Everything Every Female Character Did During Episode Two of ‘The Newsroom’

The second episode of The Newsroom opens with Will McAvoy (Dumb and Dumber‘s Jeff Daniels, according to Wikipedia) sitting in his home office studying the names, faces, and backgrounds of his new staff—a sign of a growing dedication to them despite his outward hostility. Good for him! That’s great! Nice guy! I, however, will continue referencing Wikipedia each time I want to know one of those morons’ names.

Speaking of morons, this episode centers on MacKenzie’s (Emily Mortimer, according to Wikipedia) attempt to change the way News Night reports the news. She calls it "News 2.0," because in this parallel-universe-alternate-history-2010, people still speak like it’s 2006. They also use email like it’s 2001, something we discover as MacKenzie (again, I had to consult Wikipedia) accidentally sends a personal email to her entire staff. But that wasn’t the only thing a female character did on last night’s episode that made me question Sorkin’s opinion of women. He likes writing women so that they spend a great deal of screen time either performing tasks for men, being frazzled, or both.

Here’s a list of everything the female characters did during episode two of The Newsroom.

  1. Will’s nameless housekeeper: Dusted Will’s office.
  2. MacKenzie: Was flustered while giving a presentation.
  3. MacKenzie: Didn’t know what “auto-correct has been enabled on your Outlook” meant.
  4. Margaret: Didn’t know what “auto-correct has been enabled on your Outlook” meant, either.
  5. Margaret: Looked to a man (literally looked at a man) for answers.
  6. MacKenzie: Didn’t know what a good mnemonic device was.
  7. Kendra: Said something smart!
  8. Margaret: Didn’t know what “prejudicial” meant.
  9. Inconsequential Female Staff Member: Said, “I still don’t understand.”
  10. Margaret: Was frazzled and confused about something.
  11. Sloan: Had an intelligent adult conversation with MacKenzie!
  12. MacKenzie: Had an intelligent adult conversation with Sloan!
  13. Margaret: Was frazzled after ruining a segment
  14. Margaret: Begged Jim for another assignment.
  15. Kendra: Said something smart!
  16. Inconsequential Female Staff Member: Said something smart!
  17. MacKenzie: Thought she sent a personal email, but her misunderstanding of technology caused her to accidentally send it to her entire staff.
  18. MacKenzie: Thought she could solve the previously mentioned problem by pouring coffee on a phone.
  19. MacKenzie: Was frazzled about all of that.
  20. Kendra: Said something smart!
  21. MacKenzie: Made a poor attempt at explaining her past infidelity.
  22. Tess (I just found out Inconsequential Female Staff Member’s actual name!): Was asked to perform a task by Will.
  23. Tess:Nodded at Will.
  24. MacKenzie: Was frazzled.
  25. Margaret: Looked nervous.
  26. Kendra: Said something smart!
  28. Gwen, the second runner up at Miss USA: Said stupid things on national television.
  29. Gwen, the second runner up at Miss USA: Continued saying stupid things on national television.
  30. Sarah Palin: Said something Sarah Palin actually said once.
  31. Female karaoke singer: Karaoked a a Colbie Caillat song about being smitten with a boy.
  32. Margaret: Drank a Cosmopolitan.
  33. Margaret: Got drunk on that single Cosmopolitan.
  34. Margaret: Was delusional.
  35. Tess: Was asked by Jim to take Margaret home.
  36. Tess: Obeyed and took Margaret home.
  37. Female Bar Patron 1: Told Jim he acted “awesome.”
  38. Female Bar Patron 2: Agreed with Female Bar Patron 1.
  39. MacKenzie: Drank a whiskey (scotch?) on the rocks.

Oh God, the episode ended and Thomas Newman’s horrible self-important theme started again.


And then I scrambled for the remote, as desperate to turn off the TV as Timmy and Lex were to turn off the flashlight that was attracting the T-Rex once Nedry disabled all of Jurassic Park’s electric fences.

Aaron Sorkin Creates the News

Who the fuck knows where Keith Olbermann will be when the Aaron Sorkin drama The Newsroom debuts on HBO on June 24. The ill-tempered leftist demagogue may yet find another sucker network from which he can become spectacularly estranged. Most likely he’ll smolder until, bereft of a public outlet for his anger, his wrath turns to garden-variety bitterness. There’s no doubt, however, that he’ll enjoy his Sunday nights, when he can see himself immortalized by the doughy Jeff Daniels in Aaron Sorkin’s newest show, The Newsroom: a paean to broadcast news. Daniels plays Will McAvoy, an anchor who begins the series known as “the Jay Leno of news anchors” for his anodyne views. That quickly changes and the Olbermannization begins.

