As most of us have come to expect of the actress turned multi-hyphenate media mogul, Reese Witherspoon takes on more than one role in new AppleTV+ series The Morning Show: She is both a star of the show and an executive producer.
But for all her behind the scenes work, the role viewers will be most focused on is Witherspoon's Bradley Jackson, a local reporter who is brought onto The Morning Show after a video of her fiery personality (and thus major TV potential) goes viral. But did the idea for Bradley Jackson come from any real, outspoken reporters?
Not exactly, but at the very least, her TV news world should seem a little familiar. Jackson is put on air not only to take over Mitch Kessler’s (Steve Carell) job after he is fired for allegations of sexual misconduct, but to mix things up alongside longtime Morning Show co-host Alex Levy (Jennifer Aniston). The producers desperately feel the need to shake up the show after the accusations against its former co-host, and Jackson seems like just the way to do it. What ensues is a power struggle between Jackson and Levy as they try to find their new places both on and off-screen in this turbulent time of transition.
“The whole world got turned upside down. All the rules are not the rules anymore. No one knows who’s in charge. No one knows who’s making the rules,” said Witherspoon as she sat next to Aniston in an interview with Variety. “I come into this world, she’s discovering a new leadership role, but it’s all very murky.”
To make this world as real as possible, Witherspoon spent her time preparing for the role speaking to journalists and producers on real news shows. “Every time I was on shows or could talk to somebody, I would ask them lots of questions, like: Why did you do this? Where did you come from? What was your local market? How did you ascend? What were your curveballs? What are you passionate about? What did you get a degree in? How’d you get here?” Witherspoon told Entertainment Weekly.
In the course of their research, both Witherspoon and Aniston were shocked to learn how different the reality of being a broadcast journalist is from what it appears to be on television. “I was astounded by how honest a lot of female anchors were with myself and Jen. I think most people would find it shocking that women in that position, of what we perceive as power, are looked at as expendable,” said Witherspoon in her EW interview. She pointed out the "demoralizing" process of analyzing reporters' faces, smiles, laughs, and wardrobes to ensure on-camera personalities are "likeable" as the most shocking revelation. And Witherspoon's Bradley goes through that process firsthand on the new series, when she's being groomed to be a new Morning Show anchor. "Women who’ve worked so hard to become incredible journalists and to ascend to a position of what seemed like power are relatively powerless.”
As for one-to-one matches between Bradley and a Today Show or Good Morning America anchor, any similarities you find are just that: similarities. Many national broadcast journalists started on smaller local or regional news shows before working their way up to the shows people wake up to around the country — and something like Bradley's viral video could certainly raise the profile of any TV journalist. It's not often that a local journalist rises directly to the main anchor seat — a twist that gives The Morning Show's premise its oomph — but we've seen one-time Bachelorette stars, like Ali Fedotowsky, become TV hosts and former president George W. Bush's daughter, Jenna Bush Hager, eventually found her way from a book deal to becoming a correspondent on Today in 2009. It's not totally out of the realm of possibility that a fiery clip that circulates everywhere from reddit to Twitter could put a young journalist on the fast track for success.
But while Bradley's experience rising through the ranks of a large news show and all the downright brutal analysis that comes with it is something many broadcast journalists would recognize, Witherspoon’s character isn’t a direct nod to any one person.