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.
Another accolade for Reese was announced today – she is the Wall Street Journal’s ‘Entertainment Innovator of the Year’! Reese features on the front cover of their November issue, with a gorgeous new photoshoot and a fantastic, inspiring new interview. The interview focuses on Reese’s recent foray into producing, and features quotes on Reese from her husband Jim, and Nicole Kidman. Find the interview below – it’s a great read – and see photos in our Gallery. The magazine hits news-stands on November 4th so be sure to pick up a copy. Congratulations on this new honour, Reese
How Reese Witherspoon is Changing Hollywood for Women
With projects ranging from her HBO series ‘Big Little Lies’ to her production franchise to her growing lifestyle brand, Witherspoon has become a force in female storytelling
THIS PAST MAY, Reese Witherspoon experienced the closest thing she’ll get to a college homecoming when she returned to Stanford University, where she studied English literature for a few semesters in the mid-1990s but never graduated. Students invited her to be the featured guest at the Stanford Graduate School of Business’s View From the Top speaker series and asked her about her multifaceted career as an Academy Award–winning actress, producer and entrepreneur. Afterward, she popped over to the dorms with her 18-year-old daughter, Ava, to surprise whomever lived in her old room. “I knocked on the door, and a girl was in there,” Witherspoon recalls. “She opens it and screams, ‘Oh, my God! My mom is going to freak out; she just loves you!’ ”
The trip down memory lane prompts Witherspoon, 41, to ponder what might have happened if she hadn’t left the university for Hollywood after freshman year. (She took a leave of absence in 1996 to star in Pleasantville and Election.) After a critically acclaimed debut at age 14 in 1991’s The Man in the Moon, why would an aspiring actress enroll at Stanford and move to Northern California in the first place? “I was never going to be an actor who lives in their car because their dream was so big. [If acting didn’t work] I would have gone from Stanford to medical school and become a surgeon. Right now, I’d probably be the premier surgeon and pediatric cardiologist at Vanderbilt University,” she says, pausing. “What? I’m just being honest. I’m ambitious, and I’m over hiding that.”
“Of all the nasty words I’ve heard that are used to describe women, the one that has the ugliest connotations is ambition,” says Laura Dern, Witherspoon’s friend and co-star in the 2014 film Wild and this year’s seven-part HBO series Big Little Lies. “I don’t know why that’s declared conniving for women, because I’m constantly inspired by Reese’s ambition. You have a dream? She makes it happen.”
In the past decade, Witherspoon, mother of three, top-earning actress, powerful producer and, most recently, fashion designer, has become a new face of feminist filmmaking. Last year, the New Orleans–born, Nashville-raised entrepreneur founded Hello Sunshine, dedicated to realizing stories about women. She had created her own production companies in the past, including Type A Films, founded in 2003 and later dissolved, and then Pacific Standard in 2012. But Hello Sunshine (which absorbed Pacific Standard) is poised to become a Hollywood juggernaut, spanning feature films, TV series and digital content. The Oscar-nominated movies Wild and Gone Girl , as well as Big Little Lies, which won eight Emmy Awards (including one for outstanding limited series), were all projects produced by Witherspoon from books she discovered and optioned. She’s the 21st-century version of silent film star Mary Pickford, known as the first America’s Sweetheart, who co-founded United Artists in 1919, at the age of 27, so she could distribute her own films, or Lucille Ball, the I Love Lucy star who became the first female head of a major studio when she bought out ex-husband Desi Arnaz from their Desilu Productions in 1962. However, whereas those pioneering women were looking for a seat at the table, Witherspoon is seeking a larger piece of the pie.
Reese Witherspoon to Produce Drama ‘Delivery’ in Development at NBC From Kristin Newman, Rob Wright
Reese Witherspoon is attached as an executive producer on a drama in development at NBC, Variety has learned.
Titled “Delivery,” the series is based on the real experiences of series creators, writers, and executive producers Kristin Newman and Rob Wright. It is described as a family drama set in a high-risk perinatology unit. Newman and Wright, a husband and wife team, collaborated for the first time on the script which they wrote last year during the three months Newman spent living in a hospital labor and delivery ward, first on bed rest, and then in the NICU after their daughter was born ten weeks early.