The precipitating crisis is McAvoy’s brief moment of public peripeteia. “America is not the greatest country in the world,” he blurts out to an audience of naïve college kids during a panel discussion. Then, obviously, all hell breaks loose because, duh, it is. The show concerns itself with McAvoy’s second act as teller of truth to power. From Leno to late-period Jon Stewart in a flash.

True to any Sorkin project, there is a great deal of talking in this show. If all the kids in Moonrise Kingdom (see page 19) grew up and went to UPenn, they would become characters in The Newsroom. For those who enjoy Sorkin’s verbosity, this rapid-fire dialogue and witty repartée is like a shiatsu showerhead right to the brain. Those who find Sorkin’s trademark logorrhea infuriating would be well advised to watch something else. There’s a new Charlie Sheen show on FX called Anger Management that debuts June 28 and, of course, there’s the nightly news. Neither will be very witty.

But even if you aren’t a fan of Sorkin’s dialogue or even his archetypes (brilliant yet loathsome men nursing a hidden wound; practical no-nonsense women nursing a hidden crush), it’s the relationships between the archetypes that animate the show. After McAvoy goes renegade, it falls on his executive producer (and old flame) MacKenzie McHale, played by the wonderfully wee sleekit beastie Emily Mortimer, to rein in his more self-destructive tendencies. Though wee, Mortimer isn’t tim’rous. When McAvoy yells a lot, McHale yells back. When he throws a Blackberry, she stomps on one. They’re both driven by morally righteous ambition. “My character is very concerned with just putting on the best news program possible and doing it with grace and integrity,” explains Mortimer during a break in filming. This is hard since the network craves ratings, and ratings come more quickly to programs with neither integrity nor grace (at least in the Sorkinian universe). “You have to be entertaining on some level to be on television,” admits Mortimer, “unless you’re PBS.”

Is this set-up a sly reference to Sorkin’s own too-smart-for-television projects, like the short-lived Studio 60 on the Sunset Strip? Is it a trenchant indictment of philistine America? Is it simply wishful thinking? It’s probably all those things. But the real question is whether one can make good television about how hard it is to make good television without seeming self-satisfied. Executing that will take all of Sorkin’s talents, while it is incumbent upon Daniels, Mortimer, and the supporting cast to imbue these industry folk with more than a passing humanity. To them I say, good night and good luck.

Josh Brolin Covers Our Upcoming Comeback Issue!

Summer blockbuster season is upon us, and returning this summer are those famous alien-hunting bureaucrats, who are back in Men in Black 3. This time, Will Smith’s Agent J goes back in time to work alongside a young Agent K, played by the brilliantly gruff and rugged Josh Brolin. Brolin’s no stranger to that kind of role—if anything, it’s a stretch for him to be in a comedy. Brolin, of course, has had a decades-long career, starting out as a teen heartthrob in The Goonies. But his roles in recent years—as Llewelyn Moss in No Country for Old Men, Tom Chaney in True Grit, George W. Bush in W.—have defined him as the go-to guy to play the modern cowboy. Has Josh Brolin sparked the return of the American Man? In the cover story of our upcoming June/July issue, BlackBook Editor-in-Chief Joshua David Stein explores Brolin’s career and how he might be one of the last great American men. 

Speaking of returns, Fiona Apple is back with one of the most anticipated albums of the summer: The Idler Wheel is wiser than the Driver of the Screw, and Whipping Cords will serve you more than Ropes will ever do. I’m lucky not only to have gotten an early listen to the new album (spoiler alert: it’s fantastic!), but I also sat down with Apple to talk about working on new music, how much has changed within the music industry since her last album, and that infamous speech she gave at the Video Music Awards. We also went to dinner with Emily Blunt and Rosemarie DeWitt, and writer/director Lynn Shelton; the three women discuss their upcoming film, Your Sister’s Sister, and how it shows a different approach to the modern American family. We also check in with Emily Mortimer, star of the upcoming Aaron Sorkin-helmed HBO series The Newsroom, Patrick Duffy, who reflects on the reboot of the classic soap Dallas, and Marina Abramović, whose ground-breaking performance piece The Artist is Present is the subject of a new documentary.

