"The Newsroom" (premieres Sun., July 24, 10 p.m. ET on HBO) boasts a huge ensemble cast -- everyone from Jane Fonda as boss lady Leona Lansing, Jeff Daniels as newsman Will McAvoy and Emily Mortimer as his producer MacKenzie McHale, to Alison Pill and John Gallagher Jr. playing two of their most eager young producers -- but there are two more characters coming later in the season that might surprise you.
I caught up with "The Newsroom" cast at the HBO drama's Los Angeles premiere and was surprised to see two very recognizable stars walking the red carpet. Having seen the first four episodes, and not seen a second of either one of their characters, I had to find out what exactly they had in store for us.
[Obviously, there are teases of what's to come on the show, so if you're a big spoiler-phobe, don't read on until you've seen the first few episodes.]
I watched the first four episodes, and you're nowhere to be seen. When do you first pop up, and what can you tell me about the character you're playing?
You'll see me in Episode 6 -- I play Jeff Daniels' shrink. I'm his new psychiatrist. There's a twist to the psychiatrist storyline, and the twist is that I'm his young psychiatrist, and he didn't expect someone like me.
Interesting. Does he choose to go to therapy, or was this mandated by his bosses?
He chose to go to me, but he didn't realize it was me. You'll see.
Daniels' character Will McAvoy is a tough nut to crack ...
I break him down. I break him down pretty good -- the sixth episode kind of meanders back and forth between the therapy session and what has occurred. So it's him sort of replaying what had just happened the week prior in his mind in therapy.
Is it all work-related? Or does some love stuff come up?
Some love stuff comes up.
And that's not the only surprise. Actor and former NFL player Terry Crews was also there -- "I am in 'The Newsroom.' Can you believe it? It's not 'Expendables,' it's not 'White Chicks,' it's not 'Longest Yard.' It's critically acclaimed! It's so cool," Crews said -- and the information he gave about his character was very intriguing as well.
What exactly are you doing on "The Newsroom," and when do we first meet your character?
Will McAvoy, played by Jeff Daniels, receives a death threat, so they have to hire a bodyguard for him because he's in imminent danger. I'm in Episodes 5-10. When I come in, my whole thing is like, "Hey man -- I don't work for you." Everyone else is scared of him. He's the big man. But I'm like, "I don't get paid by you, so I don't take any shit." But I hear all these things in his life, and I actually give him good advice -- I become like a life coach for him.
So Will McAvoy gets a therapist and a bodyguard/life coach? When I asked Jeff Daniels about what's coming up, mentioning that it seems like more drama than just what's in the newsroom, he laughed: "It ain't just reading a teleprompter, no."
"The Newsroom" premieres Sun., July 24, 10 p.m. ET on HBO.
Tell us: Are you excited to see "The Newsroom"?
More from the "Newsroom" cast here:
Jeff Daniels on Will McAvoy
"There was nobody [to study for this role]. Aaron never said, 'By the way, it's based on so-and-so.' It was always Will McAvoy, and it was easier that way. They did a lot of research on the setting and the environment, and I've been in a lot of newsrooms over the years plugging movies, so I was aware. We created our own guy, this kind of fictionalized version of what it is, to see if we can't do it well enough that you can believe we dropped him in the middle of the guys that really exist."
Emily Mortimer on MacKenzie McHale
"She's one of those people that's very put together when it comes to organizing her professional life, although she does it in a kind of demented way. And then when it comes to going home at night, she's a total mess. She's a bull in a china shop. I think Aaron likes creating these scenarios where people who are very expert in what they do fuck up. Seeing them hopeless, and seeing them grapple with ridiculous situations -- in Episode 2, she's such a proficient person, and yet she does something so demented and so stupid. I love it."
Sam Waterston as Charlie Skinner
"I love him! I think he's a very reasonable man unless provoked ... and there's a lot of provocation."
Thomas Sadoski on Don Keefer
"Don's a pragmatist -- he is, sort of, his majesty's loyal opposition. Don is there to really ask the questions: Why are we doing this? Is this the best idea? Do we really want to be saying this right now? It's thrilling."
Alison Pill on Margaret Jordan
"I think with Margaret, it's that ultimate struggle. I know many people -- nice, smart people -- suffer from that problem of should loyalty be first or should it be my career first? That dilemma is not unusual to a lot of people. I think in her case, it just becomes clear that she's not the type of girl who would ever jump ship. Loyalty comes first, and she really wants to be part of a good news team."
