Reese made another appearance at the TCA Winter Tour today, this time to preview The Morning Show! She was joined by Jennifer Aniston, Billy Crudup, producer and director Mimi Leder, and producer Michael Ellenberg. They talked about how the show has been received, the culture portrayed within the show, and season 2. Read reports from the panel below.
We’ll have a full set of pictures for you asap, but for now here’s a preview: HQ photos have been added to the Gallery:
• AppleTV+ Winter TCA Press Tour x31
‘The Morning Show’ Team on Steve Carell’s Season 2 Future, Season 1 Criticism
Although the first season of “The Morning Show” ended on Steve Carell’s former news anchor character, Mitch Kessler, who was fired at the top of the season amid sexual misconduct allegations, finally feeling the weight of what he did, there is no guarantee the second season will see him learn, grow or be around at all.
Although executive producer Michael Ellenberg said at the Television Critics Assn. press tour panel for the Apple TV Plus drama “certainly picks up where we ended” in terms of the fallout that will have to come after anchors Alex Levy (Jennifer Aniston) and Bradley Jackson (Reese Witherspoon) outed their network for knowing more about the allegations against Mitch earlier than they had led on, when it comes to Mitch himself, Ellenberg said they are still discussing if he will be back onscreen, as Carell’s original deal was only for the first season and they do not have a new one in place.
Aniston, who also executive produces, pointed out that although the show is “of course” about #MeToo, its messages are more widespread than that. “Gender dynamics, power dynamics, abuse of power — and not just sexual abuse of power but just power struggles in general,” are all story areas “The Morning Show” endeavors to explore.
“What we were trying to do was take a very realistic and human look at his situation that we have all as a society allowed to happen unconsciously,” she said.
For the first season, she continued, “it was important to get inside the head of a gentle, charismatic narcissist — to be at the hand of the abuse of power and not actually know it. … There are such varying degrees of these people, we wanted to allow perspective of that character to be explored and also to have the conversations that were going on behind closed doors that people were afraid to have out in the world because it’s too dangerous.”
It takes the death of Hannah (Gugu Mbatha-Raw), who Mitch assaulted on a work trip and who numbed her pain with drugs and alcohol, to shake Alex into action to go rogue on-air as she does in the first season finale, and it was Hannah’s death that also made Mitch finally start to realize how alone he was.
Previously, executive producer and director Mimi Leder told Variety that of course her death was a “defining moment” but she wanted the audience to decide whether or not the character had to die. “Her casualty is something that we’re acknowledging happens to people who are victimized and assaulted,” she said in December 2019, right after the finale streamed on the service.
When asked at the TCA panel if they were more concerned, specifically, with the fact that Hannah was a black woman who died in order for white characters to learn lessons, Leder replied, “That character was written as a character, not as a person of color. So this person represented the fallout of many of these events that happen to women. We weren’t playing it as the black woman as a victim.”
However, Witherspoon, who also executive produces, added that they “try to be very thoughtful” about the way people of color, and women of color, specifically, “walk through this world,” which includes having “a writing team that tries to be very thoughtful of that [and to] deal with those characters with truth and authenticity.” Although she didn’t want to get into second season spoilers, she noted that Karen Pittman’s character will walk “through some of the things that Gugu’s character walked through” in terms of both interactions with Mitch, as well as the way the media responds to her.
Leder was also asked whether she thought there were fewer Apple haters in the world than she previously publicly said there were — to which she said she did, reiterating comments similar to what she previously told Variety. “There was a lot of expectation from this Apple streaming service from the beginning. We welcome all input, and of course some people are rooting you on and some people are wanting you to fail. It’s just the nature of the beast,” she said.
Ellenberg added that everyone who works on the show is “passionate” about the work they do, so when they do receive negative responses, “it’s emotional.” He acknowledged there was “a moment. … Certainly no one holds anything against the press for engaging with us. We made the show, we’re proud of the show,” he said.
Witherspoon and Aniston both added that they welcome criticism when it is constructive. “Every show, we put it out there,” Aniston pointed out. The criticism or backlash she is not OK with is when “they’re annihilating people’s character.”
Witherspoon stressed the importance of the audience watching all 10 episodes of the first season to fully understand the characters’ relationships. Although the team behind the show said Apple has not shared data with them about who or how many people have been watching, they feel people are not only watching, but also loving it based on the responses they receive in person and online. Witherspoon cited the show’s Rotten Tomatoes score as proof, while Aniston said, “word of mouth has been quite lovely.”
The team is already working on the second season of “The Morning Show,” and Witherspoon said they feel like they’re “just beginning.
“I feel like the end of this 10 episodes, there’s a whole new world order. It’s chaos. No one knows who’s in charge,” she explained. “I think that’s what we’re exploring in the culture right now. What are the new dynamics? What is the new normal?”