You’ll also get a look at the fantastic new films, Beasts of the Southern Wild and Lawless, as well as the hotel openings in Chile and Morocco, the sophistication of Las Vegas, and the apparent classiness of Atlantic City. And there’s plenty more we can’t even describe in a single blog post! Check out The Comeback Issue, on newsstands early next month, and, as always, check back here for full coverage!

Check Out Our Handmade Birthday Cards from James Franco, ScarJo, Diddy & More

In case you didn’t catch Barack Obama’s presidential address last Saturday, this month marks fifteen years of BlackBook. We’re so excited that we published an entire issue loosely themed around it, and tonight, at the Olive Garden in Times Square, we’re throwing a party to celebrate it. (You’re invited!) But what would a 15th anniversary be without 15 former cover stars sending you 15 birthday cards? The answer is nothing! So with that in mind, here’s an exclusive gallery of birthday greetings from the 15 most thoughtful former cover stars a magazine could ask for.

Banks, Deschanel, Jones, Mortimer Join ‘My Idiot Brother’

Breaking hot actresses news! Elizabeth Banks, Zooey Deschanel, Rashida Jones, and Emily Mortimer have signed on to the latest Paul Rudd comedy, ‘My Idiot Brother.’ Yup, that’s right, all in the same movie. I’ve checked the legal codes on this issue and, don’t worry, this much on screen hotness does fall within the existing statutes. As long as the filmmakers file their “yeah, we know this is a little ridiculous” form, everything should be good to go. Wait, what’s that? Zooey Deschanel is dating Rashida Jones in this film? They’ll probably make out at some point? Gaahhhh.

Banks, Deschanel, and Mortimer are playing Rudd’s sisters, so we’re unfortunately not going to get any steamy romance there, but the film still looks, er, promising. Rudd plays an idealist trying to deal with his overbearing mother. He crashes with his three sisters and brings joy and chaos to their lives. Here’s the character synopsis from THR:

Banks is a career-driven single about to get her big break in journalism after spending years writing about accessories at a fashion magazine; Deschanel is a bisexual whose flakiness and lies are getting in the way of moving forward with her caring, responsible girlfriend (Jones); and Mortimer plays a Park Slope mom too worried about having the perfect life and children to notice that her marriage is falling apart.

There’s no trailer yet, but count me in. Other filmmakers, this is how you get people into theaters: stock your movie with every hipster heartthrob around and (fingers crossed) write some decent roles for them.

Movie Reviews: ‘Greenberg’, ‘She’s Out of My League’, ‘Happy Tears’

Happy Tears – We grow old. It goes without saying, and yet, we don’t say it much. Happy Tears contends with this inevitability. Parker Posey and Demi Moore play sisters who return home to care for their increasingly delusional father (Rip Torn). Mitchell Lichtenstein, director of vagina dentata classic Teeth, honors his own father, late pop-art star Roy Lichtenstein, by crafting whimsical fantasy sequences that mimic his work. Posey and Moore aren’t always believable as kin and, poetically, it’s left to the old folks to steal the show: Torn’s peculiar brand of crazy — unlike his character — never gets old, while Ellen Barkin is downright resplendent as an aging sexpot who claims to be his nurse. (Think: Elle Woods in 30 years, rocking a prop stethoscope.) — Eiseley Tauginas

Shutter Island – In the latest offering from Scorsese-DiCaprio, the legendary director quells his epic ambitions (The Aviator, Gangs of New York) and goes straight for the jugular (Goodfellas, The Departed). The ageless DiCaprio plays Teddy Daniels, a U.S. Marshal sent to investigate the disappearance of an inmate (Emily Mortimer) at an insane asylum. Less cerebral than what we’ve come to expect from the creator of Taxi Driver, it’s still a thrill to watch him revel in B-movie jolts. Anchored by strong performances from a cast that includes Mark Ruffalo and Ben Kingsley, Shutter Island mines suspense thriller tropes all the way down to the twist ending. It’s a popcorn movie from a master. — Ben Barna

She’s Out of My League – Following Judd Apatow’s not-so-secret recipe — equal parts fart and heart — is harder than it looks. Director Jim Field Smith serves up the story of a dorky string bean (Jay Baruchel, an Apatow protégé) who lands himself a Maxim-ready dream girl (newcomer Alice Eve), and it doesn’t go down easy. Peppered with recycled ingredients, League features the stereotypical abusive quarterback brother, trashy ex-girlfriend and obligatory body-hair-removal scene. There’s even a final breathless run to the airport. Baruchel is charming and self-deprecating enough, but he can’t seem to figure out why his curly-haired best friend isn’t Seth Rogen. — B.B.

