How 'The Morning Show' Season 2 Was Rewritten For COVID When COVID hit the U.S., writers of The Morning Show on Apple TV+ scrapped a year's worth of work to make the fictional TV show's new season newsworthy.

'The Morning Show' Season 2 Was Written And In Production. Then COVID Hit

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LEILA FADEL, BYLINE: Season 2 of "The Morning Show" premieres on Apple TV Plus tonight. It stars Reese Witherspoon and Jennifer Aniston, who play competitive morning TV anchors for a company that's in the midst of a #MeToo scandal.

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

REESE WITHERSPOON: (As Bradley Jackson) And by the way, Ms. Feminist [expletive] Hero, I was the one who was exposing the network, and I decided to include you. Meanwhile, you were just trying to get me [expletive] fired behind my back.

JENNIFER ANISTON: (As Alex Levy) Well, I'm really sorry I failed at that.

FADEL: The coronavirus hit just as this new season was starting production, forcing the cast and crew to make some big changes. NPR's Elizabeth Blair reports.

ELIZABETH BLAIR, BYLINE: By March of 2020, almost all of Season 2 of The Morning Show had been broken, as they say in the business. Kerry Ehrin is an executive producer and showrunner of the series.

KERRY EHRIN: It's a year of working in a writers room, breaking down the stories scene by scene.

BLAIR: Making a prestige TV show with major stars and a big crew is expensive, says executive producer Michael Ellenberg.

MICHAEL ELLENBERG: If you simply have to rewrite the first two episodes and rebreak a giant portion of your season mid-stream, that's from a production perspective an earthquake. And then the other thing we're managing is, can we actually make this thing safely?

BLAIR: Following safety protocols like daily testing and contract tracing, they decided to keep shooting. But then there was the issue of the story. "The Morning Show" already explores hefty themes like systemic sexism and racism. Ehrin remembers getting a call from an executive from Apple TV suggesting the pandemic also be part of the narrative.

EHRIN: And I really resisted it for about a day because we had just, you know, broken an entire season. And then after another day, like, it just made sense. It isn't a subject you could avoid, especially doing a show about people covering the news.

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

DESEAN TERRY: (As Daniel Henderson) Did you see that someone in the U.S. has this novel coronavirus in Washington, and now they're admitting that it can be transmitted person to person?

ANISTON: (As Alex Levy) Yeah, I saw that.

TERRY: (As Daniel Henderson) How much time are we giving it tomorrow?

ANISTON: (As Alex Levy) A minute.

ANISTON: Fictional correspondent Daniel Henderson, played by Desean Terry, is the first to raise the pandemic in the newsroom. Terry says this was a case of life and art intersecting. The characters in the TV show faced as much uncertainty as the cast did in real life.

TERRY: We didn't know exactly what that meant, you know, face shield, mask? When do you take the mask off? We were figuring out as we go, right? I think back to the first group scene that we shot, we were now shooting under completely different circumstances, and so there was a little bit of awkwardness and uncomfortability between us.

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

UNIDENTIFIED ACTOR #1: (As character) Oh, please. It's like having the flu.

UNIDENTIFIED ACTOR #2: (As character) Yeah. I don't want to get the flu, either.

UNIDENTIFIED ACTOR #1: (As characters) Oh, no, I had SARS. It was wonderful.

TERRY: (As Daniel Henderson) Hey, I don't think we should joke about it.

BLAIR: This was the second time "The Morning Show" cast and crew had to rework episodes because of the news.

ELLENBERG: Yeah, we had to re-break Season 1 to factor in the events of the day.

BLAIR: The events being the bombshell reporting on Harvey Weinstein, which led to takedowns of other media figures, including NBC's morning anchor Matt Lauer. Episodes were changed to put sexual misconduct into sharper focus. Showrunner Kerry Ehrin.

EHRIN: I had always, after the first season, wanted the second season to be about the kind of shifting tectonic plates under society where things were starting to change, and people were trying to figure out who they were.

BLAIR: Those shifting tectonic plates have now moved twice, and a lot more than anyone on "The Morning Show" ever expected. The cast and crew hope if Season 3 needs changes, it's because of positive news.

Elizabeth Blair, NPR News.

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