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Why ‘The Morning Show’ Brought Steve Carell’s Character Back for Season 2

The Hollywood Reporter logo The Hollywood Reporter 9/25/2021 Jackie Strause

[This story contains spoilers to the second episode of season two of Apple’s The Morning Show, “It’s Like the Flu.”]

In the second episode of The Morning Show‘s return, viewers find out what happened to Mitch Kessler after the fallout of season one.

The disgraced morning news anchor played by Steve Carell has left the country and settled into an isolated yet serene existence in Italy’s Lake Como. When The Morning Show reintroduces Mitch in season two, the famously fired host, who has been accused of sexual misconduct and assault, tries to hide in plain sight when he leaves his picturesque villa for some gelato in town. When a young American woman recognizes him and publicly confronts him, a local documentarian named Paola (played by Valeria Golino) comes to his rescue.

The second season of the broadcast news drama plays out in the weeks between January and March of 2020 in the lead-up to the U.S. lockdown, which sets this scene between Mitch and Paola in early January with Italy on the cusp of the pandemic. In order to create the villa amid pandemic-era production limitations, director Mimi Leder and her team found a location in Sierra Madre, California and set the home on an Italian peninsula, thanks to the use of drone filming units and CGI editing.

The idea to send Mitch to Italy, says showrunner Kerry Ehrin, came out of the Apple TV+ flagship’s pandemic re-write. “Seeing those beautiful films from Italy of people singing on their balconies, because that happened right before COVID hit here, seemed like a great place to tell a little bit of the pre-story of COVID,” Ehrin tells The Hollywood Reporter of being inspired by the early pandemic videos coming out of Europe.

Ehrin adds, “Also, you think about disgraced film directors who go live in Europe. And I thought that all seemed to fit into the story that we were telling.”

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The story that The Morning Show aims to tell by continuing to follow Mitch’s storyline will be revealed as the 10-episode season continues. After a shocking first season — one that culminated with Mitch staring into the camera with a look of realization that he is among the sexual predators he had self-righteously separated himself from all season long — The Morning Show attempts to do something even more shocking by bringing Mitch back and exploring something new in the post-#MeToo era of storytelling.

“What happens to a Mitch Kessler?” Jennifer Aniston, star and executive producer, tells THR of the questions that were asked by the team going into season two. “There’s such varying degrees of unthinkable and unforgivable actions. But, what is it that happens? Do they just disappear off into the ether? Do they never get a job again? Is there room for redemption? Is there room for self-reflection and forgiveness? Are these inherently evil people?”

She continues, “It is such a gray area. And one of the things I love so much about the show is how it will never just be black and white; it will always peep behind the curtain of the real conversations that are going on behind closed doors that are never dared to be uttered out loud and in public. Because that’s what’s interesting. And that’s what’s actually happening.”

Much of the second episode surrounds Alex Levy’s (Aniston) return to The Morning Show as a fill-in anchor and needed PR move. Along the way, she is forced to try to make amends with co-anchor Bradley Jackson (Reese Witherspoon) and anchor Daniel Henderson (Desean Terry), among others whom she wronged in her very public departure from the fictional morning show.

“The finale of season one was glasses off and almost an on-air explosion of truth that I don’t think was expected. Obviously, it was a little unhinged,” says Aniston. “And then season two we begin where Alex has taken a step back and is having deep moments of reflection and asking who she is and who does she want to be, I think, for the very first time.”

On the other side of the globe, her former friend and on-air partner of more than a decade appears to be on a similar track. As thanks for her kind gesture, Paola convinces a reluctant Mitch to let her pick his brain, as one member of the media to another. But he is soon distracted when Fred Micklen (Tom Irwin), the former president of The Morning Show‘s home network, knocks on his door, presumably to discuss the wrongful death lawsuit that has been filed by the family of Kessler’s accuser, Hannah Shoenfeld (Gugu Mbatha-Raw), who tragically died at the end of season one.

It turns out that Micklen was paid a golden parachute in the form of a $119.2 million settlement to exit UBA, and now Hannah’s family has filed their suit for that exact number — a move that leaves new UBA boss Cory Ellison (Billy Crudup) at a rare loss for words.

Consider this episode a setup for what will unfold. “The challenge was that I didn’t want to just have him replay season one where he’s just deny, deny, deny,” says Ehrin, teasing Mitch’s evolving journey ahead. “Steve is just so lovely to work with; he’s so committed to the work. And he embraced the role.”

The first two episodes of season two of The Morning Show are now streaming on Apple TV+.


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