‘The Morning Show’: Reese Witherspoon Says “We’re Just Beginning” But Few Hints Offered For Season 2 – TCA
“We’re just beginning,” said The Morning Show star and exec producer Reese Witherspoon.
However, the cast and creatives of the Apple TV+ drama offered few hints about the second season of the show during its TCA press tour panel.
Witherspoon was joined by co-star Aniston, who also exec produces, Billy Crudup, director and exec producer Mimi Leder and exec producer Michael Ellenberg on the panel.
“I feel like at the end of this ten episodes, there’s a whole new world order. It’s chaos. No one knows who is in charge and what leadership means at this point. I think that’s what we’re exploring in the culture right now as it goes topsy turvy, what is the new normal? I’m excited that we’ve got a lot more to explore,” added Witherspoon.
Will Steve Carrell return as Mitch Kessler in season? The Office star was on a one year contract, although showrunner Kerry Ehrin has previously said that she would like to bring him back. Ellenberg, who said that the team has read the first two scripts of season two, said, “You’ll see about Mitch. We’re exploring it. There’s no update yet.”
The show, which launched in November, took 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. Ehrin serves as showrunner and executive producer alongside Leder, Aniston and Kristin Hahn through Echo Films; Witherspoon and Lauren Levy Neustadter through Hello Sunshine; and Ellenberg through Media Res, which serves as the studio. Brian Stelter consults on the project, with his book Top of the Morning providing additional background material.
When asked how the show had performed and whether Apple had shared any ratings data, the panel were unsurprisingly tight-lipped. Witherspoon said, “They’re happy”, while Aniston added, “Word of mouth has been lovely. We’re thrilled with the response to the first season.”
There were a few edgy moments on the panel, which marked Apple TV+’s first debut at TCA. Witherspoon addressed the [SPOILER ALERT] death of Gugu Mbatha-Raw’s character Hannah after one critic expressed disappointment in the storyline for a woman of color, while there was an uncomfortable back-and-forth between Leder and a critic after the director had previously said she thought that some bad reviews for the show’s first three episodes were down to “Apple haters”.
‘The Morning Show’: Jennifer Aniston and Reese Witherspoon Say Season 2 Is a ‘New World Order’
Jennifer Aniston and Reese Witherspoon are reflecting on what worked and didn’t work in the first season of Apple TV+’s The Morning Show, and looking ahead to the next chapter.
Told through the lens of two complicated women, Alex Levy (Aniston) and Bradley Jackson (Witherspoon), working to navigate the minefield of high-octane jobs while facing crises in both their personal and professional lives, The Morning Show aims to explore the power dynamics between women and men, and women and women, in the workplace.
The cast and creatives, which included executive producers Michael Ellenberg and Mimi Leder, were asked Sunday at the winter Television Critics Association press tour about the show’s gradual build in its first season to directly addressing #MeToo and its impact on the characters.
“The show is… of course about #MeToo but it’s about many other things as well. It’s about gender dynamics, power dynamics, the abuse of power — and not just sexual abuse of power, but power struggles in general,” Aniston, who also serves as an executive producer, told reporters ahead of the Screen Actors Guild Awards. “And so I think what we were trying to do was take a very realistic and human situation that we have all, as a society, have allowed to happen unconsciously.”
“As far as Steve [Carell]’s character, it was important to get inside of the head of a gentle, charismatic narcissist — to be at the hand of the abuse of power and not even actually know it,” she continued. “There are varying degrees of these people. So we wanted to have that perspective of that character to be explored. And also to have the conversations that were going on behind closed doors that people were too afraid to have out in the world because it was just too dangerous. Even I was a part of the show and as I watched the episodes, I was on the edge of my seat and I allowed myself to forget what happened and was watching as an audience member. I couldn’t believe what was happening!”
Aniston’s co-star and fellow executive producer, Witherspoon, noted that she felt there was “a lot to explore” in the new season when it came to #MeToo within the Morning Show world. (Aniston pointed out that the first 10 episodes only span one month.)
“I think we have a lot to explore. I think it’s not just #MeToo. I think we explore racism, sexism, homophobia, all the things that are happening in current news media, particularly in the broadcast world, which has existed for so many years. I think when we get to the end of the series, which I think it’s important people saw the whole series because it was very hard to ascertain from three episodes really what was going on with Steve’s character or Gugu [Mbatha-Raw]’s character,” Witherspoon said. “It’s much more impactful once you got to the end, what you saw what was going on underneath.”
“But I think we’re just beginning. I feel like the end of these 10 episodes, there’s a whole new world order. It’s chaos. No one knows who’s in charge. What does leadership mean at this point?” she teased of season two. “I think that’s what we’re exploring in culture right now as we speak, as our culture has… We’re trying to figure out what are the new dynamics, what is the new normal? … We have a lot more to explore.”
