Jon Hamm’s ‘Morning Show’ Character Was Inspired by Tech Billionaires ‘Taking Swings’ at Legacy Media, EP Says

Michael Ellenberg tells TheWrap that though he is the Apple drama’s “villain of the season, Jon brought both a humor and humanity to the role”

Jon Hamm as Paul Marks in "The Morning Show" (Apple TV+)

Jon Hamm’s Paul Marks, who burst into “The Morning Show” scene in Season 3, wasn’t inspired by just one tech mogul or finance billionaire, but he is certainly “an amalgamation” of Elon Musk, Mark Zuckerberg and other figures, according to executive producer Michael Ellenberg.

Marks — whom Cory Ellison (Billy Cruddup) courted professionally for a network-saving deal in which Marks acquires UBA — ranges from Jeff Bezos-level wealth and power, with his Hyperion One rocket and other space exploration endeavors (like Bezos’ Blue Origin), to Elon Musk-level shrewdness and tech surveillance background.

Ellenberg sees past the black and white into the gray area surrounding Marks, especially in Episode 6 when some dirt about him resurfaces as Alex (Jennifer Aniston) plans to interview him on her streaming series “Alex Unfiltered.”

“There’s no shortage of tech and finance billionaires who are taking swings inside traditional media, streaming, social media, etc.,” Ellenberg told TheWrap. “There’s a way in which Paul Marks is the villain of the season. But Jon brought both humor and humanity, and eventually a vulnerability to the role that gives it a depth that people will be into.”

Ellenberg also highlighted how Marks points to a question plaguing many media outlets today. Marks wasn’t just considering UBA, but also network rival YDA where Laura Peterson (Julianna Marguiles) and Audra (Mindy Kaling) work. 

“A big defining question of our time is ‘Can traditional media hold on?’ Here are all these outsiders who don’t really know much about it, but are all convinced they can do it better than the people who’ve been doing it for a long time,” he said. We thought that was a great debate to explore and — ‘Shoul Cory and Stella (Greta Lee) be in charge, or Paul Marks, or some combination thereof? They all duke it out in pretty explosive fashion this year.”

Jennifer Aniston as Alex Levy and Jon Hamm as Paul Marks in “The Morning Show” (Apple TV+)

Executive producer and director Mimi Leder called Marks an “accelerant.”

“Paul Marks comes into UVA and changes it forever. He pushes everyone in the story towards their truth. Cory is in trouble. He’s not found to be the CEO provocateur anymore. When you’re out of money — and he needs money — he needs to save UBA through Paul Marks, but Alex is very suspicious of that,” Leder said. “As she should be, she smells something. I would say a lot of billionaires because during the pandemic, one was birthed, I think, every 24 hours out of such a tragedy, a tragic time in the world. There are these billionaires who are increasing their fortunes by the day, and It’s unfathomable to actually really truly think about.”

Producer Brian Stelter, whose book “Top of the Morning” served as consulting material for the past three seasons of the Apple TV+ and Hello Sunshine drama, connected Marks’ rise to real life events featured on the show.

“It’s been an amazing opportunity to talk about not just the world of morning television, but also the evening newscasts, the streaming platforms, what the future of this business is, and what you see [showrunner Charlotte Stoudt] and the writers doing so well is expanding the world and bringing in new shows and new platforms and thinking about new modes of distribution,” Stelter said. “We are mirroring on ‘The Morning Show’ what is happening in Hollywood and in Silicon Valley. One of the thrills of this show is that you can heighten reality, you can dramatize what happens behind the scenes, but you still want it to feel within the realm of possibility.”

The first six episodes of “The Morning Show” Season 3 are now streaming on Apple TV+.

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