Kerry Ehrin is the showrunner and one of the executive producers behind “The Morning Show,” the first big prestige drama series from Apple TV+. She was previously nominated for two Emmys as a producer on “Friday Night Lights” and “The Wonder Years.”
Ehrin recently spoke with Gold Derby managing editor Chris Beachum about what made her want to do “The Morning Show,” working with stars Jennifer Aniston and Reese Witherspoon and the update for Season 2. Watch the exclusive video interview above and read the complete transcript below.
Gold Derby: Kerry, when you came on board, this team that you have behind the cameras, in front of the cameras, including, of course, Reese and Jennifer, yourself, lots and lots of women. Why was that important to you on this particular show?
Kerry Ehrin: Well, I mean, it’s important on all shows but this is a show about women, and it was obviously important because of that specifically. Also, I was the last person to arrive on the team. Mimi [Leder] and Jennifer and Reese all preceded me.
GD: What brought you on board when you initially heard about the project that they were interested in you? What made you want to commit to it?
KE: I had read Brian Stelter’s book called “Top of the Morning” and it deals with behind the scenes of the morning news shows. He captured a world that was very high stakes and at the same time had a lot of human folly and immaturity in it and that tone really appeals to me and kind of fits in with my sensibility. And I thought that was a great stage to tell stories. And then, I mean, Jennifer and Reese were attached, which was obviously a dream come true, to be able to write for talent like that. I wanted to talk about being a female, high-powered career person and what that was like and look at that, and relationships between two high-powered women.
GD: We’ve come a long way since other media shows over the years. I grew up on, maybe you did too, “The Mary Tyler Moore Show,” set in the world of television and so many others since then. This is sort of a seat of the pants version, though. High stakes. Of course, being an international company as opposed to just a local company. Why does that appeal to you from the sensibility of a producer and a writer, but also to the public? Because this show has also taken off so well.
KE: It appeals to me because I think for most people, myself included, stakes that high, the money involved just seems silly (laughs). It’s sort of like this tremendous backdrop that means a lot. Like, we all know financially in the world, it means a lot and it motivates people on every level of our business, how much money things are making. Every single level is concerned with it and it’s a huge factor. But for most people, it’s like mythology. It’s like something back here that we don’t really deal with personally. So the fact that it has that quality to me makes it almost like you’re writing about Greek mythology when the gods would do stupid stuff and it was funny and you could relate to it. There’s something about taking something that… finances run the country and kind of letting the people who are in front of that, the characters be so foible and so ridiculous and still very human, and appeal to a human part of you. There’s something about that combination of elements that is just really satisfying to me.
GD: The character that Steve Carell plays, we know he’s done something wrong in the opening episode but you take your time over the course of the season to really give all the full details. What was behind that thought process?
KE: Wanting to tell a story of how people lie to themselves and how really to look at the whole texture of the work environment and society and how people can get to a place where they feel literally like they can do no wrong morally. And I felt that was a very interesting thing to look at as opposed to just in the first two episodes being like, “He did this horrible thing.” I wanted to tell it through that character who really in his own mind, had not looked at it that way. He really didn’t. He thought this was all consensual and part of it is his own narcissism, his own ego, his own being human. And part of it is that he was in a system that let him do whatever he wanted and never questioned him. So that’s a very interesting road to go down.
GD: Unfortunately, you had no real-life people to reference as you built that character (laughs).
KE: Well, I mean, I know people bring up Matt Lauer, but it really was not. I mean, in no way is this the biopic of Matt Lauer. The similarity ends where it’s a morning show host who gets fired for sexual misconduct and that’s because it was a story that was personal to me. I’m telling a story that means something to me about how complicated things are and how you really have to work to see what’s going on in a lot of situations and you have to kind of take it all in to really assess it and hopefully, grow from it. But yeah, I mean, he’s a character based on a lot of people I’ve known much more so than Matt Lauer, who I don’t know at all.
GD: Yeah, I wasn’t even referring to just news people or morning show people, but politicians and entertainers and anybody really in the public eye that has that entitlement kind of a factor to them.
KE: Yeah, I mean, it’s real, that these people have power and it goes back to that system where money is everything and it’s the thing everybody’s striving for and these people are generating money and people get afraid to confront them or to even be honest with them. I mean, it goes beyond confronting them. They just sort of quietly play along.
GD: Tell us more about your two leading actresses, Jennifer and Reese, now that you’ve worked with them for a whole season. What was that like and what did they bring to the roles, even beyond what you had in mind?
KE: Oh, I mean, this was very much a collaborative project. I feel like we had a great and do have a great collaboration. They bring a lot of passion, as do I. We all are very present and have an idea of how things should go, how a character is, all of that. So it was a lot of conversations, a lot of really just exploring and I think we have a good creative dialogue and they’re lovely to work with.
GD: I was so sorry for you and your team with the loss of Lynn Shelton, who directed for you. Tell us more about her.
KE: Lynn was one of the loveliest human beings I’ve ever met, and I didn’t spend a ton of time with her. I spent a few days on the set with her and prepping a bit, but just a smart, can-do attitude, really talented. The actors love her. Just a beautiful human being and it was really hard to fathom that she was not in the world anymore. She’s lovely.
GD: Now, you, just like most any other show, had to shut down a few months ago. You had just started production on the second season. Tell us if you can, anything about progression on restarting and what kind of timeline once you do restart would we see new episodes?
KE: That is getting hammered out as we speak. So I can’t really say because I don’t have the definitive word on it.
GD: How deep were you into shooting Season 2?
KE: We had only just started. We were about a week and a half in.
GD: Oh, you just barely started. But it sounds like, I mean, once you start a season, a lot of the writing has been done and you’ve hammered out storylines and those sorts of things.
KE: Yes and no. I mean, that changes a lot. I think on this show, too, because there’s a lot of people working on it, there’s a lot of executive producers, so it is collaborative. The script process is, I would say, a little more involved and a little longer than it is on other shows that I’ve worked on or run. So, yes, we were ahead. But it’s not like we had the entire season written at that point. We had a lot of it.