Reese Witherspoon’s Second Act: Big-Time Producer From Oscar-winning actress to Emmy-winning producer: After taking charge of her career, she makes deals with HBO and Apple.
A few months ago, Reese Witherspoon realized everything had changed.
HBO’s glossy, seven-episode drama, “Big Little Lies” — which Ms. Witherspoon starred in and helped produce — won eight Emmy Awards, including the one for best limited series. From the Microsoft Theater stage in Los Angeles on Sept. 17, to swelling applause, Ms. Witherspoon spoke of how important it was to bring “women to the front of their own stories and make them the heroes of their own stories.”
Not long after that night, she found herself in demand.
“It opened a lot of doors for me,” Ms. Witherspoon said in an interview this past week. “People wanted to be in business with me as a producer in the TV space. My mission was to create television for other women, for other female storytellers that are actresses, other directors and other writers. I think it just clicked in people’s minds.”
Since then, Ms. Witherspoon has transformed herself from an actress increasingly frustrated with the roles she was being offered into a producer with a slate of projects that puts her in the company of series creators like Dick Wolf, Shonda Rhimes and Ryan Murphy.
Last month, HBO ordered a second season of “Big Little Lies,” with Ms. Witherspoon’s production company, Hello Sunshine, among the key companies behind the show. In addition, Apple has bought three Hello Sunshine projects as part of its push to compete with Netflix, Amazon and Hulu in streaming. That amounts to a third of Apple’s TV purchases to date.
One of the series — which is set to star Ms. Witherspoon and Jennifer Aniston as hosts of a fictional morning news show — marks one of the most expensive deals in TV history: With a 20-episode commitment, Apple has pledged roughly $240 million to make it, according to two people familiar with the series. Ms. Witherspoon’s other two Apple projects will star Octavia Spencer and Kristen Wiig.
Apple’s top TV executives, Zack Van Amburg and Jamie Erlicht, said in a statement that Ms. Witherspoon had “an extraordinary knack for being a step ahead of the zeitgeist.”
The rise of Hello Sunshine — with projects centered on strong, complicated women — syncs up perfectly with the #timesup movement, which counts Ms. Witherspoon as a major player, and gives evidence that the risk-averse Hollywood establishment may have learned something from the blockbuster success of “Wonder Woman” last year.
“People are desperate for this kind of storytelling about the female heroes that have always been in the shadows and now are coming into the light,” Ms. Witherspoon said.
The Hollywood Reporter’s annual Women In Hollywood feature was released this week, which included their Power 100 list – Reese was of course featured within it! Read their brief interview with her below and find a scan from the magazine in our Gallery. The special collectors issue is on sale now and has Jennifer Lawrence on the cover.
The Hollywood Reporter’s 2017 Women in Entertainment Power 100
Meet the dynamos who rocked Hollywood by creating groundbreaking TV and ‘Wonder’-ful films, scoring piles of awards and historic paydays and making room for more women to rise as the industry’s dark side was brought to light (thanks in part to three pioneers on this list) in a watershed that has already changed entertainment — and the world. Take that, Harvey!
HOW THR PICKS THE POWER 100 This year’s list spotlights 16 standout industry leaders who dominated the 2017 entertainment and media landscape and groups the rest by their role in the Hollywood ecosystem — from the film forces (working mostly on the big screen) to the reps (agents, et al). Honorees are listed alphabetically within each category.
Reese Witherspoon Actor, producer
CATEGORY Power Squad
Witherspoon scored big in 2017 with HBO’s acclaimed Big Little Lies (she starred and produced), for which she and fellow producer Nicole Kidman won an Emmy for outstanding limited series. “It showed me that audiences want to see a more accurate depiction of the female experience,” says Witherspoon, who launched her women-focused media brand Hello Sunshine in November 2016. She continues to buy book properties (including deals for A White Lie, with Zendaya attached, and Eleanor Oliphant Is Completely Fine, in which Witherspoon would also star) and will hit the big screen in March in Ava DuVernay’s A Wrinkle in Time. And in a deal that has Friends fans fawning, she recently sold a new series to Apple in which she’ll star opposite Jennifer Aniston.
Best thing to come out of the Weinstein scandal “Female solidarity.”
How I’ve helped women coming up in Hollywood “Call them, email them, work with them, and support them on social media.”
Hollywood woman I’d switch jobs with for a day Dana Walden
The three guests at my dream dinner party would be “Oprah, Mindy Kaling, Ava DuVernay and my mom.”
I wish men in Hollywood knew “What it feels like to be the only one in the room.”
Last show I binged Catastrophe, Westworld
TV or film character I most identify with “The squirrel in Ice Age constantly chasing an acorn.”
November 8, 2017 • Category: "The Morning Show", Hello Sunshine •
Comments Off on Jennifer Aniston, Reese Witherspoon Morning Show Drama Lands at Apple With 2-Season Order
Jennifer Aniston, Reese Witherspoon Morning Show Drama Lands at Apple With 2-Season Order
Following a multiple-outlet bidding war, Apple has emerged as the victor for a morning show drama starring Jennifer Aniston and Reese Witherspoon.
