Jennifer Aniston and Reese Witherspoon: Uncancelled in Morning Wars: Season 2
Picking up after the explosive events of the last season, Season Two of Apple TV’s award-winning Morning Wars [known as The Morning Show outside Australia] finds the breakfast TV team emerging from the wreckage of Alex (Jennifer Aniston) and Bradley’s (Reese Witherspoon) actions, to a new-look UBA and a world in flux, where identity is everything and the chasm between who we present as and who we really are comes into play.
“It takes a lot of twists and turns and we’re basically dealing with a lot of repercussions of what Season One handed us,” says Aniston. “You see the struggles, the outcasts, the cancel culture – everyone walking around with their own guilt of what they allowed to and not to happen. There’s a lot of self-reckoning and it definitely gets spicy.”
“I think it’s a deeper exploration of all those themes,” adds Witherspoon. “Season One was a lot about MeToo and this season is really exploring that time right before the whole world shut down because of the pandemic, so, it’s January – March, right before so we’re dealing with systemic racism, homophobia, ageism and our new-found power and what our relationship to power is as women inside of a news organisation.”
Also executive produced by Aniston and Witherspoon, Season Two’s returning star-studded cast includes Steve Carell, Billy Crudup, Mark Duplass, Nestor Carbonell, Karen Pittman, Bel Powley, Desean Terry, Janina Gavankar, Tom Irwin and Marcia Gay Harden.
New stars joining this season are Greta Lee as ‘Stella Bak’, a tech world wunderkind who has joined the UBA executive team; Ruairi O’Connor as ‘Ty Fitzgerald’, a smart and charismatic YouTube star; Hasan Minhaj as ‘Eric Nomani’, a new member of the Morning Show team; Emmy Award-winner Holland Taylor as ‘Cybil Richards’, the savvy chairwoman of the UBA board; and Julianna Margulies as ‘Laura Peterson’, UBA’s news anchor.
“It was fun creating a new show in real-time as we’re watching the world learn its new normal and hoping that we are portraying it as honestly as we can,” says Aniston. “So, it was a lot of responsibility but exciting at the same time.”
Aniston hopes the new season really takes audiences behind the curtain. “We address issues head-on and air the conversations that are taking place behind closed doors; the conversations that people don’t feel like they can say out loud because they’ll be outcast immediately. I think we portray more of the grey areas as opposed to the black and whites that the world can sometimes put upon people.”
Talking about their own personal pandemic experiences, Aniston says, “It took me down hard and I think it took Reese down too. We had already shot the first bit of the show before the pandemic and then we shut down and then the show was re-written in order to incorporate Covid. So, doing the show, creating a show, whilst in a pandemic while doing all the protocols, and having endless zoom meetings with our incredible epidemiology team, was a lot. The main thing was everybody’s safety. It took some adjusting and, then like everything, it became very normal, oddly enough – and hopefully it won’t be normal for that much longer. But we got through it, and I think we made a really good show.”
Witherspoon agrees, “It’s kind of this theme of ‘the world happens when you’re busy making other plans’. So, we’re all very invested in our own struggles and our own ideas and our own pursuits and then, something bigger than all of us is happening in the world. I’m really proud of this show, we all worked really hard, and just to be thoughtful about what people are dealing with during this pandemic because it has been devastating for the world in so many different ways.”
Ask Witherspoon if – like her network anchor character, Bradley Jackson – she feels the pressure to be perfect in a society where people can be instantly cancelled or replaced, she frowns, “My gosh, all the time.”
“Replaceable, yeah,” adds Aniston.
“I think in our culture, there’s never been a time of more change and a more unforgivable time to live in. I think we all are just humans trying to figure it out; we’re all capable of terrible things and we’re all capable of great things and none of us are just the one horrible thing we ever did, so I think this show really beautifully addresses cancel culture and how there’s a human cost to exiling people or condemning them for one thing they did in their lives because no-one is perfect,” says Witherspoon.
If both actresses have suffered at the hands of tabloid media and paparazzi throughout their careers, then they have new-found sympathy for the dying art of journalism.
“I do think that journalism has shifted so much, even in the past five years with the emergence of social media and mis-information and politicised news. I think it’s very hard for audiences to find the truth. We’re all searching for the truth. There used to be one universal accepted truth and now there’s a thousand different ways to see the news.
“I really see it with my children. They find their news in different ways from how I do. It just is what it is. It’s life. News is not centralised anymore,” says Witherspoon.
“The generational gap with news is so interesting, especially the way we explore it with this season,” says Aniston. “With children, it’s so black and white and ‘That is wrong’, but then it’s like ‘Wait a minute . . .’ The morning news used to be a safe place to go, and we’d feel like, ‘Ok, the world is not imploding today’, but then, over the past few years, you can’t even just deliver the news anymore because everybody is going through your panty drawers now too. It’s a lot. Everyone’s just out for blood.”
“I feel lucky that I grew up in a time where there were things I didn’t know,” says Witherspoon. “It’s an innocence. And I feel like kids nowadays in this digital age, it’s really hard to be able to process everything. I think sometimes you just have to take breaks from it. So, I have a lot of respect for journalists and journalism. I think it is non-stop and it’s also important and vital. I feel lucky that we live in a country that is about the freedom of the press but there’s a lot that comes with it that is pretty complicated and I have to take some time to back up and sort things out and ask if it’s the truth.”
Season Two’s trailer tells us that there’s a price to success and fame. Do Aniston and Witherspoon agree?
“I agree with it 100%,” laughs Aniston. “There is a cost but also you can be the conductor of what that cost is eventually. The cost is really that you can’t do the things that you used to be able to do, but you figure out a way around that. You put yourself out there as an artist and you are out there for people to …it’s become a sport for people to decide how they feel about a different person this week or the following week, or what they’ve said or if something was said out of context. It’s a lot more than just ‘We’re going to perform for you and entertain you’. Now, I guess, there’s the ability to attack all parts of you.”
Adds Witherspoon: “I think success without meaning or purpose is really difficult. It can feel very empty and I think there’s a lot of people who have achieved a lot and are unhappy. And we all know them. Sometimes, you’re running a race to a place that when you get there you’re like, ‘What am I doing here?’ There’s a lot of that going on in the world so I think it’s really great that our show can explore those kinds of themes and really dig in.”
This new season covers some heavy ground. “I don’t think any of it was difficult, I think it’s just the truth – processing things like systemic racism within the media industry, homophobia, sexism, ageism – they’re all meaningful, and doing it was more about how to allocate time to every different issue which is on people’s minds right now. We’re in a cultural reckoning and people are really comfortable voicing it and people are actually interested in hearing it,” says Witherspoon.
“And people really appreciate it when you really go there on a topic that is taboo – and say the unspeakable or the thinkable or the thing that’s said behind closed doors; there’s such relief for an audience to say ‘Oh that’s me! I feel that way. There are other people thinking those things’. Because, again, it’s not so black and white,” says Aniston.
Aniston has grown to love her alter-ego of Alex Levy. “I love Alex’s absolute ability to be professional in one moment – and then lose her shit uncontrollably in the next moment. She’s a human pendulum, from vine to vine.”
Witherspoon, likewise, takes her character on a new journey: “This season, I feel like Bradley is very vulnerable. She’s on a journey of self-discovery and identity and she’s really questioning the places she came from and her place inside the world. That was a really fun part to play because I know so many people in their 40s who are still discovering who they are. They really don’t know. So, it was very meaningful.”
The 10-episode second season of Morning Wars will debut globally on Friday, 17 September, 2021 on Apple TV+ with the first episode, followed by one new episode weekly, every Friday.