Greta Lee and I are speaking amidst a nation of TV watchers’ collective gasps. Some may go as far as to name it a communal mind explosion, or a shared spit take. An exclamation of “WHAT?!” belted out from couches coast to coast in a rousing refrain.
It’s been the viewing pleasure of season 2 of Apple TV+’s dizzying drama series The Morning Show.
The collection is again following an award-winning first season, which functioned as an eviscerating screed against the toxic culture on the planet of a.m. information packages, significantly in response to the allegations of sexual misconduct made against Matt Lauer and the system of enablers that fostered them.
That mission continues in the new season, which launched final month accompanied by what appears to be a self-imposed problem to escalate the depth of its jaw-dropping plot twists with every episode. Followers—and, as speaking to Lee confirms, the present’s solid—have been charging via the litany of narrative grenades with a wanton glee, much less strapped in for the wild trip than recklessly risking a metaphorical concussion because the collection boldly motors off the subsequent inventive cliff.
“Wild? Do you assume the present’s wild?” Lee, who joined the solid this season in a pivotal new position, jokes. “Like, did something occur in any respect?” (Warning: Mild spoilers forward.)
Lee, who has beforehand appeared in scene-stealing roles on exhibits like Excessive Upkeep and Broad Metropolis—and was the standout supporting star in Netflix’s superb series Russian Doll—is reacting to this season’s huge second within the third episode, which had simply aired.
After being interviewed by her, Reese Witherspoon’s morning present anchor Bradley Jackson out of the blue kisses visitor star Julianna Margulies’ Rachel Maddow-like journalist, Laura Peterson, with the shock depth and seeming randomness of a bisexual Jack (or, on this case Jill) springing out of a field. (If that second blew your hair again, simply await what occurs on the finish of episode 7, which shall be launched on Friday.)
“I embarrassingly informed Julianna, ‘Oh my God! I can not consider this! I imply, Julianna, you already know you’re a homosexual icon proper?’” Lee remembers, recounting when she rushed to Margulies on set after studying the script. “And she or he had no thought what I used to be speaking about! I turned completely pink. I used to be like, I hope that’s not offensive, after which actually began backpedaling. Like, did I make that up? I do know she’s a homosexual icon… I used to be gaslighting myself. However that’s a sign of how excited I used to be to seek out out what was taking place.”
If Lee is an avowed fan of The Morning Present’s extra energetic huge swings, it’s as a result of she may very well be thought of an authority on the matter.
It is a collection that stars the likes of Jennifer Aniston, Reese Witherspoon, Steve Carell, and Billy Crudup. It’s engorged with righteous monologues about morality and the course of tradition. Episodes breeze via plot factors masking the #MeToo motion, sexual assault, company scandal, systemic misogyny, cancel tradition, racial inequity, dependancy, and COVID-19. One cliffhanger, at a minimal, is packed into every episode.
It’s TV’s craziest collection, in the perfect, most fulfilling sense of the phrase. And on it, Lee is enjoying the sanest—maybe solely sane—character.
Lee arrives in season 2 as a disruptor. She performs Stella Bak, who’s introduced in to be TV community UBA’s president of the information division following the unstable shake up after Aniston and Witherspoon’s anchors had gone scorched earth. Reside on air, they went rogue and aired the community’s soiled laundry, together with the methods prime executives and expertise had dedicated and coated up sexual assaults. The reality-telling solely stopped when the community’s feed was lower.
It’s a brand new world—one demanding change. And so Stella, who had been head of a profitable media firm, is introduced in to shake issues up and, hopefully, convey legitimacy again to the disgraced community.
Gone is the fraternity of outdated white males in ill-fitting fits and their sacred oath to guard one another. She’s younger, with an ear to millennial and Gen Z tradition. She has renegade, possibly even rebellious concepts about the way forward for the corporate. And, most significantly, she’s a lady and a minority. Optics are the whole lot, so she should navigate how you can spark actual, worthwhile change in opposition to the extinguishing actuality that she may be a ceremonial company PR pawn—a token rent.
On the time The Morning Present was airing, Lee had already discovered herself fascinated by the development of younger folks, girls, and other people of coloration being introduced into management positions within the wake of a cultural reckoning. She had been studying books like Jia Tolentino’s Trick Mirror and Anna Wiener’s Uncanny Valley, and was “obsessed” with Elizabeth Holmes. Past that, she was a fan of the collection.
When The Morning Present was first in growth, it was impressed by CNN anchor Brian Stelter’s tell-all High of the Morning—concerning the tense, Shakespearean wars between morning-show rivals on community TV. However the dramatic downfall of Matt Lauer and the seismic impact it had on the trade necessitated a recalibration. New showrunner Kerry Ehrin was employed, and the collection was reconfigured to mirror the scandal.
“I beloved listening to the method of how that season got here collectively, with the rewriting of the whole lot to accommodate and make house for #MeToo,” Lee says. “I discovered the best way they did it very true and really uncomfortable in the precise approach.”
The collection additionally turned one thing that, till that second, would have appeared unfeasible. In Aniston, Witherspoon, and Carell, three of the most important stars in Hollywood have been concentrating on—albeit via fiction—the grotesque conduct of the establishments which have bolstered and, in some respects, been answerable for their careers.