The Exploding Girl – Let’s just come right out and say it: despite its title, not much happens in The Exploding Girl. (Still, don’t Google the title, ever.) It’s a languid, dreamy two-hour nap, in the best possible way. Zoe Kazan commands each scene as a college co-ed whiling away her summer break. Torn between an existing relationship with her distracted boyfriend and new feelings for her best friend, she captures with glorious lethargy the stumbling hesitance of young love. With the exception of her character’s epilepsy, which does give the film a streak of Degrassi, there are no histrionics, just plenty of minor disappointments, quiet kindnesses and inarticulate dialogue. — Nick Haramis

Greenberg– Do overgrown man-boys inspire your compassion or ire? Do you empathize with lost, emotionally stunted, over-privileged, brutally honest 40-somethings — or do they make you want to throw popcorn at the screen? These are some of the questions raised by Greenberg, the latest therapy session from The Squid and The Whale director Noah Baumbach [see page 48]. The film stars an extremely convincing Ben Stiller as Roger Greenberg. A bumbling, neurotic New Yorker with an ambition deficit, he returns to Los Angeles to behave awkwardly while dating his brother’s much younger dog-walker Florence, the immensely appealing mumblecore queen Greta Gerwig. True to Baumbach form, the film feels oppressively honest. — Willa Paskin

The Black List: Emily Mortimer

In Martin Scorsese’s upcoming thriller Shutter Island, Emily Mortimer runs away with the show as an on-the-lam patient who breaks down opposite Leonardo DiCaprio. Though she starred in David Mamet’s Redbelt last year, the English actress is just now earning her black belt in bitchery, by kicking around her 10 least-favorite things.

1. Integrity. 2. Men in shorts. 3. Most animals. 4. Sports. 5. The sound of my husband clipping his toenails. 6. English people with American accents. 7. Cell phone service in Manhattan. 8. How awful my boobs are when I’m pregnant. 9. The upper circle of the theater as I think about throwing myself off while watching nightmare performances. 10. Bugaboo strollers.

Photo by Laura Hynd

A Trip Down Emily Lane

It’s an odd feeling, to sit down with someone, just hours after you’ve seen them play a film character so different from their real-life persona. But that’s what happened when Emily Mortimer walked into a room at the Essex House in Manhattan, to talk about her role in the upcoming thriller Transsiberian. The night before, I was watching her as Jessie, a reformed party animal who, with her harmless, down-home husband Roy (Woody Harrelson), crosses the unforgiving terrain of Northern Russia on one of the last of the great railroads, the Transsiberian. Before you know it, she’s covering up a murder, flushing heroin down a toilet, and dangling off the back of a speeding train. A day later, here she sits before me, American accent replaced by a British one, munching on a brownie and fiddling with a pen.

Mortimer has much to be excited about. Transsiberian is an apt thriller from indie auteur director Brad Anderson (The Machinist), and along with the big-budget sequel to The Pink Panther, she just finished shooting an actor’s dream—a film called Ashecliffe co-starring Leonardo DiCaprio, Mark Ruffalo, Sir Ben Kingsley (who co-stars in Transsiberian), Michelle Williams, Patricia Clarkson, and directed by none other than Martin Scorsese. The actress (a former BlackBook cover girl) has a cool, London charm about her, the kind of woman who calls you ‘baby,’ and who frequently makes herself laugh, which is contagious. Here she is on moral ambiguity, exposing oneself, and getting cold feet.

It’s strange to be sitting here with you, because I just watched Transsiberian, so a few hours ago you were your character Jessie.

Are you scared?

Yeah. I can’t trust you.

Just give me a drink.

Ha. So, have you seen any of Brad Anderson’s work before doing this?

No, I didn’t. I got this job with about two days to go before we started, and I’d never seen anything of his. I saw The Machinist within about a week of doing the movie, and I realized I was in incredibly safe hands, the hands of a real deal filmmaker, you know? So it was cool, because this character is really complex, baffling, and as complicated and confusing as people are in real life, but I was directed by a real auteur. Your character is really frustrating, because she has this insurmountable problem with telling the truth.

