The Morning Show Production Designer and Casting Director Unpack Season 3 Ahead of Finale
The Morning Show Production Designer and Casting Director Unpack Season 3 Ahead of Finale

The Morning Show Production Designer and Casting Director Unpack Season 3 Ahead of Finale

The Morning Show Production Designer and Casting Director Unpack Season 3 Ahead of Finale

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Season three of The Morning Show has been anything but tepid. The hit Apple TV+ series found Reese Witherspoon’s Bradley Jackson being launched into space only to be thrust into another scandal, with questions about her ethics by the season’s later episodes. Jenner Anniston’s Alex Levy had a hit podcast, but she stirred up more drama within the UBA Network and made even more questionable relationship choices — Oh, Alex, stop!

The biggest buzz this season was on Jon Hamm, who entered the mix as billionaire Paul Marks, who would move forward with his bid to take over the UBA network. There were plenty of characters and story arcs, of course, which the series ties together as it heads into the season finale on November 8.

All of it was thought out with precision long before season two aired. Production designer Nelson Coates (Crazy Rich Asians, In the Heights, Hocus Pocus 2) and casting director Victoria Thomas (Blonde, Once Upon a Time) shared more about their intentions for season three and how it may have informed where the show heads next in this exclusive MovieWeb interview.

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The Season Three Challenge

Nelson Coates had a seemingly insurmountable task while conceptualizing and planning season three. The Morning Show has become a solid hit for Apple TV+ with an ensemble cast that featured, in addition to Jennifer Aniston and Reese Witherspoon, Billy Crudup, Mark Duplass, Karen Pittman, Nestor Carbonell, Greta Lee, and Desean Terry. For season three, Coates was specifically asked to expand the world of the drama.

“One of the things I’ve been pushing since I’ve come on board last season was getting more of New York City into the story, making it a stronger character,” Coates said. “The different neighborhoods, geolocating our characters, making sure that we really feel that we’re seeing the complexity of a major city.”

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To that end, many of the scenes viewers experienced were filled with more details, especially as it related to how our favorite characters moved through the pandemic and how they got to the other side of it when we see them. “Whether it’s Mia’s [Karen Pittman] apartment,” Coates adds, “or going out and seeing Paul Mark’s (Jon Hamm) Hampton place or the house that Cory [Billy Crudup] purchases during COVID, or Bradley trying to really identify looks — all the things that would amplify and illustrate aspects of each of the characters’ lives and their mental states. That was fun, delineating that.”

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He went on to say that the addition of Hamm was well received, but it posed big challenges logistically as Hamm had limited availability for filming. “We had seven different episodes with seven different directors,” Coates explained, adding:

That was nutsville, just from a standpoint of complexity. This season was probably one of the hardest things I’ve ever done in my entire career, schedule-wise. It was like doing a Rubik’s Cube behind your back, just trying to figure out what things could get constructed and designed fast enough for all the pieces that we could get of Jon.

Jon Hamm Was Always the First Choice for Paul Marks

Jon Hamm in The Morning Show season three
Apple TV+

If you want to know one person to thank for some of the memorable TV shows and films you love, it’s Victoria Thomas. As one of today’s trailblazing casting directors, she has won big casting coups overseeing popular TV shows such as Bosch: Legacy, I’m A Virgo, Mrs. David, and the films Dungeons & Dragons: Honor Among Thieves, 80 For Brady, and Blonde.

For season three of The Morning Show, she said it, “was a no-brainer about casting Jon Hamm just in terms of someone who could pair with Jennifer. We figured they would have great chemistry, and there really wasn’t a long list at all for that role. He was the person we wanted, and I think in terms of the other casting, as always, we wanted to elevate and diversify it, always looking for interesting actors.”

Those new characters captured attention. They include: the wonderful Natalie Morales playing Stella’s (Greta Lee) former pal from Stanford, where they helped with Paul Mark’s start-up incubator; Tig Notaro (Star Trek: Discovery, One Mississippi), playing Paul’s chief of staff Amanda Robinson; and Nicole Beharie’s Christina Hunter, the fiercely focused millennial who comes on board The Morning Show.

Thomas credits all the performers, then boomerangs back to the new Hamm/Anniston dynamic. “Jon Hamm is sparring partners with Alex. She is going to have a lot to say, and who she feels like she could go back and forth with, and who can hit the ball over the net so she can hit it back to them. Jon adds gravitas and sexiness, and a sort of believability to the part. I believe him as that guy and all the charisma he brings naturally.”

Can Season Four Top The Morning Show Space Launch?

The Morning Show space launch season three
Apple TV+

Good news dropped last spring when Variety reported that The Morning Show would indeed have a fourth season. That was long before season three’s premiere and before the writers’ and actors’ strike. All that means that when the new season arrives, both Coates and Thomas will once again plan to raise the stakes with The Morning Show, topping perhaps that entire space launch sequence that began the season, a story arc that had Coates meticulously planning the details of the look and feel of Paul Marks’ rocket ship.

“The whole space launch aspect was fun for me, as I’ve never done sci-fi,” Coates said. He continued:

We had to do it in three pieces because we only had Jon in certain portions, so in order to accomplish the space station part, we focused first on the actual launch, the broadcast of the launch, and his aerospace facility, which were all either location modifies or location builds down in Orange County.

Related: The Morning Show Season 3 Review: Jam-Packed And Filled With Change

He explained that the production crew was able to build the lower portion of the spacecraft in terms of how it was going to look when Hamm’s character was speaking. When Hamm went off to shoot on another project, the team then built, with real steel, the actual gantry and the elevators on top of the gantry tower.

“That was in September [of 2022], and we still had not been able to complete the capsule because of its complexity,” Coates noted. “So, at the end of the gantry, we had the door surrounded with blue screen, so we could actually walk in and step over what they needed to do. Come December, we had the inside and outside the capsule and its mechanics, so we could actually shoot the final bit of getting into the capsule and the inside.

“Those were parts of the major challenge,” he went on, before pivoting to other challenges that eventually came off looking stellar — the new sets for the evening news on the show, as well as the new control room, dressing room, and the Alex Unfiltered sets. “We wanted to integrate those into what we had built last year with the [show’s] office complex — a 12,500 square foot set that we redressed for and re-signage for the 12th floor or the 15th floor of UBA.”

The Luxurious Locales of The Morning Show

The Morning Show Season 3 with Reese Witherspoon and Jennifer Aniston
Apple TV+

As for Paul and Cory’s Hampton mansions, key locales in season three, Coates is quick to note those houses were located on the West Coast. The beach featured in the series is in Ventura County, one of the few places where dunes exist that look like the Hamptons. He explained:

“We added in dune grasses and dune fencing and elements just to make it feel more like the beaches in that part of the world. Then we took a house that had actually been done by an East Coast architect. It was stark white, and we came back in, renovated the insides, and brought in grass wallpapers and elements that really feel a little bit more back east.”

“Corey’s place needed to be a signature house,” Coates continued, “and finding that sort of space was going to be challenging. Ultimately, we landed on a house in the Palisades, and of course the Palisades is not on the beach, so we created our beach in visual effects.”

You can see the culmination of all their efforts when the season three finale of The Morning Show streams November 8 on Apple TV+. Check out a sneak peek of the season finale below:


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