The tech giant has picked up the untitled drama with a straight-to-series, two-season order (20 episodes total). Aniston (Friends) and Witherspoon (Big Little Lies) will star, exec produce and co-own the show alongside Michael Ellenberg’s Media Res company, which produces the show for Apple. Sources describe the pricetag on the show as comparable to other premium fare with big stars attached. As for how racy it will be, that’s still to be determined as there are no scripts for the drama yet.
The show is described as an inside look at the lives of the people who help America wake up in the morning, exploring the unique challenges faced by the women (and men) who carry out this daily televised ritual. Brian Stelter’s book Top of the Morning: Inside the Cutthroat World of Morning TV — which was previously in development at Lifetime as a TV movie — will provide additional background for the show, which is based on an original concept by Ellenberg.
Aniston, who will make her first TV series regular return more than a decade after Friends, will exec produce via her Echo Films banner. Witherspoon, fresh off the success of HBO’s Big Little Lies, will exec produce via her Hello Sunshine company. The series is written and executive produced by Emmy-nominated Jay Carson (House of Cards), who also serves as showrunner. Witherspoon, who memorably guest starred as Aniston’s younger sister on Friends, have remained friends over the years with the morning show drama serving as an on-screen reunion. The package was taken out in July and drew interest from multiple outlets, including Showtime, sources say.
Since leaving his position as head of drama at HBO, Ellenberg has focused on development and has teamed with Bron Studios to launch Media Res. The company’s first project in the works is Scenes From a Marriage, a limited-series take based on the five-hour 1973 film, with In Treatment’s Hagai Levi and playwright Amy Herzog attached.
The Aniston-Witherspoon drama becomes Apple’s second straight-to-series order and joins Steven Spielberg’s Amazing Stories as the first projects the tech giant has picked up under programming heads Zack Van Amburg and Jamie Erlicht. The Amazing Stories anthology is execu produced by Spielberg in partnership with Bryan Fuller, who serves as showrunner. The drama will transport the audience to worlds of wonder through the lens of today’s most imaginative filmmakers, directors and writers. Amblin Television’s Darryl Frank, Justin Falvey and Hart Hanson exec produce the drama from Universal Television.
What remains to be seen, however, is just how Apple will roll out its original scripted series and if it could utilize its streaming music service to do so and if the company — with $260 billion in cash surplus — will turn assets like iPhones to market its programming.
Aniston, who earned five Emmy nominations and won one for her role as Rachel Green on NBC’s Friends, is repped by CAA, Lighthouse Management and Hansen Jacobson. Witherspoon, who has been active on the development side, won an Oscar for her role in Walk the Line and also scored a nomination for Wild. More recently, she scored an Emmy nom for her starring role in HBO’s Big Little Lies with the limited series likely to return for a second season after taking home the win in the category. She is repped by CAA, LBI Entertainment and Hansen Jacobson.
Carson, repped by Management 360, has been with Netflix’s House of Cards for the past three years, serving as a supervising producer and political consultant.
Reese appeared on UK daytime chat show Lorraine today, to promote Home Again. She chatted about her film, growing up, Legally Blonde, Wild, her producing work, and her upcoming TV show with Jennifer Aniston. Here’s the clip:
Jennifer Aniston briefly mentions Reese, their upcoming TV Project, and Friends in a new interview with Harper’s Bazaar:
Amy Sedaris: Comedy—you’ve got it. It must be great to branch out into roles like that and The Good Girl, where you’re willing to look unglamorous. Now you’re going to do a show with Reese Witherspoon. Are you excited about going back to TV?
Jennifer Aniston: Always. Lately all the great work has been on television. Reese was my little sister on Friends. She had just given birth to Ava, who’s 18 now, so it was like, “Oh, my God, a baby with a baby!” [Laughs]
Reese appeared on CBS’s This Morning earlier today – she chatted more about Big Little Lies, how she changed the course of her career in recent years, her upcoming project with Jennifer Aniston, and Draper James. Watch the video below and find HD screencaptures in our gallery:
Reese and her Home Again co-stars Candice Bergen, Jon Rudnitsky and Pico Alexander continued their promotional tour with an appearance on Watch What Happens Live With Andy Cohen last night. As well as their movie, Reese chatted about her upcoming TV show with Jennifer Aniston and Big Little Lies. The show had various games involving Reese and Candice’s movies, including Four Christmases, This Means War, Fear, Sweet Home Alabama, Legally Blonde, The Man In The Moon and Just Like Heaven – it was pretty funny seeing Reese’s reactions to these movies! She also re-created the Bend & Snap and explained how and when to use it. It was a really fun and lively interview, and nice to see Reese alongside Candice. She wore a dress by Bottega Veneta with Alaia shoes. Below are a few clips including their ‘after-show’ Q&A, and in our Gallery you can find photos of Reese arriving at the show studios, backstage, stills from the show, and HD screencaptures from the full interview:
Reese chatted about Home Again, roles for women in TV/film, Big Little Lies, A Wrinkle In Time, and her upcoming TV show with Jennifer Aniston on Good Morning America today. She also talked about her kids and Ava’s upcoming 18th birthday! Reese was then joined by her Home Again co-stars and director to chat more about their film. Watch the interview below, and find stills and HD screencaptures in our Gallery:
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