John Gallagher Jr. on Jim Harper
"I think what puts Jim in a position for people to see things through his eyes is he's so amazing at what he does. He's great at being a news man, he's fearless when it comes to going and being embedded in Afghanistan. But when it comes to basic day-to-day social skills, he's lacking because he puts everything -- all of his effort -- into doing his job really well. So when it comes to simple things like trying to ask a girl out that he likes, he falls to pieces. He's so confident and competent in one realm, but then if he spins around, he's a mess."
Olivia Munn on Sloan Sabbith
"She's the financial analyst for the show. She's extremely educated, and she's strong and passionate, but when it comes to her personal life, she's socially awkward -- and she knows it, and she doesn't really care because she has more important things to do. I didn't have to put on big, baggy clothes or put on a turtleneck. She's like, 'I'm a woman and it doesn't really matter how you look at me, because I have a brain.' That's a really important message for young girls and women, that you don't have to be one or the other."
Adina Porter on Kendra James
"Kendra is smart, but the rug has been pulled out from underneath her feet. You do your shot, you're at the top of the ratings and if it ain't broke, don't fix it ... and then someone comes and breaks it, and then you have to adjust if you want to keep the job."
Chris Chalk on Gary Cooper
"Gary is very dedicated to the news. You find that he's gotten into the news to do the news, so this new introduction of News 2.0 is awesome, to be able to do news honestly and with a hopeful hint. He also has this little rivalry with Kendra. They're all no longer wallflowers at work -- something has woken them up, and they're like, 'Yes, I will stay overnight!'"
Charlie Weirauch on Jake
"My character is kind of the behind-the-scenes guy, the backbone, the director. I'm the guy stuck in the cave with the headset on, working the booth. As we progress this season, you'll start to see a little more, and a lot of dialogue between myself and Emily's character. Jake drank the Kool-Aid -- he's really on board and really believes in Will's mission."
Aaron Sorkin on "The Newsroom"
"I always find that fun as an audience member, when the audience knows more than the characters, and the characters have to catch up. Hitchcock knew that when we got to see the monster behind the corner and the person didn't know it was there. Sometimes I do it the other way. But here, Episode 7 is the night we got Bin Laden. The whole audience is going to know that's what it is when our guys are trying to put clues together with these strange tweets and texts they're getting. I find that fun."
Emily Mortimer on her news crush
"Well the whole reason -- OK, not the whole reason -- but a little bit of the reason why I did this show is I thought I'd get the chance to meet Chris Matthews, who I have a huge crush on. And actually his son is in the show, and I haven't managed to meet him yet. He was at the screening in New York, and I didn't find out until I'd gone home ... the poor guy is dreading meeting me, I'm sure, because I've told everybody that I've got a crush on him."
Sam Waterston on his news show of choice
"I watch the news that's on when I have time to watch the news. I've been watching a fair amount of MSNBC lately. I watch a lot of CNN. I don't watch a lot of Fox News, if that sort of tells you something."
John Gallagher Jr. on where he gets his news
"I get it all off my phone now. That's what I like most about social media and Twitter -- I follow a lot of news publications, and I find it's the fastest way to get whatever it is that's current. That's really where I turn for my news these days."
Alison Pill on her favorite TV journalist
"Rachel Maddow. I have a really big crush on her. I don't know what I would do if I met her. I feel like she would make me feel special and smart."
Thomas Sadoski on the state of the news
"I like 'Moyers & Company.' I'm a PBS junkie. I have a hard time stomaching cable news, so Bill Moyers and Gwen Eiffel are my rockstars. Almost everybody on this line when asked, 'Who's your favorite anchor?' will say Jon Stewart or Stephen Colbert. They're comedians. That says so much, by itself, of the state that our news organizations and news reporting is in. When your greatest political speeches and your greatest journalism is being delivered by comedians, it's really time to start asking questions. I'm sorry that people are offended by the fact that we're poking the media in the eye, but the fact of the matter is it needs to happen. We didn't expect people to be big fans of this, frankly, and we didn't expect that the media was going to be so thrilled with what we're doing. That's the point. Colbert and Stewart are great, but what happened to Cronkite?"
Aaron Sorkin on his go-to news sources
"Breaking news and emergencies, CNN. Commentary on something, I'd want to see what they're saying on Fox and I'd want to see what they're saying on MSNBC -- what are the extremes of the fight? It's not so much the network as who's appearing on the network -- there are certain analysts that I like, on both sides of the aisle. But my television's usually on ESPN. I'm watching college football more than I'm watching anything else."