By Gill Pringle

Starring as Laura Peterson, a formidable news anchor whose career once took a nosedive after she was outed and then fired, she has risen from the ashes to eclipse the careers of both Aniston and Witherspoon’s characters.

In her own life, Margulies has achieved success in TV, theatre and film, starring in long-running hit TV dramas The Good Wife and ER as well as guest appearances on acclaimed TV series including Billions and The Hot Zone.

Having added “author” to her list of credits with the publication of her memoir, Sunshine Girl: An Unexpected Life, Margulies lives in New York with her husband and son.

The actress spoke to FilmInk about being the new girl on set.

How did you approach this character of Laura Peterson, particular in addressing the murky history and sometimes contentious relationship she shares with Jennifer Aniston’s Alex Levy?

“All relationships are inherently complicated, and my goal was to approach this role with enormous sensitivity and strength. It was Laura’s resilience and humanity that I found so compelling, and it was truly a privilege to bring her to life.”

Did you feel any pressure in your first LGBTQ role?

“I felt a pressure to be able to play Laura Peterson in the right light, and I was thrilled to be able to shed a spotlight on what it’s like when one is outed for one’s sexual preference and what that means in terms of the ripple effect for the rest of your life – because, this is a woman who was outed against her will and then fired for it. And, even though she was really good at her last job, the silver lining for her is that she walked through fire to get back to not only where she had been but better than that – to succeed at what she did as a professional. But, also, more importantly, to completely own who she is and be really OK with that in the public eye. So, what was so fun about playing her is that she walks into a shit-storm of chaos that is happening on the Morning Show set. And she’s calm. She has no skin in the game. She’s been there, done that and she’s really successful at what she does. So, she is like this pillar of strength in the midst of this maelstrom going on around her – the chaos of Bradley’s functioning in the world and also the insecurity of Alex’s skeletons in her closet. Laura Peterson doesn’t have any, and it was very liberating to play a woman so comfortable in her own skin.

“The part was written so well that it allowed me to feel comfortable in those shoes and feel proud to be able to represent in such a positive light.”

How does Laura’s presence effect the competition between Alex and Bradley?

“That was really fun to play because I think Alex is very competitive with Laura while Laura, I think, feels above the fray in that she is a news anchor at night and she does hold herself in a little higher esteem because she used to do the morning show and she turned lemons into lemonade and survived this horrible dark time when she was outed and then fired – but, instead of shriveling, she blossomed into this incredible powerful force. So, I think Alex is a little bit scared of Laura and then the balance between Bradley and Alex suddenly shifts because Bradley suddenly sees this new mentor as someone who is a safe haven and all these skeletons that are in Alex’s closet – and Bradley’s closet quite frankly – they don’t deter Laura, they intrigue her because she doesn’t judge it and doesn’t care about it. It has nothing to do with her life anymore. So, there’s a freeness about her and she’s able to show Bradley the way and help her to self-reflect.”

Were you surprised that they cast a woman for this role when Morning Wars already has two high-wattage female co-anchors?

“I loved that here’s two very strong women in lead roles on a hit show and the writers don’t bring in a man to disturb that balance. They bring in a woman. What a great time it is for women in television when that can happen.”

Morning Wars is very ambitious in that it wrestles with current issues. Do you think there’s many other shows that are this ambitious?

“When I worked on The Good Wife, that was a show ripped from the headlines and, with Morning Wars, I was a fan of the show before I got the part because I thought that they delved into this MeToo movement in a really powerful way and the ripple effect of one’s actions and how it effects other people’s lives; not just in the moment, but it effects everyone around them and it effects you for years to come. And I loved that the consciousness of that is brought to the forefront of the show and is so sophisticated in its writing.”

How have you survived in your own career when anyone has gone behind your back or tried to kick you out?

“I can honestly say, I don’t think I’ve ever experienced that and if they did go behind my back, I didn’t know about it! I consider myself very fortunate that either I’m completely naive to those kinds of actions or it never happened.”

What did you learn from playing this character of Laura Peterson?

“Actually, I learned a few things that I’ve also seen in my own life which is – when one door closes, so many more open and that even in that one moment that can be so devastating, you have no idea how many doors it will open later on in your life, and so you have to take it one step at a time, instead of panicking that this is the rest of your life. This is just one moment in your life, and I think for Laura who, because of her sexuality was fired, she managed to find so many bigger doors to open to truly find herself and to be OK with who she is, and to not have the secrets. And I think what you get to see with Laura versus someone like Alex or Bradley is, she has nothing to hide, and when people have things to hide, they tend to become very insecure or paranoid, so the juxtaposition between Laura and these two other very strong characters on the show, who are bulldozing their way through their careers, Laura can step back because she has no skin in their game. She’s very comfortable with who she is and that’s a place I, Julianna, would rather be. I would rather be really comfortable within my own skin than worry about the insecurities of other people.”

How was it being reunited with Morning Wars executive producer/director Mimi Leder again after working together on ER all those years ago?

“This show was such a gift because it can be daunting to be a guest star on a show that’s already well-established and has all these great reviews. But, I felt, in a weird way, that I was sort of going home. Because there was Mimi Leder who I started out with on ER as my director and Jen Aniston and I both started out on the same Warner Bros TV lot, one set away from each other.

“We both started out on Thursday night Must-See TV and we were, right out of the gate, one of those moments that will never happen again in one’s life, where 40 million people were watching us and we were the No 1 comedy and the No 1 drama for years. So, for me to go back now, 20-odd years later and be able to work with Jen and also Mimi was a real homecoming. Just a great confluence of these strong women who I have known since I was 25, especially when we were shooting in a pandemic when everyone was feeling quite vulnerable, I felt like I was coming home, and it felt really good. I was lucky.”

Any favourite scenes?

“All my scenes with Reese were so much fun, just easy and gentle; an easy rapport with each other. But my very first scene was with Billy Crudup when Cory asks Laura to interview Bradley – and Billy and I have never worked together but we’ve known each other forever because we live two blocks away from each other in NYC and we go to every play reading together, every NY gala to raise money for the theatre, so I have known him and we have mutual friends – so my first scene on the show was with him, so that immediately was like, ‘Aaah. Billy!’ That was heaven and then, in the ninth expose, my last episode, when Alex comes in and asks Laura why she hates her. I love that scene. It was so much fun to do that with Jen and, as a fan of the show, to watch Alex’s character actually look remorseful and have regrets and be so human and let down her guard…”

The 10-episode second season of  Morning Wars debuted globally on Friday, 17 September, 2021 on Apple TV+ with the first episode, followed by one new episode weekly, every Friday.


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