Warning: The following contains spoilers from the Season 1 finale of ‘The Morning Show’.
Veteran director Mimi Leder is already prepping for the sophomore season of ‘The Morning Show.’ But Friday brings a close to the polarising first season of the high-profile series that helped Apple plant its flag in the original programming space.
“Endings are very hard to do,” says Leder, who directed the season finale. “But the impact is there, I feel.”
Developed by Kerry Ehrin, ‘The Morning Show’ stars Jennifer Aniston as Alex Levy, the co-host of a morning news program whose career is upended after her popular co-host, Mitch Kessler (Steve Carell), is fired for sexual misconduct. Reese Witherspoon also stars as a field reporter who gets caught up in the chaos when she’s bamboozled into replacing Mitch at the anchor table.
Leder, who has worked on TV shows such as ‘ER’, and ‘The Leftovers’, helped build the world of ‘The Morning Show’ as its executive producer-director. She directed three of the drama’s 10 episodes, including the season finale.
The season-ender arrives on the heels of the drama earning Apple its first Golden Globes nominations, with both Jennifer Aniston and Reese Witherspoon nabbing nods for lead actress in a drama, and the series getting recognised in the drama category.
Now available to stream, the season finale, titled ‘The Interview,’ finds Bradley on the precipice of her bombshell interview with Mitch. But she’s hesitant about moving forward because she doesn’t feel it’s ready to air. And the dominoes fall from there.
Here’s what Leder had to say about three stand-out moments from the finale.
In the episode, Bradley has agreed to interview Mitch on ‘The Morning Show’ — unbeknownst to her co-anchor Alex. Ahead of the interview, Bradley meets with Hannah (Gugu Mbatha-Raw), a producer on the morning news programme who was a victim of Mitch’s behaviour, to hear her account of what happened that night with Mitch in Las Vegas.
Leder: There’s a real responsibility when you’re delivering a scene like this — to keep it as real as you can. For me, it was about getting out of the way as a director, to keep it honest and simple. We built the entire season to this moment. We kept this set very quiet. It was an eight-page scene. When you have two people sitting down for eight pages and they’re talking — albeit what they’re saying is emotional and powerful material — what I said to myself was ... the words are strong. The event that she’s speaking about is so volatile and so painful.
I didn’t want to rehearse this because I didn’t want to lose it and give it away. When you’re watching scenes like this, they affect you. You have to not cry, to not make a noise, to just breathe. The silence was deafening. It was a powerful scene to do for all of us. It’s also very hard to listen. And Reese was spectacular, just taking it all in.
It really made me think of all the silence-breakers who came forward to tell their truths.
Things come to a head in the final minutes of the episode. Chip (Mark Duplass) has been fired. Word has hit broadcast headquarters that Hannah was found dead in her apartment. Bradley is ready to walk but agrees to do that day’s show after Alex pleads with her. Once the cameras start rolling, Alex loses her concentration and goes off-script. She and Bradley directly address viewers, exposing some of the behaviour that has been covered up by the network brass.
Leder: She’s ... losing it. She doesn’t know what’s up. I had all the peg cameras on, which are the TV cameras. Then I had our three film cameras going. So I had seven cameras going, trying to capture what it felt like when she was having her moment, her breakdown, her realisation [of] what just happened with Hannah and what she had to do. There was like an explosion happening within her, a rumbling. I wanted to follow her around the stage, as she got up from the chair. What is she going to do? When she initially sits down, she’s trying to be business as usual. But she can’t do it, because everything is clicking into place. The cost of it starts erupting inside of her. And so she starts moving around on stage, not knowing what she’s doing and realising all these things. There’s that moment when she asks the camera operator his name she realises how out of touch she’s been all these years. There’s also like a, “Who am I?” moment happening as well. It was written and there was some improv in there. She went for it. Reese went for it.
Does he finally get what he did?
After the powers that be manage to cut Bradley and Alex’s on-air hijacking, prompting the piercing hum of video signal and colour bars, the camera eventually lands on Mitch at his home, seated still in his kitchen as the camera slowly pans out.
Leder: He’s alone on the island of his making, literally. He’s alone in his kitchen. His family is gone. Everyone has left. He’s reflected in this black hole. The question really is, ‘Does Mitch finally get it? Is this the moment that he finally gets what he did?’ That’s what the moment was about, for me. And we tried a lot of other things. I had him crying. We tried different levels of emotion. But the stillness and being frozen and being paralysed — that felt like the most honest emotion. I took all the music out, all the sound out. All you hear is a little wind blowing in the background, as if he’s on an island, all alone in his misery. You’ll have to tune in to Season 2 to see if he gets it.
Don’t miss it!
‘The Morning Show’ is streaming now on Apple TV plus