A lot has changed on The Morning Show. Season 2 of the Apple TV+ drama picks up in the aftermath of the first season’s big cliff hanger, in which co-anchors Alex (Jennifer Aniston) and Bradley (Reese Witherspoon) exposed the culture of harassment and corruption at fictional network UBA. Enter Stella Bak (Greta Lee). The new head of UBA’s news division — replacing Billy Crudup’s Cory Ellison, who’s been bumped up to president of the network — is a change-maker looking to root out the corruption that Alex and Bradley brought to light. The problem is, Alex and Bradley themselves might just become casualties of Stella’s systemwide overhaul.
“I think that she is sort of unabashedly like, ‘We don’t need to see two more white women on TV as anchors,’” Lee explains.
Ahead of this week’s season premiere, Lee spoke with GRAZIA about going toe-to-toe with Crudup, learning to be a boss and her character’s signature style.
How would you describe the situation that Stella finds herself in at UBA?
She is the youngest and the first female president of the news division in the whole history of UBA. So, that’s a very big deal for the network. And Stella, coming from a company that catered to mostly Gen Z and millennial audiences, she’s tasked with bringing that perspective, and coming into UBA and this particular corporate environment, trying to rehabilitate this workplace in terms of its toxicity and its systems of racism and discrimination, and getting to see that it is not a smooth ride. It’s really tricky. Part of what I was so excited to get into with these guys on the show was asking that question — we’re seeing that there’s this cry for change. But how do you actually execute that? It’s this endlessly fascinating complicated thing.
She’s coming into this huge media organization, and so much of the show is about power and influence. I’m curious what her experience of power is going to be like this season, and if you came away from the show with any insight about what power means.
Oh, yeah. Personally, I have been and am still reconciling how to be a woman with power. Or what that is, what that looks like, how to be a boss. Literally from watching videos of young CEOs and watching TED Talks and watching them speak. I watched Mark Zuckerberg. And being genuinely surprised that, actually, what I imagined a boss to sound like and look like was so wrong. This new wave of young tastemakers and visionaries and disruptors, they’re actually much more at peace with just being themselves. I was prepared to come in as a boss, to put on a certain voice, to flex in a certain way. But understanding that true power is just being yourself, and how bold and almost radical that is. That is something that, whether or not I have it in me, just watching examples of that in real life was so fascinating.
I’m curious about her wardrobe. She wears a lot of activewear — when we first meet her, she’s wearing, I think, a hoodie under a tailored jacket. What is that meant to convey about her?
First of all, I don’t think I’ll ever have a closet like this on any other show in my life! That closet was truly insane. But, I think what was so important was making sure the clothes also fully reflected her vision of what a boss should be, and what the world should see — the kind of boss she wants to be. Meaning: she’s so bold, and she’s kind of stubborn in her ideas and has this outsize confidence and is sort of immovable in a lot of ways. I love that that is a flex for her. She’s like, I am wearing head-to-toe Balenciaga, and I am flaunting it. That was really important to convey about her. And I love these moments where Cory Ellison is like, What are you wearing?
I’m glad you brought up Cory Ellison. She’s essentially replaced him in her position at the network. He had such a unique and weird energy in Season 1, and Billy Crudup’s performance was something that a lot of people talked about. How does Stella compare to Cory?
First of all, I loved his performance from Season 1. And so much of the draw for me was knowing that I would have to step up the plate and accept this challenge of facing off with him. But I think right from the get-go, it was apparent that in this twisted way, though they present as very, very different people — racially, even generationally, and they have different methods — they are also, arguably, the same person. Just manifested in completely opposite ways. I felt that we were able to explore that over the course of the season, seeing those moments when they really do not connect and see eye-to-eye at all. And then also seeing how he kind of teaches her some things. This idea of, what are you willing and not willing to compromise in order to just run a business? And it’s heartbreaking to see that change in her, in this self-identifying change maker who wants to change this workplace and make it better, but it’s not so easy.
She doesn’t want Alex to return to the show, and she doesn’t seem to be a Bradley fan either. What’s her issue with them?
It’s so funny, because me, personally, as an actor coming on and joining this group, I could not be more of a fangirl. Just a nerd for Jennifer Aniston and Reese and all of these guys. So to come in and play that was a real mind trip. I think that she is sort of unabashedly like, We don’t need to see two more white women on TV as anchors. It’s kinda pure, and I think it’s problematic how simple it is in her mind. She’s thinking, No, we need to tackle diversity. But then you see very quickly, it’s just not that simple. It never is. So, it was really important for us to show that we don’t know what the solution is. We don’t know how to fix toxicity or racial inequity. We’re basically showing how much we don’t know.
The whole season takes place in early 2020, so the pandemic is lurking around the corner. As an Asian American woman, how does the gradual emergence of COVID-19 affect Stella?
Without giving anything away, the story of wanting to fully represent COVID, as uncomfortable and as intimidating as it was, it just wouldn’t be honest if we didn’t include the truth of what was actually happening to Asians and Asian Americans at this time. And I so appreciated the delicate extra care and attention that was put into showing that.