That, to me, is what’s interesting about the film. I think it poses a lot of difficult questions about morality, what it is to be a good person, what it is to be a strong person, and a good wife. And it doesn’t really try to answer any of them. So you’re left with this unsettled, frustrated feeling at the end, which is, to my mind, what makes it interesting. It asks the question “Can you get away with murder?” It forces the audience to question the essence of bourgeoisie morality.

image Mortimer in Transsiberian.

The murder she commits is ambiguous in a way, because it seems like self-defense.

Well, not really! I think there were just one too many blows to the head. Up to a point, it’s self-defense. And then beyond that point—

Do you think something overcame her and she just had to let something out?

Yeah, I do. I think it’s just one of those unexplained things that just kind of happens sometimes in life. We talked about that moment a lot. It became a kind of pinnacle, the central moment in the film. And that’s the point where it’s overt, and it becomes more than just a normal thriller. Where there’s just one too many blows.

Samantha Morton was supposed to play your role, until she got injured days before filming. When you read the script, was it a selling point that such an accomplished actress had already taken the part?

Yeah, I guess so, if I think of it. I mean, I didn’t necessarily think that way when it happened, but that might have made me feel more predisposed to it than I otherwise would have before I read it. But I read it, and I was kind of hoping that I wasn’t going to like it, because I’d just come back from shooting Lars and the Real Girl in Toronto, and it was just before Christmas, and I was about to go off to be with my family in England for Christmas. And my little boy’s just breaking up from school, and it was all perfect. And then literally two days later, I got this phone call saying, can you come in two days, and you have to decide in twelve hours whether or not to come. And I was praying that I wasn’t going like the script and that the part wasn’t going be that good, because it would make life so much easier. And then of course I read it and it was really cool and interesting, and I had to do it.

So the next day you’re on a plane to Lithuania?

Yeah, I had to take my little boy on an airplane to Lithuania in the middle of the night, and he got an ear infection, and we were in some strange hotel in the middle of nowhere, with jet lag and an ear infection. And I was just thinking, what the hell have I done to myself? But it very quickly became apparent that whatever pain it was going to cost, was worth it.

What’s your motivation for choosing your roles? I know you’re in The Pink Panther, and you’re doing the sequel, and it wasn’t critically well received but it did well at the box office.

The Pink Panther was an easy yes. I don’t have any problem with that movie. In fact, it’s the opposite. I think Steve Martin’s excellent as Inspector Clouseau, and for me it was a real challenge, because it was physical comedy and potentially really embarrassing. Exposing yourself or taking your clothes off, or being in some dark film is safe, because you’re in some kind of indie, cool thing. Whereas to do comedy is potentially embarrassing and exposing, so it felt strangely like a brave choice! The thought of trying to be funny and not, telling a joke that doesn’t work, to me is so much more embarrassing than taking off your clothes.

image Mortimer and Harrelson freeze up.

So can you tell me about Ashecliffe, the movie you’re making with Martin Scorsese and Leonardo DiCaprio?

We just wrapped on Wednesday. I worked with Sir Ben Kingsley again on it.

I just spoke to an actor named Adam Scott, who shot The Aviator with Scorsese, and he said working with him made him shit his pants. Did Scorsese have any effect on your bowels?

I shit my pants in the presence of many great minds and talents, but not at all with Marty. I found him really chatty. You can say something lame, and he’ll make you feel like you haven’t been an idiot for saying it. He’s incredibly good at making you feel comfortable. There’s also something really old-school about his sets, which is quite intimidating, but in a good way. It’s like you’re walking onto some sort of old-fashioned movie set from the 1930s, and everything is quiet, everybody’s in their place, and everybody who’s doing their job, from the camera man to the costume designer, is at the top of their field, a sort of master of the art. So it’s just plain class.

Your character in Transsiberian has a wild past. Can you relate at all?

No, but I did pinch a policeman’s bottom once in the hills of Tuscany. There was a car chase as a result.

Is it true that you live in Echo Park in L.A.?

I did. And then we moved to Brooklyn, just two years ago.

So what is it about these less glamorous neighborhoods that attract you? You don’t have the typical residence of a movie star.

I guess because we (her and husband Alessandro Nivola) don’t have the typical income of a movie star! Maybe I should do a few more Pink Panthers. I would like to live in Manhattan actually, but that really was a question of once you’ve been in L.A. and had space, to come back and live in some tiny apartment, which is all we could probably afford in the city, it would have been hard. In Brooklyn we can live a house. Okay, last question. In the movie, was that really snow and were those really your bare feet?

That was fucking snow. Believe you me.