose.”

In order to prepare for their roles, Aniston and Witherspoon met with the likes of Katie Couric, Robin Roberts, George Stephanopoulos, and Diane Sawyer, and they were surprised at just how excited and open these newscasters were by the prospect of The Morning Show and its content.

“They weren’t in fear of it at all,” revealed Aniston, with Witherspoon adding, “They were excited for some truth to be told as well. Because they are dealing with this in real time.”

The impact of streaming services

But while the timeliness and star appeal of The Morning Show made it an attractive commodity for Apple TV+, executive producer Michael Ellenberg insists they were the perfect launch pad for the comedy drama. Especially as Apple wanted something “new, ambitious and different,” and those involved in The Morning Show wanted to join into the positive impact that streaming services have already had on the industry.

Reese Witherspoon, Steve Carrel and Jennifer Aniston at the press day for 'The Morning Show' in LA earlier this month. Courtesy Apple.
Reese Witherspoon, Steve Carrel and Jennifer Aniston at the press day for 'The Morning Show' in LA. Courtesy Apple.

“We have a lot more stories being told by much different storytellers. People that haven’t always had the chance to tell their stories,” says Ellenberg.

This is a sentiment that Witherspoon emphatically echoes. “You just don’t get to write women off. You just don’t get to write people of colour off. Audiences want to see people of different ages, from different backgrounds," she says.

"It validates our audiences and it creates an opportunity for new voices and new storytellers to emerge. I am enormously grateful for these streaming services. It has changed my entire career.”

Witherspoon is already looking to what that might mean for the future of The Morning Show, as she insists “there are so many more incredible stories to tell,” before then teasing, “And we have more seasons to do it.”

First of all, though, the world needs to take in The Morning Show, which they’ll be able to do on November 1 when the opening three episodes are released internationally, while the remaining seven episodes will be released on a weekly basis thereafter.

Updated: October 14, 2019 01:51 PM

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