In addition to Witherspoon, Newman, and Wright, Lauren Levy Neustadter will also executive produce. She is the head of film and television for Witherspoon’s Hello Sunshine production company, which is set up under an overall deal at ABC Studios. ABC Studios will produce in association with Hello Sunshine.
This marks the latest television project for Witherspoon, who most recently starred in and executive produced the HBO drama “Big Little Lies,” which won eight Emmys including Outstanding Limited Series. It is yet unknown whether a second season of the series will be produced. Witherspoon and Jennifer Aniston are also teaming up to star in and executive produce a series that will focus on a New York morning show.
Newman is a writer and producer known for her work on “That 70’s Show,” “How I Met Your Mother,” and “Galavant.” She also executive produced ABC’s “The Muppets” and wrote for “The Real O’Neals.” Wright wrote for and co-executive produced Fox’s “Lethal Weapon” series, and previously worked on shows like “Ash vs Evil Dead,” “Grimm,” “Charmed,” and “Walker, Texas Ranger.” He also created the Fox series “The Mob Doctor.”
Newman is repped by UTA and Hansen Jacobson. Wright is repped by ICM and Bloom Hergott. Witherspoon is repped by CAA, LBI Entertainment and Hansen Jacobson.
Reese earned another important accolade today – she was named on Fortune magazine’s Most Powerful Women list. Fortune’s Most Powerful Women list is a ranking that is put out every year looking at the 50 most powerful women in business. Four criteria are considered: the size and importance of the business, the direction of the business, the social and cultural relevance, and the trajectory of the woman’s career. Reese was not eligible for the main 50, but was featured as their special ‘number 51’ – read more below, and see the full list here:
Fortune’s Most Powerful Women
It’s MPW day. It’s a big day for us here at Fortune MPW HQ: The 2017 list of the Most Powerful Women in Business is out!
Racing into the top spot—for the third year in a row—is General Motors CEO Mary Barra. Rounding out the top 5: PepsiCo CEO Indra Nooyi (more on her later), Lockheed Martin CEO Marillyn Hewson, Fidelity CEO Abigail Johnson, and Facebook COO Sheryl Sandberg.
In all, the list includes seven newbies, one return, and 26 CEOs who, together, control a total market cap of $1.1 trillion. We have all the juicy details—including who’s off, who’s on, and who’s on our radar—below.
But before we get to that, it’s worth pointing out that this year marks Fortune’s 20th list, a testament to the importance we place on charting and celebrating these women’s careers. For more, I encourage you to read this editor’s letter, in which our fearless leader, Cliff Leaf, reflects on the history—and continuing necessity—of the ranking. As my co-editor on the list, Beth Kowitt, tells Cliff, covering the ever-evolving story of women in business is “complicated—and critically important, surprising, fascinating, and inspiring too.”
MORE FROM THE MPW ISSUE
• New women on the block. While the MPW list always includes women from a diverse range of businesses, this year’s newcomers have raised the bar: all seven hail from different industries. From energy (PG&E CEO Geisha Williams) to toys (Mattel CEO Margo Georgiadis) to retail (Ulta Beauty CEO Mary Dillion), they provide a peek into the diversity of global business today.
• MPWs in waiting. While these 10 women didn’t make the official list, they did catch our eye. We wouldn’t be surprised to see many of them grace the top 50 ranking in years to come…
• She’s No. 51, y’all. We have a tradition of naming a “bonus” MPW—No. 51—a distinction that goes to a woman who doesn’t technically fit our parameters when it comes to P&L and market cap, but who nevertheless captures the list’s powerful, business-savvy spirit. This year that spot goes to Hollywood multihyphenate Reese Witherspoon. For those keeping score at home, Witherspoon has launched a lifestyle startup as well as a multi-platform content company; and produced hits including Gone Girl, Wild, and Emmy fav Big Little Lies—all while still landing big, juicy acting roles for herself.
