Aaron Sorkin is one of a handful of widely known and highly respected Hollywood writers for film and television. Although most well known for his contributions to hit series, The West Wing (1999-2006), he is also the Oscar winning screenplay author of The Social Network (2010) and writer for the controversial television series, The Newsroom. After being both condemned and applauded with equal amounts of passion for its first installment, Sorkin’s fast-talking drama about the inner workings of a New York City newsroom is back for a second season. The show revolves around the busy lives of a news team working for a company called ACN, and contains an impressively large cast who’s leads are Jeff Daniels (Will McAvoy) and Emily Mortimer (MacKenzie McHale). Their characters, Will and MacKenzie are workaholic journalists who are passionate about the integrity of the news that they deliver, but struggle to work in such close quarters due to their rocky romantic history.
Both of the star actors have made their admiration for Sorkin’s talent public. Mortimer touts, “I think he’s kind of a master” and then adds with reference to the excitement of the second season, “every episode, something dramatic and strange and crazy occurs, and yet it’s all in a day’s work somehow. That is what is so brilliantly conjured.” Mortimer and Sorkin have a very collaborative relationship, for after watching the actress attempt to train herself into an American accent, Sorkin changed MacKenzie McHale to a British woman so that Mortimer could be free to move comfortably within the role and focus on the more important aspects of embodying her character.
According to Mortimer, real news professionals have come to share her respect for the show and what it stands for, which contradicts the fact that one of its main critiques has been its very questionable authenticity. Interestingly enough, Mortimer gushed that she really loves the series simply because it is loved by actual journalists who, she claims, “see it as what it is, which is a sort of hymn to journalism”. In preparation for the role, she spent time with a friend in England who is a working journalist, and thus felt confident articulating that in her experience with the industry folk, both men and women have “commented again and again how accurate it is” and “how much the individual characters remind them of the people they know and work with.”
Speaking about his work on the show, Sorkin makes it clear that getting it all done to the necessary standards of quality and authenticity is no easy feat. Sorkin describes his job as constantly having a term paper due, meaning that as soon as he is done with one episode, he’s right onto the next. Sorkin’s passion for the project is clear as he states that it is his “pleasure for it to be all consuming” and declaring, “it’s a rare moment when I’m awake and not somehow thinking about the show.” He even refers to the cast and crew as his family because of the vast amounts of time they spend together. Sorkin claims that he is on set every day for whatever project he is working on, so much so that he even directed the final shot of The Social Network, basically being forced by the great David Fincher himself, who hopped in his car and headed home early. Creating The Newsroom has certainly been a labour of love for Sorkin, who has a great respect for journalism, but, strangely enough, claims that were it his personal choice, he would go straight past world news to the sports section without hesitation.
Aaron Sorkin is not the only one working himself to the bone to get this show made: the cast emulates Sorkin’s incredible work ethic. When asked what they do in between takes to relax, Sam Waterston, who plays Charlie Skinner, the ACN television executive and head honcho, revealed his downtime activities: “There’s a lot of dialogue in the show and so what I find myself doing in between, weather I’m lying down or standing up, is running the lines to myself.” The other cast members share this use of downtime, voicing that despite the occasional game of badminton on a makeshift court near the hair and makeup trailer, they spend most of their breaks preparing for the next scene. Thus, Sorkin’s “always a term paper due” mentality has caught on.
With the second season premiering on HBO in the US this July 14th, and on Sky Atlantic in the UK on August 26th, this group’s efforts will soon be available for public viewing and unfiltered criticism. We can certainly hope for a second season worthy of the talk, both good and bad, that accompanied season one.