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Jennifer Aniston And Mimi Leder Preview 'The Morning Show' New Season

LULU GARCIA-NAVARRO, HOST:

But this is "The Morning Show."

(SOUNDBITE OF TV SHOW, "THE MORNING SHOW")

JENNIFER ANISTON: (As Alex Levy) Good morning. Welcome back, and thank you for joining us. While we are still reeling from the shock of last week, today is a very special day here at "The Morning Show."

GARCIA-NAVARRO: "The Morning Show" is the setting for the Apple TV+ series of the same name - drama in and around the studio of a major network morning show. The series stars Jennifer Aniston, Reese Witherspoon, Billy Crudup and Steve Carell. Mimi Leder is executive producer and director. And "The Morning Show" has just started its second season. And I'm so pleased to welcome Mimi Leder and Jennifer Aniston, who are here with us now. Welcome to you both.

MIMI LEDER: Thank you.

ANISTON: Thank you.

GARCIA-NAVARRO: Let's recap for people who may not remember where we left things off. At the end of the first season, Jennifer, your character Alex Levy dramatically leaves the morning show she hosts after she admits to having been complicit in the network's backroom negotiations with her former co-anchor, Mitch Kessler. Where do we find your character at the beginning of Season 2?

ANISTON: Well, at the beginning of Season 2, she has sequestered herself to a cabin in Maine so that she can take some time to figure out where - how she got here, who she is, who does she want to be and write a memoir.

(SOUNDBITE OF TV SHOW, "THE MORNING SHOW")

ANISTON: (As Alex Levy) I think success in the modern world demands a similar dance - soul-sucking, grueling, never-ending. And I just wanted it to end.

GARCIA-NAVARRO: Yeah. And then she, of course, gets offered to come back because, of course...

ANISTON: They reel you back in.

(LAUGHTER)

GARCIA-NAVARRO: What is her relationship with the network? Because she doesn't want to come back at first, but she finds herself wanting to go back in, too.

ANISTON: You know, this was a - this was her everything. I mean, it was - her identity, you know, was being Alex Levy on "The Morning Show." And once she feels I think that she's been away long enough and she's starting to feel that itch needing to be scratched.

(SOUNDBITE OF TV SHOW, "THE MORNING SHOW")

REESE WITHERSPOON: (As Bradley Jackson) Starting Monday, February 10, the person sitting to my right will be none other than the one, the only, the incredible...

RUAIRI O'CONNOR: (As Ty Burton) The living legend...

WITHERSPOON: (As Bradley Jackson) The living legend. Thank you, Ty.

UNIDENTIFIED ACTOR: (As character) Come on, you guys. We cannot keep this secret one second longer.

WITHERSPOON: (As Bradley Jackson) OK, OK, OK - Alex Levy.

(SOUNDBITE OF MUSIC)

UNIDENTIFIED SINGER: (Singing) Give me Alex Levy. Give me Bradley Jackson, too.

ANISTON: And I do believe she thinks that she can kind of walk back into "The Morning Show" world carrying this newfound self-awareness and knowledge. And yet, you know, going back, it's a little harder than I think anyone expected.

LEDER: Yeah.

ANISTON: You know, she knows where the bodies are buried...

LEDER: Yeah.

ANISTON: ...At the end of the day.

LEDER: I think she lost her foundation in the earthquake that exploded in Season 1. And...

ANISTON: Yeah.

LEDER: ...It's left her to explore, like, who she is and what she wants. And I think what we do is we explore how hard it is for women in power to understand who they really are.

GARCIA-NAVARRO: You mentioned women in power. And it's something that really struck me and that works so well in the show - is that the women are complex, right? They're ambitious. They're kind at times. They're funny. They're mean at times. They're all the things, and it made me think about the burdens of power for women. Tell me, as a powerful woman yourself, why that's important to look at.

LEDER: Well, that's a very interesting question. I mean, I think for some women, we underestimate our power. And we sometimes don't use it in the right way or in the way that would benefit ourselves. You know, I think our characters go through so much. They're both torn between their work life and their private life. And I think we are constantly examining who we are. And, I mean, I, as a person of power, don't ever walk into a room thinking, I'm a person of power. You know what I mean?

ANISTON: Yeah.

LEDER: A lot of us who are powerful sometimes feel that we are powerless. But that's just being human.

ANISTON: Yeah.

LEDER: And I think these characters are incredibly human.

GARCIA-NAVARRO: I'm going to ask you the same question, Jennifer - just your view of what those dynamics look like when you're in such a rarefied environment and how women are - even when they're powerful, are held to a different standard.

ANISTON: I know. There's almost a guilt in it or a need to apologize in some way. But I feel the same way as Mimi. I don't walk into a room ever knowing or wearing some sort of crown of power at all. I just sort of am - we're hard-working women in an industry and have managed to sustain a career and a job. And it's been - I just - I feel just very grateful. And I guess over the years of being here, we've acquired a certain amount of power. And I don't know what that means necessarily. I guess that means we've earned respect. We've earned a seat at the table. There's rooms that I would not be able to go into probably 15 years ago, 12 years ago that I am able to today.

GARCIA-NAVARRO: Can I just say that, for both of you, I actually would love to see you in a crown of power.

LEDER: (Laughter).

GARCIA-NAVARRO: I don't think that that's a bad thing.

ANISTON: I will gladly wear it for you, Lulu.

