Jennifer Aniston Comments on Matt Lauer and Similarities to Mitch Kessler on ‘The Morning Show’

Former Friends  star Jennifer Aniston is gearing up for her new Apple TV+ series The Morning Show, serving as star and executive producer along with Reese Witherspoon. The show launches in November and is already being compared to the Today Show.

With Steve Carell playing news anchor Mitch Kessler who is terminated for allegations of sexual misconduct, the storyline seems to mimic the ousting of Matt Lauer from the NBC morning news program in 2017.

Jennifer Aniston | James Devaney/GC Images

A do-over

Aniston plays seasoned anchor Alex Levy on The Morning Show, with Witherspoon portraying newcomer Bradley Jackson who takes over Kessler’s chair at the news desk. According to Variety, the show’s premise originally focused on the behind-the-scenes of morning television. Yet once the #MeToo movement hit, Aniston and Witherspoon decided on a rewrite to incorporate the cultural shift.

“The show got picked up. We sold it to Apple with an outline. Then, about four months later, the whole s*** hit the fan and, basically, we had to start from scratch,” Aniston told Variety.

The actress commented on the vast difference between working on her Apple TV+ series in comparison to the iconic NBC sitcom. “Friends was like going to see a play for three or four hours. And it was just laughing and wonderful fun,” Aniston said. “And this is fun. It’s just a lot harder. My bandwidth had to expand so that I could take in all the information.”

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Doing her homework

Variety reports that both Aniston and Witherspoon did their research on the sets of the three main morning news programs, and also interviewed renowned journalists including Diane Sawyer, Gayle King, and Willie Geist.

“It was really just about wanting to understand what that life is like and why they continue for this long to wake up at 3:30 a.m.,” Aniston told Entertainment Weekly. “How do you have a personal life? How do you go to the theater? How do you do anything? When do you sleep, and how do you look so good? It was fascinating!”

The executive producer also commented on the atmosphere on morning news programs, where it goes from extremely quiet to controlled chaos. “What a crazy world!” Aniston exclaimed. “From 5 a.m. to 7 a.m. it’s like a ghost town, and then slowly all the lights start turning on and all the sounds start getting louder and louder and louder, and then all of a sudden it’s this mad, insane, well-oiled machine and everyone’s somehow calm.”

Art imitating life

Aniston insists that Carell’s character is not based on Lauer, though the actress did view a rerun of the Today episode that aired the day before Lauer was fired in preparation for her character.  

“I went to the DVR that I had of Today before Matt Lauer was fired and then the day he was fired, because that was so fascinating to see,” she shared. “Mitch Kessler is not based on him at all. He’s just sort of the archetype of all of the men that he’s representing.”

When Aniston is asked about a scene where Kessler’s wife leaves to go to the Hamptons, which just happens to be where Lauer and his wife had a waterfront estate, she stated that the location was selected simply because it’s popular. “Who doesn’t live in the Hamptons on the East Coast? Who isn’t going to go to Amagansett or somewhere fancy for the weekend?” she asked.

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The Apple TV+ star was clearly revolted at Lauer’s alleged behavior, recalling their previous professional interactions. “It’s such a strange thing; it felt oddly like my dad did something terrible,” Aniston revealed. “I trusted him and had been interviewed by him. He was there for so many moments in my life. And when Friends was ending, it was Katie [Couric] and Matt interviewing us.”

She maintains that all the characters on The Morning Show are fictional, yet based on a certain persona. “All fictional, but also kind of highlighting aspects of the archetype of a charming narcissist, of a generation of men that didn’t think that was bad behavior,” Aniston said. “Thankfully, with the sacrifices of these women who have come forward, this isn’t going to happen anymore. It’s wonderful that you’re accountable and you have to check yourself.

Apple TV+’s The Morning Show premieres on November 1.