Julianna Margulies is a new addition to The Morning Show this season, but joining the cast actually felt “like coming home” for the TV icon. On one front, she had worked with directors Lesli Linka Glatter and Mimi Leder before on ER and The Good Wife, and on another, it’s a bit of a reunion with Jennifer Aniston, who stars in the Apple TV+ drama. Although they’ve never filmed any projects together until now, Margulies and Aniston worked right next door to each other on the Warner Bros. studio lot while filming ER and Friends, respectively, and had their big breaks around the same time.
“[The] Thursday night lineup, it was the golden night of television. It was Must-See TV, that’s where that came from. And it was ER and Friends,” Margulies recalls, her eyes glowing, on a Zoom call from L.A. She remembers that to celebrate the shows’ joint success, Warner Bros. erected a “huge poster” boasting the series’ millions of viewers and the actors’ faces. That’s when it started to hit her.
“You go from absolute obscurity to that kind of recognition overnight,” she explains of her and Aniston’s shared career milestone. “When you’re both experiencing it together at the same time, that’s a history you have with each other for life, right? Because that will never happen again. That’s a once-in-a-lifetime thing. So to come full circle and then end up getting to finally work together, it was great.”
On top of that, being cast in The Morning Show was proof to Margulies that women like her can still land meaningful roles decades into their careers. “Also, yay for women,” the former Good Wife star says. “I mean, [Aniston] and I have been at this for a long time. And this show feels so fresh to me and these characters feel so fresh to me. And I just thought, God bless all these writers who were writing these parts for us to play.”
For the three-time Emmy winner, her new part is Laura Peterson, a veteran journalist who made a name for herself as an on-the-ground reporter after being outed on live TV as a former Morning Show host. In season 2, episode 3, she arrives to host a primetime interview with Aniston’s Alex Levy. Though there’s palpable tension between the two, sparks fly between Laura and current Morning Show star Bradley Jackson (Reese Witherspoon). She takes Bradley under her wing as they cover the presidential campaign together, but by the end of the episode, Laura and Bradley’s mutual respect and admiration for each other grows into something more: The two kiss in the back of a car, a moment that starts as a surprise but turns into a genuine thrill.
Speaking to ELLE.com, Margulies details her arrival on The Morning Show, Bradley and Laura’s relationship, and the importance of Laura’s backstory.
Can you describe what your first day on set was like? What scene did you start off with?
It was really lovely because my first scene was the scene where you first see me, where you first see Laura Peterson when she’s getting ready to interview Alex. The scene was with Cory Ellison, Billy Crudup, and of all the actors there, even though I knew people sort of peripherally, Billy I knew quite well. Even though we’ve never worked together, in the New York theater community, I mean, we lived two blocks away from each other. I’ve moved since then, but we would see each other, we have mutual friends, we’d see each other at every play reading.
I was nervous the first day because the second it’s down in print, you feel committed to that, the way you’ve played it. So with someone like Billy, who I knew and felt comfortable with and was so incredibly generous, it turned into just a really fun day working with an incredibly brilliant actor. And that was sort of my introduction into the show. It was an easy way to ease in.
I’d love to dive into Laura a little bit. She’s a superstar, veteran journalist. What kind of preparation did you do for the role? Did you watch a lot of TV interviews and Diane Sawyer?
I did, I watched a variety of different ones because Kerry Ehrin, the show runner, had already given me this really rich 20-year background history of who Laura Peterson was, where she came from, what happened to her, and why she was where she was at when we meet her in the show. Which is a rarity in television, especially when you come into a second season of a well-oiled machine, to have the showrunner takes such time and care to write a history for that character. Usually that’s the work I do. So, I knew that Laura had been publicly outed on television when she was a Morning Show co-host. And then because of that, she was consequently fired. And then she had this long journey to get to where she finally was.
By doing that, she came to terms with who she was sexually. She cut out the people in her life who didn’t support her, or who frowned upon her sexuality, or who told her she’d never work in the industry again. And instead she went back to field work, she became a field journalist and really did the hard work and reporting from God knows where, and really got back to her love of journalism rather than the ratings juggernaut that morning TV is. And in doing so, [she] came back and became a news anchor at night, and then ultimately the star of the network with her own show. When you meet her, she’s exactly where she wants to be. She has nothing to hide, no skeletons in the closet, and she’s at the top of her game. To play a character like that, the reporters I felt she most embodied with that rich history and with the writing, I sort of took a little bit from everyone.
She had the stature of a Diane Sawyer and that kind of grace, but the grit of a Rachel Maddow, and the, I guess you would call it bravery of Christiane Amanpour, going out into the field where the battle is actually happening. I tried to take a little bit of all of them and meld them into one. You sort of see it with the way she wears her jewelry. Everything she’s wearing, which is the same thing every day, but it’s little artifacts that she’s collected over her travels, including her apartment. I talked about that with the incredible Sophie [De Rakoff], who is the costume designer, and then the set designer. We talked about [how] every single thing in her apartment is part of who she is on this journey that she has crawled through to become okay with who she is in her own skin.
At the end of the episode, Laura and Bradley kiss, and that’s kind of the first time we see Bradley exploring her sexuality a little more. What kind of conversations did you have with Reese about building this relationship between your characters?
So that kiss comes out of me asking her the question, “Were you really vetted for this job?” and it’s off the record. Laura really likes Bradley and really sees that she’s lost, but she’s got talent for this profession. And so when she asks her that, in the script, Bradley panics because she doesn’t want anyone to know that she wasn’t vetted. So instead she lunges in for a kiss. But Reese said, “Wait a minute, if I was a man and did that, that would be considered sexual harassment. And our whole show is about that. How can we do this, where just because it’s two women, that makes it any different?” Which was a great point. I thought, “Wow, this is why you’re so good at your producing job, Reese Witherspoon.”
We tried a few different ways and Lesli Linka Glatter was the director for that. So we sat with Leslie and Reese said, “Well, what if I go in to kiss you and then say, ‘Sorry,’”and I said, “Great, do that. And then I’ll come in and let you know it’s okay. That way that kiss will actually have more meaning in it anyway. And it won’t feel like you’re attacking me and it’s a kiss with consent rather than harassment.” So, we choreographed it and it didn’t take long to come up with it and it solved the problem.
I’m so glad she was sensitive to it because why is it different if it’s two women, you know? That could just as easily be sexual harassment. So, we’re all learning, but I love that scene because I think that Bradley really is just trying, at first, not to let Laura know the truth, but ultimately I think Bradley sort of falls in love with Laura’s essence more so than it about Bradley being gay. I think it’s more that Bradley really falls in love with who Laura is. Laura is a safety haven for Bradley. She’s the calm in the midst of all this craziness. I think Laura’s charmed by it, but Laura will never forget herself in any situation. So she lets it go on for a while until she’s like, “Hey girl, you gotta get your shit together. Don’t let people define you. You define you. And then if they’re not okay with that, you walk away.” That’s what I love about Laura.
This interview was edited and condensed for clarity.
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