The “Newsroom” team was anything but melancholy at the show’s Tuesday night premiere, when they gathered at the Directors Guild of America Theater to celebrate their three season run. Long done filming the final episodes, the cast greeted each other with smiles and cheers on the carpet before heading into the theater to enjoy the season 3 opener – what star Sam Waterston described as “nostalgia time.”
“The whole thing has been a great pleasure,” said Waterston, adding that he will miss playing news division head Charlie Skinner, a “great present of a character, and all of these people who are wonderful to work with.”
“It feels great, honestly,” agreed executive producer Alan Poul of ending the show. Though he admitted that there’s “a huge amount of sadness,” looking to a future that doesn’t include going to work with the “Newsroom” cast and crew, he shared his excitement in celebrating getting the show to the finish line in a big, bold way.
“Season three is our best season yet, I think,” said Olivia Munn. “We see all of the characters get into really difficult situations.”
The six-episode final season will pick up in April 2013, with the ACN team handling the fallout of Genoa from season two, and trying to regain their credibility as a news organization. Munn teased that Sloan makes “a particularly gutsy decision on-air,” something viewers will see a ripple effect from, while Neal (Dev Patel) finds himself faced with the consequences of inadvertently conspiring to commit espionage, and Reese (Chris Messina) learns that the company is in the midst of a hostile takeover.
“The tension keeps mounting and mounting until it ends in a way that no one will question, because it feels so right,” said Poul.
The first real-life event that the show will tackle when it returns is the Boston Marathon bombing, a news story that Poul said felt like the best starting point for both the real-world elements of the story, and the fictional.
“We felt we couldn’t ignore it,” he said, calling attention to the issues that the tragedy raised about the complicated nature of social media and citizen journalists, and how those issues tie into themes the show has pushed since its premiere.
Given such a start, the show will be jumping past the Sandy Hook Elementary School shooting.
“It just felt too soon,” said Poul. “It would’ve felt exploited and gratuitous, and something we could only trivialize by doing.”
Since its premiere in 2012, the show has aimed to offer a new, fiction-in-fact perspective on the process of producing good news in the age of the 24-hour new cycle, as the fictional news staff takes on real news stories.
“I just really am proud of the work that we did,” said Margaret Judson. “I think (it) stayed true to the world of journalism and those events.” Judson’s first role with “The Newsroom” was not as an actress, but as a consultant for Aaron Sorkin as he was researching the business of news. Judson said that she found herself so interested in the show’s concept that she petitioned to get an audition, and couldn’t be happier to have made her acting debut in a newsroom.
Munn, who also has a journalism background, agreed that the experience was a gift. “My mother is very happy that I’ve been able to use my degree in some way,” she laughed. “It’s been nice because I’ve been able to bring my own feeling. I wasn’t just pretending to be a journalist on TV, I have my own thoughts and my own feelings about [the news].”
“We did our best to tell how hard it is to tell the news,” added Chris Chalk, reflecting on the series. “And it’s hard, man. It’s a huge responsibility.”
A personal lesson that Jeff Daniels said he’ll take away from the series is being on top of your work, a trait that reflects “The Newsroom’s” ambitious message. “I’ll never do anything different again,” he said. “It’s not okay to just sort of know it – you have to know it and know what you’re going to do with it.”
“That’s a good work ethic for anything – know it and know what you’re going to do with it.”
Poul added he and series creator Aaron Sorkin hope audiences will not only enjoy the final episodes, but will also take away “an appreciation of how difficult it is to get the news right, and knowledge that most journalists, even if they just seem to be talking heads on TV, are serious journalists and they really do want to tell the right story correctly. But they’re always against tremendous pressure to do things a certain way.”
“That’s why we need people like Will McAvoy who are willing to break a little china to get the right story right,” he said.
“I hope looking back I could say that this is just the first time that I’ve had a show on HBO,” said Sorkin presenting the premiere. The writer mentioned a scene from an upcoming episode, in which Charlie (Waterston) says to Emily Mortimer’s MacKenzie McHale, “Michael Schumacher won the Formula One championship five years in a row, and even the most ardent Michael Schumacher fan would have to admit it’s because he drives the fastest car.”
“I wanted to thank all of you, each and every one of you, for giving me such an amazing car to drive.”
After taking in the season’s premiere, guests, including cast members Patel, Alison Pill, Marcia Gay Harden, Grace Gummer and Riley Voelkel, mingled and celebrated with friends and family while enjoying an overflowing buffet dinner. The theater was decked out for the affair with posters and a mural of the cast, and even boasted an appearance from the ACN news desk.