Reese Witherspoon as Bradley Jackson in The Morning Show
Nicole Beharie as Christina Hunter in The Morning Show
Charlotte Stoudt (left) on The Morning Show set
Jennifer Aniston as Alex Levy on The Morning Show
"Bigger, bolder" seems to be the narrative mantra fueling The Morning Show's third season on Apple TV, as the season premiere kicked off with Reese Witherspoon's character, Bradley Jackson, going into space. And, somehow, it only got wilder from there.
But fans of the Emmy-winning series know that is the type of drama they can expect, as The Morning Show grounds big plot swings like the above on real events while also filtering our world's news through the series' distinctive, dramatized lens. This season, Morning Show storylines explored the dismantling of Roe v. Wade and the aftermath of the January 6, an introduced an Elon Musk-type billionaire, Paul Marks (played by Jon Hamm). Ahead of the season finale on November 8, we spoke with Morning Show showrunner Charlotte Stoudt about the challenges of bringing this complex and compelling run of episodes to life.
This season takes some really big swings — bigger than some fans expected.
Charlotte Stoudt: Go big or go home (laughs). It takes so long to make the show; you really want to plant the flag and make a statement. We were one of the first in-person [writers'] rooms after the pandemic, so people were quite raw when they came in. It's one thing to be on Zoom, but you go into a room for eight or nine hours a day with people you've never met before, and you're trying to get at things that are very personal to you. We've been through a pandemic, George Floyd was murdered and the resulting protests, these billionaires rushing in and making so much money — it was a very raw and emotional time. So, this image of people unmoored and drifting kept coming to me. I'd seen [Good Morning America co-host] Michael Strahan go up in the Bezos rocket, and I was like: "Oh, we should literally have people floating!" The idea of Bradley being in a rocket, and she's floating, and this powerful phallic thing goes up in the air, and then Alex is in the dust with women who can't control their own bodies. I wanted that tension at the top of the season.
When you're plotting out a season like this, how do you approach setting some story limits? Do you find that some things are just too arch to include?
There's certainly a lot of pitches that are too big. People may not believe this, but keeping the emotions grounded is actually really important for me. Because if the emotions aren't grounded, you have no actual stakes. I think the core of the show is this love story between two women, and the question of women's agency and autonomy in corporate patriarchy. I mean, I think being alive right now can really sometimes feel like you're in the Wild West. I think that's why it's great that this show exists, because it's really trying to look at power structures and how women struggle with [the idea of] can you change something from within? Should you even try? Like, how do you change anything? In that vein, this show is unique, in that you literally have the soapbox that most other shows don't to directly address the very issues that you're talking about. When I'm interviewing writers, I always say the show is a box, and you can put almost anything in it. That is what makes it so exciting and fun to write, because you can do that.
Was it difficult to weave a star like Jon Hamm, as Paul Marks, into the established ensemble?
I'm always interested in who's a match for Alex, because Jennifer Aniston is such a powerful performer. She's one of those people that, no matter how awful Alex behaves, you're just rooting for her. I think that's why he fits, because she was sort of waiting to meet her match, a straight-up romantic lead who turns out to have a few more layers than she suspected. It's like the band member you didn't know you needed, and then he comes in and you're like, "Oh, we sound better."
You've been given the keys to a show that allows you to take the story anywhere. Is there anything you have yet to tackle that you really want to make room for?
I think there's a lot more. The questions that I ask are: Can things ever really get better? Can you actually change anything? Can you make a system less toxic? Can you work for change from within, or is that a kind of fantasy you tell yourself to make you feel better about being ambitious? They're such real questions for me.
New episodes of The Morning Show stream Wednesdays on Apple TV+.