Credit: Kevin Parry for Paley Center for Media
The cast of HBO's " The Newsroom
" gathered at Beverly Hills' Saban Theater on Sunday (March 3) night to moderate An Evening With Piers Morgan
Over the course of 80 minutes, the stars and producers of HBO's Golden Globe nominated drama coaxed Morgan out of his shy shell and got him to tell stories about his recent interactions with new CNN boss Jeff Zucker, an unfortunate power outage in Atlanta during the Oscars red carpet and, most importantly, his opinions on the sequester.
Morgan was so self-effacing an uncomfortable in the spotlight that periodically he attempted to turn the questions around on his interrogators to get the cast of "Newsroom" to discuss their own opinions on their fictional version of cable news, but those moments were the exceptions, rather than the rule. So embarrassed was Morgan to be in the spotlight and to have all of this attention directed at him, that he periodically recited interview quotes back at the actors on the panel or confused actors with the characters they play on TV or inquired about where Dev Patel gets his cardigans or initiated gambits like, "Olivia [Munn]. Let's talk about sex for a moment."
After an hour, when the cast of "Newroom" opened the floor to questions from the audience, a confused audience attempted to revolt and ask questions of the "Newroom" team, but that's just the danger of a democratized event like this.
I contemplated doing a 20 things we learned about Piers Morgan from the "Newroom" PaleyFest
Panel blog post, but that would actually be far easier than doing 20 things we learned about "Newroom." And I prefer to take on the big challenges. Because I'm a journalist. Like Piers Morgan.
Click through for the 20... And yes. There will be minor spoilers.
20) We know the timeframe for "Newroom" Season 2. Don't worry, fans. "Newroom" didn't take one of the "Mad Men"-style wild leaps into the future. It's still in the past, but it's getting to be a more recent past. "Season 2 begins a week after Season 1 ended, a week after Will went on the air and called the Tea Party 'The American Taliban' and it goes through just a little bit after the election, the November election," Sorkin promises.
19) We know some of the "real world" things that will happen this season. Sorkin teases. "We have the election and the primaries and we have Trayvon Martin and the Supreme Court's decision on The Affordable Care Act, drones..." At the moment, Sorkin is writing Episode 5 and he has yet to determine if he's going to tackle Newtown/Sandy Hook on the show.
18) Let's be honest: Aaron Sorkin is going to write about Sandy Hook.
The first time Piers Morgan asked Sorkin if he was going to talk about guns and Newtown, Sorkin was bashful. "That's a tough thing to write about that without minimizing that or exploiting it or just spreading cheez whiz all over it. Obviously Newtown, it was a profoundly important moment to all of us and the last thing you want to do is handle it badly." Morgan followed up and asked if it would be "a slight abrogation of its duty" if "Newsroom" did a season and excluded Sandy Hook, Sorkin hedged. "You could stop before Sandy Hook, but that's the only way you could do it, but you couldn't go til February and pretend Sandy Hook didn't happen." Sounds like
17) Aaron Sorkin encourages improvisation from his actors. Well, that's what he says, at least. "I, I think everyone here will agree, encourage it. The script is merely a jumping off point," Sorkin says. And yes. He's laughing and his face is red and Alison Pill immediately jumps in, "I will remind you of that on Monday." Regarding improvisation, Sam Waterston says, ""You can what you will be sorry. Mostly because it dead-ends you, because there is a music in it." Olivia Munn agrees. "I've done this. I'm like, 'Hey, Aaron. Do you think that maybe this sounds better?' And he's like, 'OK.' And he's so cool about it. He's like, 'Yeah. Let's work it out. Let's talk.' And as you start to do it, you see people around you, the other actors start to go, 'Hmmm.' And then Aaron goes, 'Well why don't you try it like this?' And you go and it's like, 'Well that does work.' You're like, 'Oh. That's exactly what was on the page.' So you learn quickly, I learn quickly this is not an improv."