Reese graces the cover of the new October issue of US Glamour magazine, and inside she writes an article for the magazine about empowering women in Hollywood and promoting women’s rights. She touches on some of her female-driven projects including Wild and Big Little Lies, as well as A Wrinkle In Time, her children’s response to her producing work, and her goals with Hello Sunshine. It’s a really good read, and you can find the full article here. The article is accompanied by a fun and fantastic new photoshoot – find that, in HQ, in our Gallery!
Reese Witherspoon Extends Overall Deal With ABC Studios
Reese Witherspoon is extending her overall deal with ABC Studios for another year through her new company, Hello Sunshine. Under the pact, Witherspoon and Hello Sunshine’s head of film and television Lauren Levy Neustadter will develop comedy and drama TV projects for the studio.
Witherspoon previously had an overall deal at ABC Studios though Pacific Standard, the production company she co-founded with Bruna Papandrea. The pact yielded multiple sales and an ABC drama pilot in 2016 written by Meaghan Oppenheimer. Papandrea exited the company last year to start a new venture.
Witherspoon, who recently executive produced and starred in HBO’s buzzy limited series Big Little Lies, is repped by CAA, LBI, and Hansen Jacobson.
Inside Vanity Fair’s First Founders Fair with Reese Witherspoon, Sasheer Zamata, Tory Burch, and More
At Vanity Fair’s inaugural Founders Fair last April, entrepreneurial women—including Tory Burch, Reese Witherspoon, and the co-chairs of the Women’s March—talked about what it takes.
While there’s ample evidence that there are still ceilings for professional women to shatter (Exhibit A: the White House), female entrepreneurs are having a moment. This was plain to witness at the first Vanity Fair Founders Fair, at 1 Hotel Brooklyn Bridge, in April, where risk-takers, business leaders, and investors shared stories of having ignored naysayers and turning bright ideas into businesses. Tory Burch, in conversation with Vanity Fair editor Graydon Carter, explained why she firmly believes retail still has a place—alongside e-commerce—in her eponymous fashion empire. The national co-chairs of the Women’s March told how they turned angst from disparate Facebook groups into 1.2 million placard-wielding, pink-hat-wearing demonstrators the day after Donald Trump’s inauguration. Reese Witherspoon—a producer, Oscar-winning actress, and the founder of lifestyle brand Draper James—revealed how she still isn’t taken as seriously as her male counterparts. “A guy has one hit and they say he deserves an Oscar. One guy will have a hit at Sundance and he gets Jurassic Park,” she said. “A woman has a hit at Sundance and it takes her like six more movies to get a big movie.” Indeed, grit was a theme of the event. Julie Deane, founder of the Cambridge Satchel Company, described how she started her business by calling a shopkeeper every 35 minutes for almost two days until he revealed the name of a key supplier. “This is where being the most tenaciously annoying person and the best nagger in the world really comes into its own,” she declared. With founders such as Deane growing in force, the glass ceiling doesn’t stand a chance.
Jennifer Aniston, Reese Witherspoon to Star in Series About TV Morning Shows
More than a decade after Friends wrapped its run, star Jennifer Aniston is plotting her return to the small screen.
In one of the largest TV packages to date, Aniston and Reese Witherspoon are attached to star in an untitled series exploring morning shows and the larger New York media scene that they inhabit.
The package, which has not yet hit the market, is expected to be taken out to premium cable outlets like HBO and streaming services including Netflix. Given the stars attached, it is expected to draw significant interest from multiple bidders.
The project is based on an original idea and is being spearheaded by former HBO head of drama Michael Ellenberg and his newly launched film and TV production company Media Res. Jay Carson (House of Cards) is attached to pen the script and exec produce. Academy Award nominee Steve Kloves (Wonder Boys, Harry Potter) will executive produce. Witherspoon will also executive produce alongside her Hello Sunshine banner topper Lauren Levy Neustadter. Aniston also will be credited as an executive producer.
Aniston and Witherspoon, who memorably guest starred as Aniston’s younger sister on Friends, have remained friends over the years.
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