Aniston and Witherspoon's The Morning Show goes behind the scenes of #MeToo
Jennifer Aniston and Reese Witherspoon reunite in new series about sexual harassment in TV news
In the #MeToo age comes a drama series on the upcoming Apple TV+ streaming service that has a storyline ripped from the headlines about sexual harassment and female empowerment struggles behind the scenes of a television news programme.
In the 10-episode The Morning Show, which premieres on Nov 1, Jennifer Aniston plays Alex Levy, who anchored a fictional New York-based morning show with Steve Carell's Mitch Kessler for 15 years before she is blindsided by his abrupt firing after numerous sexual allegations from co-workers.
She is getting on in years, in the middle of a contract renewal and desperate to hang on to her career and some semblance of control in a man's world.
Enter Kessler's replacement Bradley Jackson (Reese Witherspoon), the correspondent of a conservative regional show with a hair-trigger temper, and sparks fly.
Indeed, shades of disgraced industry titans such as Fox News' chief executive Roger Ailes, Matt Lauer of NBC's Today show and CBS This Morning's Charlie Rose are not too far away.
At our interview with the two US actresses at the Wallis Annenberg Centre for the Performing Arts in Beverly Hills, Aniston explained that the original concept was based on a 2013 book called Top Of The Morning by journalist Brian Stelter.
The 50-year-old, making her small-screen return since her hit TV comedy Friends ended its run in 2004, said: "Behind the scenes of the morning talk shows was just so fascinating, and it always seemed to have a cut-throat quality about it. We sold the show and then MeToo happened.
"So we had to go back to the drawing board in a way because you couldn't not address what was going on. And it kind of beautifully wrote itself in a strange way."
Witherspoon, 43, added in a separate interview: "It was great to dig into that with Jen and talk about different ideas of feminism and what does it mean to be a woman in a power structure where you are the only woman.
"What do you have to do to survive? And what does it mean to be on the outside and want in so badly, what will you do to get inside the room?
"Some of our scenes were just so fun because we got to scream at each other a lot. We had a scene where we got drunk, and it was really great."
Witherspoon guested on Friends back in 2000 playing the sister of Aniston's character and was thrilled to work with her again.
She said: "The fact that I got to revisit this friendship and sisterhood so many years later is just a dream come true."
The pair executive produced the show and reportedly negotiated to be paid US$2 million (S$2.73 million) an episode. Their deals are said to be even higher with producing fees and ownership points.
On how she learnt to stand up for herself as a woman in showbiz over the years, Aniston said: "First of all, you have to believe that you have something to fight for, so that took a couple of years to gain the confidence that I am worth fighting for.
"I am a powerful woman. Yes, I have opportunities and I don't sit there going, 'I am powerful'. But I can acknowledge that I know where I have come from and what I have gone through, and I know how fortunate and blessed I am with where I am today."
About having experienced any vulnerable situations herself, she said: "I have been lucky. I haven't really experienced that kind of behaviour, people exploiting me or taking advantage of me.
"It is just about having the confidence to know that you are 100 per cent right and you won't allow it. And also, just for me, in terms of work, really not fearing the word 'no' and being okay with that."
Witherspoon has her own take.
She said: "I definitely have had moments of having to protect myself, pretend to be tougher than I am, being more self-promoting than I would like to be.
"I think it is a different world for women in business and this is a big business, no two ways to slice it. It is definitely how you make money for people, how you present yourself, your professionalism. I have had to be in rooms where I have defended myself and my colleagues, other women, or people who weren't in the room. Yeah, I have found myself in that position quite a bit."
As part of her research, Aniston talked to many TV journalists like Diane Sawyer, Katie Couric, Gayle King, Robin Roberts and Meredith Vieira to prepare for The Morning Show.
"And then also learning how to talk into a camera as though you are talking to one person and one person alone. I have to say this is the hardest job I have had because of just the density of the material and the emotions that had to be dug up and also just the workload.
"It was seven months of that, it was pretty intense. But the best time I have had since Friends," she said.
Witherspoon added: "Jen came in with this incredible newscaster voice where I was like, 'Where did you get that?' (And she said), 'I don't know, I just watched YouTube'."
The writer is the chair of the board of directors of the Hollywood Foreign Press Association, a non-profit organisation of entertainment journalists that also organises the annual Golden Globe Awards.