Jennifer Aniston & Reese Witherspoon On Battling Ageism, ‘The Morning Show’, & Dealing With Sexual Harassment In Hollywood
Among the many highlights of Apple TV+’s addictive The Morning Show are the quick-witted (and emotionally fraught) verbal sparring matches between America’s sweethearts Jennifer Aniston and Reese Witherspoon. On a recent afternoon in a suite at Claridge’s, however, the glossy, impeccably well-groomed pair are virtually cheerleading for each other in between feminist rants. “The most ageist stuff I ever heard was from financial advisors who said to me, ‘Start saving money now because at 40 you’re not going to be making anymore money,” says Witherspoon, leaning in towards me conspiratorially. “I make more money now in my 40s than I’ve made in my entire career… I remember a [specific] guy telling me that, and guess what? I fired him!” She pulls away and laughs. “That’s not a joke,” chimes in Aniston, grinning. “You tell them, sister!” rejoins Witherspoon.
You get the sense that Aniston and Witherspoon have been waiting their entire lives for a project like Apple TV+’s landmark series – for which both actresses are nominated for Best Actress in a TV Series: Drama at the Golden Globes tonight. Set over 24 days, the catalyst for the plot is a decidedly Today-esque scandal: Mitch (Steve Carrell), the long-term host of a morning news programme in Manhattan, is accused of sexually harassing coworkers and abruptly fired – much to the horror of Alex (Aniston), his co-host for the last 15 years. Brought in as his replacement on the whim of the ambitious head of the news division, Cory (Billy Crudup), is the fiery, inexperienced reporter Bradley (Witherspoon), who has a habit of going rogue on live television, pushing Alex even closer to the edge.
Critics may have been divided over the first episodes of the series – but, taken as a whole, its 10 hour-long instalments represent a more nuanced depiction of the fallout from #MeToo than any other series since the Weinstein allegations cracked the foundations of Hollywood. Through subplots that involve a host of what first appear to be minor characters – including junior network staffers played brilliantly by Bel Powley and Gugu Mbatha-Raw – The Morning Show broaches numerous thorny issues, from the nuances of sexual coercion (notably, Powley’s Claire has a consensual relationship with a much older senior weatherman) to the potentially exclusionary nature of mainstream feminism (“’Cause America loves a good Cinderella story as long as she’s a white girl,” says one of the few TV hosts of colour after she’s passed over for the job in favour of Bradley).
Reese Witherspoon’s Hello Sunshine Is One of the Few Women-Led Success Stories at 2020 Golden Globes
It’s been a banner year for Hello Sunshine: The Reese Witherspoon-founded production company behind HBO’s “Big Little Lies” and Apple TV+’s “The Morning Show” scored six Golden Globe nominations Monday morning. Hello Sunshine and its two shows about strong women served as a bright spot in the historically male-dominated Golden Globes, which this year snubbed female filmmakers in a variety of critical film categories.
Hello Sunshine, which Witherspoon founded in 2016, has quickly made a name for itself in prestige television. The studio says it is focused on telling stories and creating content that celebrates women, and, so far, Hollywood has recognized its efforts; “Big Little Lies’” three Golden Globe nominations Monday come on top of the five the show received last year. (The series was ineligible for this year’s Emmys as HBO likely pushed its Season 2 release date to avoid competing with its own “Game of Thrones”, but the previous year the show earned eight Emmys.)
As for “The Morning Show,” the Apple TV+ tentpole scored three Golden Globe nominations Monday. The recognition could help Apple TV+ and Hello Sunshine maintain their momentum and keep “The Morning Show,” which has already announced a Season 2, in the cultural zeitgeist, especially if voters decide to turn those nominations into awards in January.
Hello Sunshine is working on several upcoming shows, including Hulu’s “Little Fires Everywhere,” Amazon Prime Video’s “Daisy Jones & The Six,” and Starz’s “Kin,” among others.
“When I’m awakened by shaking and my husband’s much too loud and excited voice at 5 AM, it must be a good day,” Witherspoon said in a statement. “I’ve been blessed to work with talented actors and creative teams throughout my career, but this year really takes the cake because I had the honor of working with two amazing groups of people on both ‘Big Little Lies’ and ‘The Morning Show!’ I can’t say enough about each actor, writer, producer creator and member of the hardworking crews that brought these stories to life. Acting is my first love and it was always my dream when I began producing and started Hello Sunshine that we would create smart and compelling stories with strong female voices at the center, but to have people actually enjoy the work we do is truly all I could have hoped for! I’m grateful to the HFPA and to my partners HBO and Apple, David E. Kelly and Kerry Ehrin, Nicole, Laura, Shailene, Zoe, Meryl, Jen, Steve, Billy, Mark, Gugu, Karen, and everyone who had a hand in bringing ‘Big Little Lies’ and ‘The Morning Show’ to life!”