The occasions on The Morning Present are sourced from an amalgamation of various networks, TV personalities, and controversies. However contemplating that the Lauer scandal and the way NBC dealt with it served as a place to begin, it’s spectacular that Aniston and Carell star and are producers; these are two celebrities whose careers skyrocketed due to collection that aired on the very community that The Morning Present is placing on blast.
“I feel that speaks to the consensus of the present, that we’re shifting towards the unknown and the murkiness and the messiness, whether or not it’s #MeToo, toxicity within the office, or gender and racial inequity and techniques of white supremacy,” Lee says. “We’re shifting towards all of it and never saying, okay, listed below are the solutions. We’re actually exhibiting how a lot we don’t know.”
Her character is a testomony to these issues—and the truth that there are not any good, true solutions for the way these items needs to be dealt with.
Stella is introduced in to handle injury that was finished after a catastrophic controversy on the community. It isn’t cynical or unreasonable to wonder if she is a “range rent,” interesting to pressures placed on establishments on the time to make government suites extra inclusive. It’s one thing that one can think about Stella thinks about, which impacts how she does her job.
“And but the story doesn’t finish if you rent somebody like me to repair the issue. The story begins with that.”
“We have now a file variety of younger folks in management positions, a file variety of feminine CEOs, and we now have this cry for a sea change, rehabilitating workplaces, and actually making huge, sweeping, efficacious modifications,” Lee says. “And but the story doesn’t finish if you rent somebody like me to repair the issue. The story begins with that.”
Lee is Korean-American. Her mother and father are Korean immigrants. She’s an actress, not a rising-star media government. However there’s one thing she will be able to acutely perceive concerning the rigidity Stella straddles.
Stella understands that she was introduced right into a dinosaur establishment to inject it with new concepts that can hopefully convey it into modernity. However she additionally understands that she was employed to ship a performative message, and that she might not have as a lot energy as she wants when the very individuals who introduced her in to make change are the identical ones who’re desperately clinging to the established order.
“I can perceive as somebody who’s Asian American and has sure experiences by way of being tokenized or being an outsider,” Lee says. “Having to navigate establishments—and principally white establishments, I’ll say—it’s a fixed, perpetual exercise that by no means ends. We see that for her.”
In that regard, she appreciates the nuance that the collection brings to Stella’s expertise as a minority able of energy at a principally white establishment. There are assumptions which might be made about her and the choices she would make as a result of she is a lady of coloration. However Stella is bold and shrewd concerning the enterprise she’s constructed her profession in. Wokeness isn’t essentially her working directive. Being profitable at her job is.
Take, for instance, the storyline through which Stella is accountable for naming the brand new co-anchor of UBA’s flagship morning program. She is personally lobbied by the present’s Black feminine producer, Mia (Karen Pittman), to advertise Daniel (Desean Terry), who’s Black and overtly homosexual.
Daniel feels that he’s been persistently and unfairly handed over in favor of white anchors and that he’s finished his time and deserves the anchor place. Mia tries to sway Stella on his behalf, utilizing illustration and the disadvantages the three of them have all skilled within the trade as minorities as leverage, suggesting that this might be her alternative to rectify that.
However Stella rejects the pitch, and the concept she needs to be making any choices based mostly on an obligation to different folks of coloration on the present. Daniel doesn’t have the “It Issue,” she says. He wouldn’t be one of the best match for the anchor place and, on the finish of the day and it doesn’t matter what uphill battles towards illustration she is likely to be waging, her job is to seek out one of the best match. She desires to do a great job.
“She is not going to enable her default place to be enjoying the race card, and she or he’s very good in that approach,” Lee says.
This all circles again to what makes The Morning Present so distinctive, and why it was such a lovely venture for her.
These are thorny, nuanced points instantly regarding Lee’s personal identification and the best way she, due to what she appears like and the place her mother and father are from, is compelled to barter her approach via the world. It’s definitely uncommon for any TV collection to delve into them with the ferocious, but ambiguous curiosity that any exploration of such conversations about race and identification necessitate—not to mention one with the large funds, main Hollywood stars, and streaming-service pedigree that telegraphs to viewers: this present is an enormous deal.
But it surely’s additionally not the type of present you’ll essentially count on because it dives into that pool of discourse. Certain, there are veritable Sermons on the Mount delivered by any variety of moralistic narcissists—it’s minutes into the season 2 premiere that Crudup’s character bellows, “It is a battle for the soul of the universe!”—however there’s scrumptious camp to all of it. Issues are passionate and they’re complicated, however they hardly ever appear patronizing or pedantic.
Then there’s the truth that, for all these themes, The Morning Present is, at its coronary heart, a cleaning soap opera. Every character shoulders a sherpa’s pack of melodramatic baggage. And there’s these twists. The twists!!! It’s such an odd, transfixing mix of tone and subject material. Regardless of the critiques or viewers response could also be, Lee can’t get sufficient of that.
“On the finish of the day, it’s leisure,” she says. “So how do we actually give due diligence to necessary themes and concepts and issues that matter whereas additionally understanding that that is throughout the scope of a tv present? That’s meant to entertain and interact an viewers? That’s at all times the problem.”