‘Morning Show’ Director on How Characters ‘Normalizing Bad Behavior’ Leads to #MeToo Storyline

Mimi Leder tells TheWrap Apple TV+ series explores “how passivity can destroy lives”

Last Updated: November 1, 2019 @ 1:55 PM

By now anyone who has been following the news surrounding Friday’s launch of Apple TV+ knows that the crown jewel of Apple’s streaming service is “The Morning Show,” a drama starring Jennifer Aniston and Reese Witherspoon that dives into the darker side of the morning news industry. And you have also seen enough headlines to know that this TV series has a plot heavily influenced by the #MeToo movement and sexual misconduct accusations leveled against ousted news network staples like Matt Lauer, Charlie Rose and Bill O’Reilly.

And though “Morning Show” director and executive producer Mimi Leder says the show, which was ordered by Apple in November 2017, is not based on any one case, it does explore “how passivity can destroy lives” in these situations.

“The show is a work of fiction and when the #MeToo movement happened, it became part of the show,” Leder, who directed half of the show’s 10-episode first season, told TheWrap. “And it was something we obviously did not want to ignore and would be negligent to ignore. We’re in the midst of shifting a cultural reality that has existed for centuries and I think people really want to see this. I think it’s really exciting to explore where we are right now in this process, in this moment in history, in the midst of a reckoning, of sorts.”

“We look at ways in which we’re all capable of normalizing bad behavior without even realizing it,” she added. “And we look at how we’re all capable of participating in the suppression and abuse of power, if only as a passive witness. And we explore how passivity can destroy lives.”

The Apple TV+ drama centers on Aniston’s character, Alex Levy, the longtime host of the fictional “Morning Show,” who is shaken when her co-anchor, Mitch Kessler (played by Steve Carell), is fired over sexual misconduct accusations. The network soon looks to replace him with Witherspoon’s character, Bradley Jackson, whom the male execs ultimately want to replace Alex with.

“Alex’s response [to Mitch’s firing and the accusations leveled against him] is how it’s going to affect her, how it’s going to affect her long career,” Leder said. “I mean, these people are very flawed characters. So I think [showrunner Kerry Ehrin] really wrote very nuanced characters and we created — Jen, Reese, myself — we worked very hard to make these people authentic and real, and sometimes not nice, and sometimes saying the wrong things and thinking about themselves. And Mitch’s character is definitely this charming narcissist. These people are very flawed, they are very real.”

Leder kept these themes in mind when filming the series, by mirroring the “gray areas of human behavior” in the look of the show.

“We give it a light look and a bright look when Jen is in front of the [‘Morning Show’] camera,” she said. “And then we create the world behind the curtain, behind the scenes at the show. I wanted the camera and the lighting to have the complexity to match the characters we were following. So there’s a lot of shadow, a lot of grays and it’s a lot like the characters we’re following.”

The first three episodes of “Morning Show” are now available for streaming on Apple TV+.

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