And while the Hello Sunshine team has reason to celebrate, the Golden Globe nominations were especially kind to its distribution partner HBO. Monday’s announcements reaffirmed HBO’s hot streak, as the television studio received 11 Golden Globe nominations, far more than any of its peers; not even the Golden Globes’ snubbing of the divisive Season 8 of “Game of Thrones” slowed the studio down. (Only Kit Harington received a nomination on behalf of the show, in the Drama TV Series acting category.)
As new streaming services enter the market, it has become increasingly important for large entertainment companies to invest in original content. HBO, which received nominations for “Chernobyl,” “Barry,” “Big Little Lies,” and “Catherine the Great,” excels at this, and the power players behind events such as the Golden Globes and Emmys have taken note. The in-house success also bodes well for WarnerMedia’s upcoming HBO Max streaming service, which is slated to launch in May.
Truth Be Told is a new crime-drama series for AppleTV+ that Reese executive produced through Hello Sunshine. Below is an interview with some of the other producers about how the show was developed – there is only a brief mention of Reese, but still an interesting look at the work put in.
‘Truth Be Told’: How the Apple TV+ Drama Came to Be, From Pitch to Screen
In Apple TV+’s “Truth Be Told,” Octavia Spencer plays Poppy Parnell, a true-crime podcaster who is compelled to reopen the murder case that made her a national sensation and comes face to face with the man she may have mistakenly helped to put behind bars. Relitigating the murder case via her podcast, Parnell contends with nearly 20 years of family secrets, deceit, and the San Francisco Bay Area’s powerful in order to get to the truth.
The series, which is created by Nichelle Tramble Spellman (“The Good Wife”) and premieres today, came about after general conversations on the value of true crime between executive producers Jenno Topping, Reese Witherspoon and Lauren Neustadter. Witherspoon recommended that Topping and Neustadter consider Kathleen Barber’s 2017 novel, “Are You Sleeping.”
“We read it and loved it, and especially loved its potential in terms of an adaptation,” Topping said. “Lauren then got involved as well. We had just done ‘Hidden Figures’ with Octavia, and together we found Nichelle and it just became a happy party.”
Besides the novel, Bay Area native Spellman’s attraction to the project started with the opportunity to explore the phenomena of podcasting and revisiting criminal cases. She also relished the idea of setting a series in the city where she was born and raised. The original story was set in Illinois, a state unfamiliar to Spellman.
“I’m a Bay Area girl, and I really wanted to show the diversity that I remembered,” she said. “Much of what I was fond of has kind of disappeared, or been altered after all the money that came in from Silicon Valley spread through San Francisco and then into the East Bay. So the series is a little bit of a love letter to how things used to be.”
‘From Book To Script To Screen,’ Reese Witherspoon Is Making Roles For Women
Actor Reese Witherspoon became famous in her 20s after starring in films like Election and Legally Blonde, but by the time she entered her 30s, the film landscape had shifted. DVD sales had shrunk and smaller, female-centered movies were in short supply. It was nearly impossible to find good leading roles for women.
Witherspoon began asking different movie studios what projects they were developing for women. “With the exclusion of one studio, everybody said ‘Nothing. Nothing with a female lead,’ ” she says.
So Witherspoon decided to start a production company and began adapting books with complex female characters into films and TV shows. The idea was to create better parts for women — and to help female authors get their stories sold.
Witherspoon’s company spearheaded the adaptation of Gone Girl, Wild and Big Little Lies, among other titles. Looking back, Witherspoon describes her shift into producing as “betting on myself.”
Reese appeared on The Tonight Show Starring Jimmy Fallon earlier in the week, as part of her promotion for The Morning Show. She chatted about Big Little Lies, why she started producing, TikTok and The Morning Show. She also took part in a game of ‘Can You Feel It’, which was hilarious! She wore a black dress by Andrew Gn, with Wolford tights and YSL heels. Reese was at her most charming and funny, and it’s a must watch appearance!!
Find stills and screencaptures in our Gallery, and videos below:
Reese and Jennifer Aniston took part in a Q&A session discussing The Morning Show with The Hollywood Reporter yesterday. The two-some talked about the creative control they had over the show, the relevance of the story in the show to current times, why they opted to take the show to AppleTV+, their characters, and the challenges of morning TV. It’s a great insight into the show. Watch the Q&A below, and find screencaptures in our Gallery.
