(This story contains spoilers from the first two episodes of The Morning Show season three, “The Kármán Line” and “Ghost in the Machine.”)
In the first episode of The Morning ShowFollowing Jennifer Aniston’s return, Jennifer Aniston’s popular take on the new tech titan, played by Jon Hamm, is that he is a “need-for-speed, hardass from Silicon Valley.” Top UBA news anchor Alex Levy (played by Aniston) is introduced to the Apple TV+ media drama’s strange new character as she prepares for his launch into space. The billionaire, named Paul Marks (Hamm), has recruited her for the maiden voyage of his Hyperion One suborbital rocket, which will mark his entry into the space flight race.
Audiences are sure to have a similarly warm take on Paul Marks, who is drawing comparisons to Elon Musk after the two-episode premiere. “Paul Marks is a character who is an amalgamation of many different individuals,” says executive producer Lauren Neustadter. The Hollywood Reporter. “And he’s also incredibly grounded and authentic in a way that feels very Charlotte Stoudt.”
Neustadter, who produces the series starring Reese Witherspoon through Hello Sunshine, credits Stoudt, their new season three showrunner, for how the character will reveal himself over the 10-episode season. “He’s clearly a divisive person and a catalyst for so much drama and conflict during the season,” she says, “but he’s also a living, breathing human being who subverts expectations in really interesting ways. .”
Michael Ellenberg, executive producer of Media Res, says Paul Marks was meant to be a counterbalance to many of them The Morning show characters in a season confronted with a media landscape in crisis. In the premiere, Alex discovers that UBA boss Cory Ellison (Billy Crudup) has sought Paul as the buyer of the old media company. That storyline, as well as his evolving relationship with Alex, runs like a common thread through the episodes.
“The whole season revolves around his movements,” says Ellenberg. “The audience will see what the dynamic is like between him and Alex Levy, but it’s complicated; it is an emotional one. We also wanted someone who would be on par with Billy Crudup and Greta Lee (who plays UBA president Stella Bak). There’s a new man in town who can give them everything they want; it comes at a big price. I don’t know if there was anyone better than Jon Hamm that we could have gotten for that role.”
It turned out that the dream list for whom Paul Marks would play contained only one name.
“Who Paul would play was a list of one,” says executive producer Kristin Hahn THR. “Jen (Aniston) and Jon (Hamm) have been friends for years and I think they have wanted to work together for a while. So when Paul Marks joined the conversation, it was a list of one. And so it was a little scary because if he had said no, I don’t know what we would have done. It was this or bust. Luckily he said yes.”
Hahn, Aniston’s producing partner at Echo Films, called Hamm a pro for jumping right into the ensemble, many of whom have been on the series since its inception (Karen Pittman, Greta Lee, Mark Duplass, Nestor Carbonell and Julianna Margulies all return back). And on screen he keeps viewers guessing as to his intentions. “You always ask yourself: Is he on the right side when it comes to saving journalism?” Or does he just want to make this world implode?” says Hahn.
Ellenberg, who teased before Paul Marks is either the white knight who saves UBA or the maverick who will destroy it, and credits Hamm for his character’s appeal. “I think the opportunity to access Don Draper’s legacy, but in a new way, was undeniable for us,” he says of Hamm’s iconic Crazy men character. “Paul is a pretty powerful man and a wealthy man. He has a heart and he is quite handsome.”
Through the vehicle of Paul, The Morning Show Season three confronts a troubled network like UBA and how limited its options are to survive amid a changing media landscape in the streaming age. “Paul Marks is going to collapse the news department into an algorithm, or turn it into a mouthpiece for (his company) Hyperion. Whatever it is, we’re screwed,” Alex says at one point, after giving up on spaceflight and warning of an impending deal with the billionaire.
“Certainly, when we were thinking about UBA and the future of the network, and also just about broadcasters and media companies in general, there was a lot of looking at the future and imaging, but also a real determination to tell these stories and follow through thinking. about these things from very nuanced and varied perspectives,” says Neustadter.
The Morning Show has already been renewed for a fourth season, but amid the ongoing dual WGA and SAG-AFTRA strikes, the show’s creatives haven’t started laying out plans for next season. “Season four is coming. But in our evolving media landscape, that involves a huge labor action right now, so we’re on hold for now,” says Ellenberg.
When asked how he imagines a current series The Morning Show – one that covers everything from the #MeToo movement to the COVID-19 outbreak and, in a future episode, overthrowing Roe v. Wade – will include the current labor disputes in Hollywood in her future stories, Ellenberg says the following: “The right person to ask this is Charlotte, who cannot be here (for the press) because of this. What I can say about it is what the show has been all these seasons, which is that we want to tackle the biggest questions that we’re dealing with right now, and the strike certainly reflects some of what this season is about.
He continues: “The media is changing so quickly, who is really in control? Who should be in charge? How should it be governed? What does the public want from it? What do the people who make it want? It’s all in motion. There are very specific issues related to the demands of the unions and then the position of the network, but the global event is a real debate about the future of the media itself. And that’s something that’s being explored a lot this season, and I’m sure we’ll continue to explore that in future seasons.”
Ellenberg chooses to be optimistic in a pessimistic time. “I’m hopeful that when we come out the other side, the industry overall will be on a more sustainable foundation, both for the people who make the shows and for the people who finance the shows,” he says. “It’s a tough time at the moment, but I think the industry will be on a much healthier footing on the other side and I’m looking forward to it.”
The Morning Show releases new episodes on Apple TV+