While the press conference doesn’t start, Jennifer Aniston has fun trying to figure out the logistics of Zoom’s rooms, with reporters from around the world being relocated from one virtual room to another before the conversation with her and Reese Witherspoon begins. The actress jokes:
“Oh, it’s the lobby. We’re in the lobby, and then they put people on the deck, but now they’re in the waiting room until they can get into the lobby. Sorry, I’m loving this Zoom language [risos].”
This same “Zoom’s language”, in a way, ended up becoming routine during the production of the second season of “The Morning Show”, which debuts today (17) on Apple TV+.
In the series, history seems to enjoy repeating itself. If the first season needed to be rewritten to include the movement’s harassment allegations #MeToo, the second goes along the same path and encountered another real-life challenge that ended up becoming part of the narrative: covid-19.
It’s all happening in real time, and that’s the fun part of creating a series under these conditions.
Producer and protagonist of the drama, Aniston reflects: “We’re portraying reality as honestly as possible. It’s a lot of responsibility, but it keeps things exciting.”
a stone in the way
The initial goal was for the series to return in 2020, but after two episodes were filmed, production had to be interrupted to respect sanitary protocols. It was at this point that showrunner Kerry Ehrin returned to the writers room and decided that the pandemic needed to be part of the story it was telling, which already included the culture of cancellation, the 2020 presidential election and racism.
But after 18 months of social distancing, masks and calls by Zoom, is there still anything to be said about the pandemic?
“The season explores that moment right before the whole world is isolated,” explains Reese Witherspoon, also a producer and lead on the show. “So it’s from January to March [de 2020], and we deepened the themes of the first season. We deal with systemic racism, homophobia, ageism and women’s new relationship with power within media organizations.”
In this sense, the pandemic enters the season’s narrative less as a health problem, and more as an observation of the relationship between the press and the virus, before it becomes, objectively, a global issue.
“Creating a series in the middle of the pandemic means thousands of calls per Zoom and lots of protocols”, says the eternal Rachel Green of “Friends”.
It’s hard because I wanted to see my team, I love these people! And it was bizarre too. In rehearsals, we were wearing masks and protectors, but when we turned on the cameras, suddenly, the virus was gone, there in those five minutes. It took me a while to adjust, but it turned out to be normal…hopefully not for too long!
A little bit of everything
Since in a journalism newsroom there is rarely just one story happening, the season takes advantage of this connection between the plot and reality to reflect on other problems of a social nature — and puts its finger on the wound of prejudice.
“We have initial conversations with Kerry Ehrin and the writing team, but the decision about themes is really theirs,” explains Reese.
“They’re the ones who know what’s going to surprise or satisfy audiences. They’re big and complex ideas, and we have a very diverse group of writers talking about how these issues affect their own lives. That’s what’s reflected in season two.”
Cancellation, power struggles and monsters in the closet
Picking up the story immediately after Alex (Aniston) and Bradley (Witherspoon) dropped a bombshell live in the final episode of Season One, the second year of “The Morning Show” doesn’t skimp on surprises and twists.
“We’ve seen the difficulties, the exclusions, the culture of cancellation, and everyone’s kind of carrying their own share of blame for what they allowed or didn’t allow to happen,” says Aniston of the mood that will take over the characters in the new season.
There are a lot of self-assessments and a lot of surprises. The thing gets really hot.
That’s because the denunciation made live by Alex, which instantly transformed her into one of the most important personalities in the United States —stamping the covers of major magazines, as shown in the trailer —, was just the beginning of a long web of causes and consequences that will chase her through the new episodes.
For example, Alex still hides the affair that she had with Mitch, left Bradley helpless when he left the network, and is desperate for the secrets to be, in fact, hidden.
“It is important not to treat these matters in a generic or simplified way”, points out Aniston, explaining:
We want to dive into complex topics and hear the conversations that are happening behind closed doors, the ones that people feel shouldn’t even happen. Because that’s the truth! These conversations are happening! Portraying these gray areas, rather than just being 8 or 80, defines what the world is really doing to people.
Among these more complex themes, of course, is the culture of cancellation. The episodes bring repercussions for Mitch, but they don’t just stop there —other members of the morning paper’s staff are affected, to a greater or lesser extent, by the judging panel of social media.
In our culture, there has never been a moment of so many transformations and, at the same time, so unforgivable, reflete Witherspoon.
“We’re all human trying to figure out who we are, all capable of terrible things and very good things. We’re not defined by the worst thing we’ve ever done in life. because nobody is perfect.”
the age of disinformation
For Aniston and Witherspoon, work on “The Morning Show” has transformed the way they look at journalism and the news industry. Although the series is not intended to be a documentary, it doesn’t stray from the issues of the moment. Therefore, it ended up bringing reflections on what the duo calls a “generational gap”.
With the rise of social media and misinformation, it is very difficult to find the truth. Before, there used to be a single universal truth, and now there are thousands of strands. I see this with my children, they get information from different places than I do. And that’s life, the news is no longer centralized.
“This gap is interesting, because for younger people sometimes things are extremely simple, and it’s not like that. It’s cool that in the series we explore all of that,” he says, noting that Holland Taylor’s character brings this side of the experience, for being someone who “has seen it all and doesn’t accept being contradicted”.
In the past, the morning news used to be a safe place, but in the last five years it seems that things have changed. They can’t just break the news, because they’re suddenly turning over their entire life. It’s too much. Everyone wants blood.