Reese Witherspoon to Receive Sherry Lansing Award at Hollywood Reporter Women in Entertainment Event
Reese Witherspoon will receive the prestigious Sherry Lansing Leadership Award at The Hollywood Reporter’s annual Women in Entertainment gala, set to take place Dec. 11 in Los Angeles.
The Oscar, Golden Globe and Emmy winner will be joined by best-selling author, entrepreneur and political activist Stacey Abrams, who will deliver the keynote speech at the breakfast, which is attended by 600 of the leading women in the entertainment industry.
Also speaking will be Oscar- and Golden Globe-winning actress and producer Charlize Theron, who’ll help present $1 million in university scholarships to high-school seniors from underserved communities across Los Angeles, all of whom have taken part in THR’s acclaimed Women in Entertainment Mentorship Program.
The gala coincides with the release of THR’s much-anticipated annual Women in Entertainment issue of the magazine (on newsstands Dec. 11), which highlights the Power 100, the leading female executives in entertainment. This year, the issue is guest-edited by actress, director, producer and activist Olivia Wilde, who will also attend the star-studded event.
Witherspoon is the latest recipient of the Lansing Award, which recognizes trailblazers and philanthropists and was established in honor of the former CEO of Paramount Pictures (the first woman to head a Hollywood studio). Previous recipients include Viola Davis, Jennifer Lawrence, Tina Fey, Barbra Streisand, Shonda Rhimes, Oprah Winfrey, Diane Keaton, Jane Fonda, Helen Mirren, Meryl Streep, Halle Berry, Jodie Foster, Glenn Close and Barbara Walters.
“Reese has transformed herself from acclaimed actress to one of Hollywood’s most prolific producers. She is a perfect fit to carry on the legacy of trailblazing women by receiving the Sherry Lansing Award,” THR editorial director Matthew Belloni said. “I’m delighted that this year we’ll also have Stacey Abrams — one of the most impressive and transformative figures in the country — to deliver our keynote speech. They are fitting company to the multitalented Olivia Wilde, who’s proved how gifted she is not just as the director of this year’s Booksmart, but also as guest editor of our upcoming magazine.”
One of the many films Reese and Hello Sunshine have been working on producing is Lucy In The Sky, a sci-fi drama directed by Noah Hawley and starring Natalie Portman and Jon Hamm. The two stars of the film talked about Reese’s involvement as producer in a new interview with Entertainment Weekly:
Natalie Portman, Jon Hamm talk Lucy in the Sky, astronaut love, and interstellar f—kboys Fresh from the film’s Toronto International Film Festival debut, the stars talk about their cosmic attraction at the center Noah Hawley’s bonkers drama ‘Lucy in the Sky’
Some romances are written in the stars; others are written because of the stars, as is the case for Natalie Portman and Jon Hamm‘s otherworldly obsession in the upcoming Reese Witherspoon-produced movie Lucy in the Sky.
Inspired by real-life astronaut Lisa Nowak’s mental unraveling after she manned the space shuttle Discovery’s STS-121 mission in July 2006, Legion creator Noah Hawley crafted a sci-fi-tinged psychological journey into the damaging effects of one astronaut’s life-altering voyage that triggered a violent episode of near-fatal attraction. The film follows Portman as Lucy Cola, a star-gazing space-traveler who, after returning to earth from a lengthy mission beyond the atmosphere, has a steamy affair with her mysterious coworker, Mark (Hamm), who thrusts her world into a state of philosophical chaos. Still, as Lucy’s grip on reality loosens, her feelings for Mark intensify, leading to the film’s increasingly trippy exploration of a cosmic alignment of two disparate hearts (that ultimately leads to an epic conclusion too bonkers to spoil here).
Also starring Dan Stevens, Ellen Burstyn, Zazie Beetz, Colman Domingo, Tig Notaro, and Nick Offerman, Lucy in the Sky rockets into theaters on Oct. 4. Ahead of the film’s release, which follows its world premiere at the 2019 Toronto International Film Festival, read on for EW’s full conversation with Portman and Hamm, in which they discuss their characters’ zany chemistry and Witherspoon’s impact as a producer.
What were Reese Witherspoon’s contributions like as a producer? PORTMAN: Reese is an amazing person and an amazingly involved producer. She wasn’t on set because she was filming her show at the same time, but our script was the product of her input, ideas, and notes when she was developing it, and also in the post process, she was involved in watching and talking about it with us and Noah. She’s so sharp, smart, and generous. She’s been like a real sister and role model just for that, being able to do everything and be kind and generous while creating work for hundreds of other people.
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