The strike was happening when the third season of The Morning Show premiered which meant that Jennifer Aniston and Reese Witherspoon could not put the same energy into promoting their series that they have in the past. There were a couple of magazine covers here and there but no carpets or interviews, and now that the strike is over, and award season is upon us, we have seen them step out for a couple of events. And a joint Variety cover.
Last week there was a TMS panel session in Hollywood, followed by a cocktail, where we did get a shot of Jen with Jon Hamm, Jimmy Kimmel, and TMS co-star Greta Lee who, as we know (at least I hope so if you’ve been visiting this site), is currently in contention for a Best Actress Oscar nomination. And I’ve been wondering, since both Jen and Reese were all-in on Andrea Riseborough and her controversial nomination last year, whether or not they, as two Hollywood power players, would step up for one of their castmates while she campaigns this year. So far, not yet.
But that’s probably because they’re campaigning for themselves. TMS has been nominated for several CSAs but was relatively light on Golden Globe nominations. SAG Award nominations are still a possibility though and Jen and Reese are definitely in the market, covering Variety with the words “award season” on the front page.
If you’re not yet caught up on TMS or if you’ve given up on it entirely, you’re missing a soap opera… which, even though there are a lot of people fully hating on it, I’m not mad at it. Working in television is a f-cking soap opera. They’re leaning into the crazy and it’s entertaining, at least for me.
But another show comes up too: Friends. And of course the loss of Matthew Perry. I admire Jen here for the way she speaks compassionately and lovingly about someone who was clearly so dear to her. I can’t, however, get down with what she says about filming the love scene that she shares with Jon Hamm on The Morning Show. The question was about how the scene was more explicit than what we’re used to on TMS. And Jen’s answer:
“Having Mimi (Leder, the director) there, you’re protected. I never felt uncomfortable. Jon was such a gentleman, always — I mean every move, every cut, “You OK?” It was also very choreographed. That’s the beauty of Mimi and our gorgeous editor, the music and lighting. So, you don’t prepare. They asked us if we wanted an intimacy coordinator. I’m from the olden days, so I was like, “What does that mean?” They said, “Where someone asks you if you’re OK,” and I’m like, “Please, this is awkward enough!” We’re seasoned — we can figure this one out. And we had Mimi there.”
Maybe she didn’t mean it the way it’s reading but… it’s not reading all that progressive, is it? Later on in the interview, it comes up that Jen is always talking about how great (and perhaps better) things were in the 90s and you get the sense with this quote that Jen’s speaking nostalgically – “we’re seasoned” – almost as if to say that filming a love scene is not unlike how we didn’t have phones at the ready in the 90s and had to really communicate with each other. Which is not the same at all. She doesn’t make that direct comparison, this is me threading together her general attitude about now vs the past, but even when you take that quote about the intimacy coordinator at face value, on its own, and how she’s from the “olden days” and the “seasoned” comment, the idea here is that in these situations, experience gives you protection… which is not true.
Power gives you protection.
Jennifer Aniston is a producer on The Morning Show. The people who need intimacy coordinators often don’t have the same status on set as she does on a series that she produces. It has nothing to do with seasoning and everything to do with influence. The influence to be able to hire directors she trusts, like Mimi Leder, to oversee the set. When she says that “we had Mimi there”, this implies that Mimi was looking out for her… THE SAME WAY AN INTIMACY COORDINATOR would look out for a less “seasoned” actor. Or even a seasoned actor who doesn’t carry the same privilege as Jennifer. The fact that Jen mentions that she felt comfortable and protected because Mimi was present actually underscores the value of intimacy coordinators in these situations, because she was functioning as one, and as we all know, as we have all heard by now, not all directors operate like Mimi.
In my opinion, then, it probably wasn’t the most productive way for Jen to articulate how safe she felt on a set where she was #1 on the call sheet and her name is in the producer credits. Should her working conditions be the same for everyone? Would that be the ideal? Of course. But I don’t think we’re there yet in Hollywood. And underplaying the value of intimacy coordinators doesn’t advance that conversation.