GARCIA-NAVARRO: (Laughter) Thank you. I'm curious about this to you both, though. You know, when "The Morning Show" first came out, this was a show ripped from the headlines in many senses. It really addressed the #MeToo moment and things that were happening not only in TV news, but in so many other places in our society. And I'm interested, in particular, in where we find Mitch. Of course, Steve Carell, who plays Mitch, his character, was basically ousted over allegations of sexual assault and sexual misconduct. He's in exile in Italy. And I'm curious as to why you follow his story and what you wanted to capture there.

ANISTON: I mean, I think the question we were all having is, what happens to these people? Where do they go, to the island of Misfit toys? I mean, what happens to them once they're canceled?

LEDER: And a lot of this season we're examining identity - you know, cancel culture, race, sexuality. So Mitch is in a very dark place. And he's in exile, you know, figuratively and literally. And he's lost everything. And he must live with his sins for the rest of his life. So it was really interesting exploring this canceled guy in Lake Como. You know, there was nowhere for him to go.

GARCIA-NAVARRO: It's a good place to be trapped, though...

LEDER: It is.

GARCIA-NAVARRO: ...One must say.

ANISTON: True, very true.

(LAUGHTER)

LEDER: But you know, we don't exonerate him or give him redemption. You know, we wanted to explore the relationship that happened between Alex and Mitch because he was the closest person to her. And it was really tricky when you love someone who's done horrible things. You know, do you stop loving them?

GARCIA-NAVARRO: As time has moved on, we've seen different outcomes from men. Some have been canceled. Some have not been cancelled and have managed to sort of rise above the allegations and continue as things are. But I think in the culture now, what we're seeing is a big reassessment of things that happened before. And, Jennifer, I'm wondering how you view things that happened when you were younger. I mean...

ANISTON: Oh.

GARCIA-NAVARRO: ...I don't know if you know, just recently there was a clip of you on David Letterman in 1998...

ANISTON: Oh, yeah, yeah.

GARCIA-NAVARRO: ...That has gone viral where he basically accosts you, grabs some of your hair, puts it in his mouth. It's pretty unappetizing. I mean, do you remember that moment and what you felt?

ANISTON: Yeah, I do. I remember - I didn't - I was not offended by that moment. I remember that coming up recently and thinking, wow, we're actually going back 20 years and digging stuff up to shame and humiliate. And, you know, he had his own demons that he was fighting through himself anyway - rightfully so - and owning them, pretty much. But I remember that happening. And I remember I was very amused by the whole thing.

But that's sort of what, you know, we're dealing about in these different generations, you know? There were things that would happen that were kind of just acceptable. But it wasn't - it was also in front of a live audience. There was nothing dangerous, you know, about to happen. I didn't feel offended. I just felt this was a humorous, odd - very odd - thing for Dave Letterman to be doing. But OK. Yeah. And then I went on. But now we're looking back and pulling stuff up from 20 years ago and going, can you believe? There's a real black-and-white sort of approach now.

LEDER: Well said.

GARCIA-NAVARRO: I mean, Mimi, do you think that that's destructive or constructive, to look back and reassess but also to judge things by different standards that didn't exist at the time?

LEDER: Well, yes. We definitely do judge things through a different lens these days. And so many things happened 20 years ago, 10 years ago that...

GARCIA-NAVARRO: Five years ago.

LEDER: ...Five years or 10 minutes ago that were unacceptable. And, you know, it's changing moment by moment, as you said. I mean, Bill Cosby is out of jail. And...

ANISTON: What on earth. I mean, seriously?

LEDER: So it's like everything is so different. You know, you can't really hug anybody anymore in the way you hugged them before. When #MeToo started, I remember I was filming "On The Basis Of Sex," and I went to go hug my cameraman. I had to stop myself and say, oh, can I hug you? And it was just bizarre because...

ANISTON: Yeah.

LEDER: ...It was just an affectionate hug. And then all of a sudden, you're constantly watching yourself, questioning, am I doing - am I not allowed to do this? Am I not allowed to say that? And it's very generational, as Jen said, in terms of how people are not trained but grown up. We did look the other way when we saw things that were strange, you know, 20 years ago. It's a different time. And I think we're all, you know, really trying to get through it and understand it. And...

ANISTON: It's a new rule book. Like, we're just - everybody's getting the new playbook. And we just - we're all kind of just educating ourselves.

GARCIA-NAVARRO: Is it too much? Have things gone too far when we look back 20 years and we judge? Or is it a course correction?

ANISTON: See, I'm even scared to answer that question (laughter).

LEDER: I know. I think we pose a lot of questions that we don't have the answers to. And I think that is for the audience to decide. I mean, I think we individually may have answers. But as a show, we're just posing the questions.

ANISTON: And allowing for the conversation to take place.

LEDER: Exactly.

ANISTON: Because that's most important, is putting it out there and allowing people - an audience to say, oh, that's me, too. Oh yeah, I feel the same way. I'm asking the same questions. So let's talk about it.

GARCIA-NAVARRO: Jennifer Aniston stars in and Mimi Leder produces and directs "The Morning Show." It has just begun its second season on Apple TV+. Thank you both so very much.

ANISTON: Thank you, Lulu, for having us. It was our pleasure.

LEDER: Really appreciate it.

(SOUNDBITE OF MUSIC) Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.