Most known for her roles on “ER” and “The Good Wife,” Julianna Margulies knows what it’s like to be part of a TV show from the very beginning. In the case of Apple TV+‘s “The Morning Show,” however, the three-time Emmy winner had a different entry point, joining the acclaimed drama in its second season as Laura Peterson. “At first, I was a little bit intimidated — not by the cast, but just because I know what it’s like to already be in a moving machine that’s well oiled,” she tells Gold Derby in a new webchat in regard to boarding the show in Season 2 (watch our exclusive video interview above). But settling in was not difficult for the actor, who was already friendly with series regulars Jennifer Aniston, Reese Witherspoon and Billy Crudup and had previously worked with executive producer Mimi Leder and director Lesli Linka Glatter, who helmed her debut “Morning Show” episode. “I felt very much at home with the people. It was more [about] trying to establish the character as completely well rounded as I could,” she reveals.
Developed by Kerry Ehrin and partly inspired by consulting producer Brian Stelter‘s behind-the-scenes book “Top of the Morning: Inside the Cutthroat World of Morning TV” (2013), the Emmy-winning series follows the behind-the-scenes drama at the titular daily morning news program. The first season explored the fallout from the #MeToo movement as one of the show’s anchors, Mitch Kessler (Steve Carell), is fired amid sexual misconduct allegations. While the second season continues that storyline, it also tackles the outbreak of COVID-19 pandemic in Wuhan, China, as well as the initial days of the global health crisis in early epicenters Italy and New York City.
SEE our interview with ‘The Morning Show’ showrunner Kerry Ehrin
As Laura, Margulies plays a veteran broadcast journalist and UBA news anchor who was outed as a lesbian in the late ’90s and subsequently fired from her job as a lead morning show anchor. The character makes her grand entrance in the third episode of Season 2, fittingly titled “Laura,” as she is recruited to host an interview with Aniston’s Alex Levy about her past relationship with Mitch. “I felt like Laura Peterson was sort of the voice of calm amidst this crazy chaos,” says the actor with respect to her character’s arrival, adding that “there’s just a storm going on when you meet her.” Even though Laura becomes in many ways the lens through which viewers can witness this sandstorm of crazy, it was also important to Margulies that her character was clearly delineated from the get-go. She explains, “I wanted her to immediately come off as someone who was confident in what she does, [was] very good at her job, and [as] someone who was known in the industry she’s in.”
Of course, her position in that industry took a turn after she was outed. The source of the information, Laura has always believed, was Alex since her employer learned of her sexual orientation and fired her shortly after Alex found out about it. When asked how long she thinks her character held a grudge against Alex because of that, Margulies says, “I think Laura probably held a grudge for a few years, until she really started going to therapy and dealing with her own self — and realising that it wasn’t Alex that ruined her life; it was her reaction to Alex.” The actor believes that Laura most likely let go of her anger towards Alex a good 10 years before the interview that takes place in the third episode. She continues, “But I think that she is very aware that Alex has absolutely nothing to do with her life. And she probably hasn’t thought about Alex in a long, long time. So, the fact that she’s taking up space in Alex’s head is just silly to Laura, because, you know, just get on with your life and worry about yourself. You have no power over me! And Laura knows that she certainly has no power over Alex, and she doesn’t want it — that’s the key, right? She has no interest in it, she doesn’t want it.”
SEE Julianna Margulies can score a rare kind of Emmy bookend with ‘The Morning Show’
What Laura does have interest in, though, is a relationship. She bonds with Morning Show co-anchor Bradley Jackson (Witherspoon), who explores (and struggles with) her sexuality throughout Season 2. Although Laura is very honest about her frustration with Bradley’s repression in a key scene in the fourth episode, Margulies does think of her character as a type of “mentor” for Bradley. This is especially the case on a business level since Bradley is still very much a newbie and, to her own detriment, “always in attack mode,” so the actor. But at the same time, the two characters’ relationship can’t survive on just hand-holding, the Emmy winner underlines. She elaborates, “You cannot forget that Laura’s also a sexual human being who has needs and wants too. And you don’t always want to be the gardener; you want to be the flower in a relationship too. So, it’s not going to bode well for them if Laura feels that she’s not getting back what she’s giving all the time.”
To date, Margulies has racked up 10 Emmy nominations, landing six for “ER” and four for “The Good Wife.” She went home triumphant on her very first try, winning drama supporting actress for “ER” in 1995. Rounding out her three victories are two for “The Good Wife,” which she earned in lead in 2011 and 2014.
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