By Samantha Highfill
September 17, 2019 at 05:48 PM EDT
Tony Rivetti Jr./Apple
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It all goes back to New York City.

In The Morning Show, Apple’s upcoming drama series about the world of daybreak news, Jennifer Aniston and Reese Witherspoon play journalists from different backgrounds who face similar battles. Aniston’s Alex Levy is the longtime anchor of a NY-set news show, while Witherspoon’s Bradley Jackson is a local reporter in West Virginia. (The women’s paths cross when Bradley goes viral after getting into an argument with a civilian at a coal mine protest.) Tasked with representing the women inside this high-paced, extremely competitive world, Aniston and Witherspoon both made sure they took a note from their characters and did their research.

“I was at Good Morning America at 5 a.m. to do some shadow work,” Aniston tells EW. “What a crazy world! From 5 a.m. to 7 a.m. it’s like a ghost town, and then slowly all the lights start turning on and all the sounds start getting louder and louder and louder, and then all of a sudden it’s this mad, insane, well-oiled machine and everyone’s somehow calm.”

Witherspoon adds, “I spent a lot of time with news producers who have been doing this all their lives, and obviously a lot of journalists. Every time I was on shows or could talk to somebody, I would ask them lots of questions, like: Why did you do this? Where did you come from? What was your local market? How did you ascend? What were your curveballs? What are you passionate about? What did you get a degree in? How’d you get here?”

Aniston cites a conversation with Gayle King and a dinner with Diane Sawyer as two of her most influential conversations. “It was really just about wanting to understand what that life is like and why they continue for this long to wake up at 3:30 a.m.,” she says. “How do you have a personal life? How do you go to the theater? How do you do anything? When do you sleep, and how do you look so good? It was fascinating!”

But aside from morning rituals and smaller details — like pairing Red Bull with coffee — Aniston and Witherspoon both took away a larger lesson to inform their characters and the show at large. “There’s such inequality and an imbalance of power,” Aniston says, with Witherspoon adding: “I was astounded by how honest a lot of female anchors were with myself and Jen. I think most people would find it shocking that women in that position, of what we perceive as power, are looked at as expendable. One thing that I thought was really demoralizing was how much they’re analyzed: Their wardrobe, their faces, their smile, their laugh are all tested, and they are put on notice if they are not appealing to an audience. Because test audiences are determining whether or not they’re likable to an American audience. Women who’ve worked so hard to become incredible journalists and to ascend to a position of what seemed like power are relatively powerless.”

The Morning Show premieres Nov. 1 on Apple TV+.

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