“We have a lot of ground, thankfully, to uncover,” Aniston echoed.
With the future of the morning talk show unclear following the devastating freshman finale in December that left Mbatha-Raw’s junior producer, Hannah, fatally overdosing on drugs after it was revealed Carell’s Mitch sexually abused her, the producing team did their best to offer just enough nuggets ahead of season two to tide everyone over.
“It was a climactic finale. Season two certainly picks up right where we ended,” Ellenberg hinted, revealing that the first two scripts have already been completed. “You’ll have to see [what happens].” Aniston couldn’t help but quip that the start of the new season is off to a “very exciting” start.
One thing is for certain, the question mark surrounding Carell’s return to The Morning Show remains unresolved. Ellenberg confirmed that talks are still ongoing to have Carell, who did not have a deal in place for season two, reprise his role.
“We’re exploring it,” Ellenberg said. “No update yet.”
The Morning Show is up for three Screen Actors Guild Awards on Sunday for Aniston in Outstanding Performance by a Female Actor in a Drama Series, and for Carell and Crudup in Outstanding Performance by a Male Actor in a Drama Series. The series was nominated for three Golden Globes, including Best Television Series, Drama, and Best Actress in a Television Series, Drama, for Aniston and Witherspoon. Crudup most recently won a Critics’ Choice TV Award.
Reese Witherspoon, Jennifer Aniston and ‘Morning Show’ Team Respond to Critical Backlash
After Apple’s Morning Show debuted to lukewarm reviews in November, some members of the creative team pushed back in a number of interviews, accusing critics as having a bias against the tech company.
On stage at the Code Media conference, a little over two weeks after the show’s premiere, showrunner Kerry Ehrin and producing director Mimi Leader addressed some of the less favorable reviews. “When those reviews came in, I didn’t know what show they were watching. And I just kind of thought they were nuts,” said Leder. “I just felt there were a lot of Apple haters and wanting Apple to fail.”
So when Leder, along with series stars Jennifer Aniston, Reese Witherspoon and Billy Crudup and executive producer Michael Ellenberg sat in front of those very journalists at the Television Critics Association press tour to promote the second season of the drama, it was all but inevitable the subject would come up.
The Hollywood Reporter’s own chief television critic Daniel J. Fienberg posed the question to Leder by asking her point-blank, “Do you still think we’re a bunch of Apple haters who want to see Apple fail?” to laughs from Witherspoon on stage. (Ehrin, for her part, missed the panel because she was home sick.)
“No, I don’t,” Leder responded. “You know, I think we were a new show. I think people didn’t know what to expect. There were a lot of expectations on the show. And I’m really glad and happy people have responded to the show so powerfully and with great vigor.”
But that didn’t do much to satisfy the journalists in the packed-full ballroom. Ten minutes later, another critic brought up the “backlash from much of the creative team” about the initial reviews and asked the producers on stage what their responsibility is when they’re “calling ‘fake news’ on our reviews when you’re making a show that’s about journalism?”
Witherspoon quickly responded that she “wasn’t aware of where the backlash was” and asked for clarification. The journalist explained that members the creative team had told interviewers that some critics had a bias toward the show because they didn’t like Apple products.
Indeed, just a few weeks ago, Mark Duplass — who plays the character of Chip Black in the series — attributed the unfavorable reviews to critics’ frustration with how Apple rolled out the drama. “I think Apple knows this now, but they didn’t do a very good job of welcoming critics into the process because they’re used to keeping their product secret. When you’re dealing with critics, you don’t keep secrets,” he told THR. “The critics did not like that, and I think they lashed out a little bit.”
On stage, Leder noted that she felt “that was really blown out of proportion” before Witherspoon jumped in. “Look, we make product and then it is up to you guys. You have to decide how you feel about it. That’s how it works. I have no problem hearing very real opinions about material. It actually helps us make it better and work harder about parts that don’t make sense. I welcome the criticism,” she said, as Aniston added: “Especially constructive criticism.”
Leder was then asked again whether she — as someone making a show about journalism — thought she had a greater responsibility to not cry “fake news” in response to the mixed reviews. “I think that journalists and obviously everyone has a right to their opinion. And I think there was a lot of expectations for this series, for this Apple streaming service from the beginning,” she said. “We welcome all input and I think, of course, some people are rooting you on and some people are wanting you to fail. It’s just kind of the nature of the beast. But I don’t feel we had any backlash on our end.”
Ellenberg then added his two cents. “I mean, everyone on this panel engages with the press and respects the press. We’re also all passionate. No one here said fake news,” he said. “You’re happy when things are positive; when it’s negative, it’s emotional. So there was a moment but certainly no one holds anything against the press for engaging with us.”
