‘The Morning Show’ re-recording mixer Elmo Ponsdomenech on addressing COVID-19 in 2nd season: It was an ‘emotional’ undertaking [Exclusive Video Interview]

Just a few weeks into filming, production on the second season of Apple TV+‘s “The Morning Show” had to shut down in early 2020 due the then-oncoming COVID-19 pandemic. Even though more than half of the season had already been written at that point, the writers decided to rewrite it in order to incorporate what would become the global health crisis of our time into the original storyline. For re-recording mixer Elmo Ponsdomenech, addressing the pandemic within the story was an emotional undertaking. “I won’t lie to you: during the first episode, it was a bit emotional seeing… a pan across [an empty] New York City,” he admits in a new webchat with Gold Derby. “It’s not the New York that most of us know or know of, so it made the hairs on your arm stand up a little bit.” Watch our exclusive video interview above.

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 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 in Wuhan, China, as well as the initial days of the pandemic in Italy and New York City, two of the early epicenters. The drama series stars Jennifer Aniston and Reese Witherspoon.

SEE Kerry Ehrin interview: ‘The Morning Show’ showrunner

It’s the third episode of the season, titled “Laura,” that first introduces Wuhan, capturing the mayhem in early 2020. After Daniel (Desean Terry) is roused from his sleep and told to leave region before it’s completely locked down, he is seen running through a frenzied train station to catch the last train out of the initial epicenter of the pandemic. “One thing that was not lost throughout all of it is that we all lived through this in our way, and that terror of it is something we all had a little piece of,” underscores Ponsdomenech about depicting these harrowing scenes. He explains that it was important to the producers, EP Mimi Leder and editors Aleshka Ferrero and Henk Van Eeghen to ensure the location was clearly defined, the common language in the region was audible and the sense of panic was tangible. In terms of the specifics of his work, the re-recording mixer details, “We just mostly threw numbers of people at it in terms of group ADR, effects wallas and the raucous of people moving about, suitcases falling and the police shouting orders.”

Even though the season visits Lake Como, Italy — where Mitch is hiding out in his buddy’s cliffside villa — in the prelude to and early stages of the pandemic, the scenery could not be more different from that in Wuhan. “But again, Mimi is very specific about wanting to hear the Italian voices and conversations popping,” says Ponsdomenech about mixing the scenes at Lake Como. Added to these native voices are, at least in scenes before Italy becomes an early COVID-19 hot spot, those of multilingual tourists, given the region’s popularity as a tourist destination. Building thereon, the re-recording mixer explains that his goal was to sell the cultural space, from the sounds of mopeds to those of occasional Italian sirens, and thereby transport viewers to the region. “I think, sonically, if you close your eyes, it does feel that way. And I think to some degree, that’s what we do until we see the final picture and we have a better idea of what’s going to be in the background,” he concludes.

For their work on the second season, Ponsdomenech and his team earned a Cinema Audio Society Award nomination. While they have not yet been embraced by the TV academy for the Apple TV+ drama, Ponsdomenech himself is a 12-time Emmy nominee and two-time champ. He earned his two victories back to back in 2018 and ’19 for the HBO dark comedy “Barry,” whose third season is currently airing and the re-recording mixer briefly discusses in our chat. “From a mixing standpoint, it is not dissimilar to the other ones in terms of excitement. The only thing I will say is there’s a level of intensity in this season that’s different and new in a sense,” he describes when asked how much the third installment differed tonally from the first two.

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