16) Aaron Sorkin is hopeful that critics will give "Newsroom" a second shot. Attempting to goad Sorkin to tear into the nation's TV critics, Morgan read a series of damning quotes from early reviews and asked for the auteur's opinion, "I'm not setting out to polarize people and I'd prefer that everyone like the show, but I know that's not going to happen," Sorkin says. "I hope some of the critics who weren't happy with the first season maybe take another look in the second and maybe reassess their opinion. You know what it comes down to? I can't think of anyone who's ever won a fight with a television critic. I doubt I'm going to be the first one and I'm not gonna try."
15) Jeff Daniels doesn't care if critics give "Newsroom" a second shot. As Jeff Daniels told reporters at the Television Critics Association press tour last July, he's the Honey Badger when it comes to reviews. "I don't pretend not to read reviews. I just don't," Daniels says. He was a good deal harsher, by the way, when he talked to the TCA.
14) Before production began, Aaron Sorkin gave the actors a headshot of Aaron Sorkin. Piers Morgan read an interview in which Alison Pill said that Sorkin gave the cast a picture of himself as a present. Sorkin clarifies. "It was the first table read and everybody had a little bag at their place. I think it was the first two scripts, there was a 'Newroom' baseball cap, there was a fifth of Thunderbird and there was an 8X10 of me. It was just your normal stuff," Sorkin laughs. "I did stick it on my wall for all of last year at the place I was subletting, because I would sit in the living room wanting to turn on the TV and then be like, 'Uh-oh. He's looking at me,'" Pill recalls.
13) Olivia Munn has very specific feelings about journalistic integrity. A journalism major at the University of Oklahoma and a former reporter/journalist, Munn was the panel's most outspoken advocate of journalistic integrity and impartiality. Morgan began by asking Munn for her definition of journalism. "My definition of journalism is seeking out a truth and honesty and asking questions that raise other questions and get to the bottom of a story," she says. But when asked about the celebrification of news, she had even more feelings. "I prefer to see Piers Morgan and Diane Sawyer just on the news and not on the red carpet, but that's just me personally," Munn says, referring either to CNN's new red carpet coverage, or to the fact that Morgan worked the PaleyFest red carpet before the panel. [Morgan claimed he had to. I've been on dozens of PaleyFest red carpets without seeing the moderators.] "I like seeing my news anchors just be my news anchors and now when you turn on CNN, people are putting themselves into a story and people are tweeting things out," she mocks. "I think people and especially journalists, they make themselves too much a part of the story, when journalism is really about other people's stories." Morgan squirmed and tried to justify himself for a while. The round most definitely went to Olivia Munn.
12) Alison Pill may not be invited back to work with Woody Allen. That's probably not true. I highly doubt that Woody Allen makes his casting decisions based on comments actors make about having worked with him previously in response to questions from Piers Morgan on Los Angeles-based panels for HBO TV shows. Still, Morgan asked Pill to compare the two. "It's apples and oranges," she says. "It's a matter of working with someone who's like, 'Eh. And then you do something like this and you work over here and then you go over there and blah blah blah,' versus somebody who has such a vision. It's not that Woody doesn't have a specific vision, it's just that if you don't get it, you're not going to." Pill says. Ouch. "And Aaron is really intent on making his vision known and seen and is so involved in that. And it's so contagious. I grew up with his voice in my head. I know it. I know all those movies. I know 'Sports Night.' I know 'West Wing.' I know 'American President.' They're all my favorite things."
11) Piers Morgan thinks the sequester is too boring to make interesting TV. Piers Morgan was telling his story of initially being skeptical of CNN's wall-to-wall coverage of the recent cruise ship kerfuffle and then realizing it was great programming and Sorkin asked if he thought there was any way to turn the same model to make the sequester great programming. "Honestly? No. I think the sequester is one of the most supremely boring story ever told on television..." Morgan says. "There are many politically stories which are just incredibly dry and trying to make them come to life, you can do it and you can do it with all of the tricks in television, in my experience, but it doesn't rate..." Zzzz. The sequester is far less boring that Morgan's lecture about the sequester.
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