Reese Witherspoon-Jennifer Aniston Apple Drama Replaces Showrunners
Apple has yet to launch a scripted series, but it has already replaced two showrunners.
Kerry Ehrin (Bates Motel) is poised to sign Apple’s first overall deal and take over for Jay Carson (House of Cards) on the tech giant’s Jennifer Aniston-Reese Witherspoon morning show drama.
Apple and production studio Media Res have parted ways with Carson following “creative differences” on the drama that offers an inside look at the lives of two morning show hosts. Carson was poised to pen the script and serve as showrunner.
Following the end of her deal with Universal Television, Ehrin will move to Apple with an exclusive overall development and production deal that includes showrunning duties on the untitled morning show project starring Aniston and Witherspoon. (She most recently reunited with Jason Katims and served as a consulting producer on NBC’s midseason musical drama Rise.)
The morning show drama landed at Apple in a competitive situation with multiple outlets bidding. Apple handed out a two-season, 20-episode order for the series — marking its first order under new heads of video programming Zack Van Amburg and Jamie Erlicht. 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 Media Res’ Michael Ellenberg. Witherspoon and Aniston will also executive produce and co-own the show. Sources note the two stars are earning more than $1.25 million per episode for their starring and exec producing roles on the series and will also receive a cut of the show’s back-end. The project marks Aniston’s return to scripted television more than a decade after Friends.
For Ehrin, the move comes after she served as co-showrunner alongside Carlton Cuse on A&E’s Psycho prequel TV series Bates Motel. Sources say Ehrin landed at Apple in a competitive situation with other studios vying to sign the veteran writer, producer and showrunner, whose credits include Friday Night Lights and Parenthood.
The morning show drama becomes Apple’s second scripted original to change showrunners. Bryan Fuller (and Hart Hanson) exited Apple’s Amazing Stories anthology in February. A replacement has yet to be named.
Ehrin’s deal comes as streaming giant Netflix has been making an aggressive push to sign top producers to overall deals after forging nine-figure pacts with Shonda Rhimes (Scandal, Grey’s Anatomy) and Ryan Murphy (Glee, American Crime Story). Rhimes and Murphy had both been in the broadcast studio system for more than a decade, at ABC Studios and 20th Century Fox Television, respectively. Netflix’s aggressive payday has only intensified the war for talent among broadcast, cable and streaming outlets.
Ehrin is repped by Rothman Brecher.
Since hiring Van Amburg and Erlicht from Sony Pictures Television Studios, Apple has been on an aggressive buying spree, landing series from M. Night Shyamalan, Outlander’s Ron Moore, La La Land’s Damien Chazelle and a couple more from Witherspoon, among others.
Reese can be seen on the cover of the new April issue of Marie Claire UK – it’s the same interview as the earlier US edition, but it has a couple of new photos from the shoot. I love this photoshoot, and I’m glad they’ve chosen a slightly different shot for this cover. Pick up a copy asap if you can, and find the scans in our Gallery:
Reese made an appearance on Good Morning America on Wednesday to promote A Wrinkle In Time. She chatted about her recent visit to her Star on the Hollywood Walk Of Fame, Time’s Up, the importance of representing women in film, Big Little Lies season 2, Little Fires Everywhere with Kerry Washington, and her upcoming Untitled Morning TV Show with Jennifer Aniston. Reese also received a special message from Dolly Parton who had been on the show last week; Reese mentioned that she “has a show coming on in about a month” in which she interviews Dolly Parton, so we’ll keep an ear out for more information on that in the coming weeks! Watch the interview below, and find screencaptures in our Gallery:
Our beautiful Reese graces the cover of the March issue of US Marie Claire magazine! In the interview they talked about the familiar themes of ambition, sexual harrassment, female empowerment, and of course A Wrinkle In Time. Accompanying the interview is a brand new and beautiful photoshoot – I particularly love the softness of the cover, it reminds me of 2003/2005 photoshoots. I love seeing Reese on another big magazine cover, and this one will be available to purchase on US news-stands from February 20th. Find snippets from the interview below, and high quality photos in our Gallery.
The award-winning actress, producer, and activist sits down with Marie Claire’s Editor-in-Chief to discuss her upcoming movie A Wrinkle in Time, diversity in the workplace, and the undeniable evolution of what it means to be a woman today.
I first fell in love with Reese Witherspoon when she strutted down the halls of Harvard Law School in 2001’s Legally Blonde as Elle Woods, proving so forcefully that a woman who cares about makeup and clothes can also be brilliant. I’ve followed Reese’s career ever since, from her Oscar-winning portrayal of June Cash in Walk the Line (2005) to her raw performance in Wild (2014), and I recently spent an entire Saturday binge-watching the Emmy- and Golden Globe-winning Big Little Lies. Reese produced the latter two projects, in addition to 2014’s Gone Girl, under the auspices of her relatively new production company, Hello Sunshine.
Her mom once told her that if you wanted a job done right, you’d have to do it yourself. So, realizing the alarming and persistent dearth of meaty roles for women, Reese set out to create her own opportunities, lifting up other women along the way. With 23 producing projects in the works, it’s kind of a miracle she’s running lifestyle brand Draper James and a killer book club on Instagram. When I heard she’d landed a role in Ava DuVernay’s adaptation of one of my all-time favorite books, A Wrinkle in Time, I volunteered to interview her myself.
Anne Fulenwider: You’ve talked about how you’re proud of your ambition. Where do you get that from?
Reese Witherspoon: I get a lot of support from my husband [Jim Toth, an agent at CAA], who cares deeply about equality and always tells me,“Why wouldn’t you call the person in charge of a company and have a personal relationship with them?” He’s encouraged me to be outspoken. Oprah has encouraged me before I ever met her to be the best version of myself, through her book clubs, the people I saw on her show. [She’s been] an incredible advocate for me as a businesswoman.
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.”
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.
To celebrate our 16 years online, here we are spotlighting 16 of our favourite Reese things from the past 16 years. You will see a new one upon refreshing or changing the page.
"It took me years to be the woman my mother raised. It took me 4 years, 7 months and 3 days to do it, without her. After I lost myself in the wilderness of my grief, I found my own way out of the woods."
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