Mark Duplass is a man of many hats — he’s a writer, director, producer and actor. One of his most high-profile gigs in front of the camera as of late is Chip Black, Jennifer Aniston and Reese Witherspoon’s producer boss on “The Morning Show,” the Apple TV Plus series about a morning news show that implodes after its longtime anchor (Steve Carell) is accused of sexual misconduct.
The first scene he shot with the Witherspoon is one in which she’s screaming at him in an office hallway. “I was nervous because I hadn’t spent a lot of time with her personally yet,” Duplass, 43, says on Wednesday’s episode of the Variety and iHeart podcast “The Big Ticket.” “We have a lot of mutual friends, and I knew Jen Aniston and Steve Carell a little bit before this, but I knew Reese the least. I also had a huge crush on her when I was 15 after I saw her in ‘The Man in the Moon.’ It wrecked me. I was in love. It was a whole situation. So I was just like I had a lot going on in this. I wanted to do well and be impressive.”
The first few takes came off “stilted,” Duplass said. “So I just asked her. I was like, ‘Should we just do one where we’re just on?’ Then as soon as we did that, it broke it right ope. I was like, ‘Oh, there it is. Here we are.’ She started throwing out all that stuff about, ‘Charlie, Chip, whatever the f–king flavor your ice, your name.’ It got all loose, and it really started working.”
Billy Crudup plays the network boss who comes and in shakes things up on the show. “I mean, is there a more handsome, suave, just well-oiled machine of a person ever?” Duplass says of Crudup. “And he is so goddamn neurotic and so insecure. He’ll be the first one to tell you this. It’s so adorable to be around him because he’s got his headphones on in between takes, trying to make sure he’s got his lines right, trying to make sure, ‘Did I get it right?” He hates himself after every take because he thinks it’s all bad. You’d think it was false modesty, like the false modesty of the James Bonds of the world, but it’s not. It’s totally real even though he is James Bond. It’s incredible.”
In the final episode, a producer played by Gugu Mbatha-Raw is found dead after she reveals that Mitch took advantage of her when she was new on the job. It’s unclear if she committed suicide or died of an accidental overdose of prescription pills. “I was surprised by that, and I was surprised because I don’t want to sound hack-y, but I am a producer and when you’ve got someone like Gugu, you’re just like, ‘Whoa. You’re going to let her go? She’s really awesome, and we want her,’” Duplass said.
The series had already started filming season two when production was shut down due to the coronavirus pandemic. “I have no idea when I’m going to go back to production,” Duplass said. “I am specifically not asking anyone over there because I know all they’re getting all day long is, ‘When are we going back?” And they’re in no way equipped to answer that question, and I don’t want to put any more stress on them. So I’m just kind of just trying to do my part. If our whole part in this pandemic is stay home and do nothing, I’m also trying to do that same thing by not bothering them.”
You can listen to the full interview and find out what Duplass had to say about working Aniston above. You can also listen to “The Big Ticket” at iHeartRadio or wherever you download you favorite podcasts.