The team was also asked about where the show is headed in its second season after ending its initial run with a cliffhanger. “We have a lot explore. It’s not just #MeToo. We explore racism, sexism, homophobia — all the things currently happening in news media,” said Witherspoon. “We’re just beginning because there’s a whole new world order. It’s chaos. No one knows who is in charge. What does leadership mean at this point? And I think that’s what we’re exploring in this culture as we speak.”
As for whether Steve Carell, who only had a one-season contract, will return as disgraced anchor Mitch Kessler — something Ehrin has told THR they’ve been working on — the producers remained tight-lipped. “We’re exploring it,” said Ellenberg. “No update yet.”
‘The Morning Show’: Tight-Lipped on Season 2, Cast and Producers Take on Season 1 Criticism
Before heading to Sunday night’s SAG Awards ceremony, nominees Jennifer Aniston and Billy Crudup joined their “Morning Show” cast/executive producer Reese Witherspoon, executive producer Michael Ellenberg, and EP/director Mimi Leder to discuss the show that launched Apple TV+.
One thing they were not prepared to talk about, however, was what’s next — aka Season 2.
“It was a climactic finale,” Ellenberg said early in the panel. “Season 2 certainly picks up where we ended… and you’ll have to watch it to see.”
“We’re just getting started,” Witherspoon said. “We’re trying to figure out the new dynamics [post-#MeToo] — what is the new normal?”
Ellenberg also said they’re still “exploring” Steve Carell’s contract for Season 2. The actor, who played a prominent supporting role in Season 1, was only signed for one season, and the finale indicated that might be it for his character. But showrunner Kerry Ehrin, who couldn’t attend the panel because of a bad case of bronchitis, previously said they were hoping to bring Carell back for the second season.
“No update yet,” Ellenberg said.
That kept the focus on the controversial, oft-criticized elements of Season 1 and the statements made during its rollout — including the sentimental focus provided Carell’s character, Mitch Kessler, who’s fired for sexual harassment during the show’s opening episode. The team onstage was asked about why a show made by women and meant to discuss the #MeToo movement from women’s perspectives would repeatedly take pity on a sexual predator.
“It was important to get inside the head of a gentle, charismatic narcissist,” Aniston said. “[It was important] to be at the hand of abuse of power and not actually even know it. We wanted that perspective of that character to be explored.”
“We explored racism, sexism, homophobia — all the things that are currently happening in news media and particularly broadcast media,” Witherspoon said, pointing out that “The Morning Show” tackled far more than one issue.
Another problem that came up during the panel was Gugu Mbatha-Raw’s character, Hannah Shoenfeld, who was a young producer as well as one of Mitch’s victims. TCA member and NPR critic Eric Deggans asked about how the series plays into onscreen stereotypes about the victimization of black women and what drove the creators to cast one of the few African American actors in the role.
“That character was written as a character, not specified as a person of color,” Leder said. “This character represented the fallout of many of these events that happened to women. So we weren’t playing it as a black woman as a victim. I’m sorry you saw it that way.”
After leaving the answer to that in the moment, Witherspoon chose to revisit it much later in the panel.
“We have Gugu Mbatha-Raw and Karen Pittman [playing characters that] have very similar experiences with the Mitch character,” Witherspoon said. “While I can’t tell you what [happens next], Karen is walking through a similar journey as Gugu, as a woman of color in the media.”
Witherspoon promised the show would continue to explore her experience in Season 2.
“We have a writing team who try to be very thoughtful about that, about the way that’s dealt with,” Witherspoon said. “We really want to deal with those characters with truth and authenticity. I appreciate your thoughts. They’re important, and they matter.”
The actors also discussed Apple’s choice to give critics only the first three episodes for their initial reviews. While plenty of critics have stood by their criticisms, others have claimed the season improves and their reviews would’ve been more enthusiastic if they’d been allowed to see more episodes before filing.
“I think it was important to see the whole season,” Witherspoon said. “It’s hard to tell what’s happening with Steve’s character or Gugu’s character with just three episodes.”
Aniston agreed. “It is a thread that takes you through from one to 10,” she said.
Finally, the team was asked about a previous statement by Leder that said reviews were influenced by a negative perception toward Apple overall.
“I think that was really blown out of proportion,” Leder said. “No, I don’t [believe that]. No. I think we were a new show, I think people didn’t know what to expect. There were a lot of expectations on the show, and I’m really glad and happy people have responded to the show so powerfully and with great vigor.”
While the two actor-producers said they were unaware of the statement, they told the journalists present they welcomed any and all constructive criticism.
“I have no problems hearing about criticism,” Witherspoon said. “It helps us focus and improve on [any aspects of the story] that were confusing. I welcome the criticism.”
“We all have interactions with the press. We all respect the press,” Ellenberg said. “Certainly, there was a moment [of tension], but no one holds anything against the press for engaging with us. We look forward to seeing your reviews for Season 2.”
“The Morning Show” Season 1 is streaming now on Apple TV+. Season 2 is in production.