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August 28, 2012 2PM EST

Q&A with Emily Mortimer

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  • Q

    Thanks to Emily Mortimer for joining us for today’s Q&A. Welcome Emily! What was your favorite episode in Season 1?

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    Emily Mortimer says:

    I love Bullies. I also love the whole Casey Anthony, Anthony Weiner debacle in Episodes 8 and 9, and how that story interweaves with the phone hacking scandal. It’s impossible to pick out one single Episode as Sorkin so brilliantly threads storylines through the entire season and makes it feel more like a four act play than 10 individual episodes.

  • Q

    Mac is a strong woman, idealistic and yet not hide her feminine side, you are inspired by someone you know or someone who works in tv, or you just followed the script?

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    Emily Mortimer says:

    I was glad about playing a strong executive woman who's in control because I've never been in control of anything in my life. Also, I didn't want to make the character the cliche of the ball breaking tough career woman, but first of all it wasn't written that way, which is partially why I was attracted to the role and secondly I have an old friend who does exactly MacKenzie's job in real life in London and my friend is shy, self a facing and definitely not a ball breaker! She's just extremely passionate about what she does and her passion is what gives her the confidence to be tough when she has to be.

  • Q

    Aaron has given us quite a bit of information about MacKenzie's past, but have you invented a back-story of your down to fill in the gaps?

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    Emily Mortimer says:

    I just decided that from the little information I've been given that MacKenzie had been born into privilege and this gave me the confidence to not shy away from her often infuriating but also impressive fearlessness. She has the kind of courage that comes from not feeling like she has much to lose or not knowing what the consequences of losing really are. I used that in my preparation and I also read up a little bit on journalists spending time in warzones and discovered that it tends to be the kind of environment that people like MacKenzie thrive in where everyday you're living on the edge and you don't have to think much about real life. I think she spent a life time avoiding thinking much about real life and that's what's great about her and it's also her tragedy.

  • Q

    How much preparation did you put in learning about the journalism world and re learning past events?

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    Emily Mortimer says:

    We get the script for the next episode while we're filming the episode that we're on so we only usually have at most a week to prepare and it's all that you can do to memorize the lines. Any kind of in depth research into the individual news story in question is almost impossible but I found I learned a lot just from understanding each episode and my father in law is a VP at the Birkings Institute one of the main ones in Washington. For the first time since I've been with my husband I've been able to impress my father in law over dinner by repeating lines from The Newsrooom and speaking knowledgeably about things like the Glass Deagal act, so that was pretty cool!

  • Q

    So do you think you and Will will eventually get back together romantically?

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    Emily Mortimer says:

    Well I hope we do but it's kind of the end of the show once we do! That's the trouble with episodic television. I remember as a teenager being upset by the UK show Moonlighting and I used to not know how I would get through the week once the episode is over. All you longed for was Maggie and David to get together but once they did it was kind of the end of the show. It's confusing...they've got to kind of get it together at some point otherwise what's the point of it all! They could get together but it could all f**k up again and we could have another season. I certainly don't want him to get together with anyone else!

  • Q

    What do you think is Mac's greatest strength and greatest weakness?

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    Emily Mortimer says:

    I think her optimism about being able to fix things is both a great strength and can also get her into real trouble. She's determined to fix everything from the news to Will McAvoy and I think that it's wonderful that there are people in the world that really believe they can affect change the way that MacKenzie does and are idealistic in the way that she is. We're in an age of cynicism where people like MacKenzie aren't taken seriously enough but I also recognize that relentless optimism and conviction that you can make everything all right can be irritating.

  • Q

    You play an unique character full of energy and with funny, ironic and dynamique lines. Does Mac look like any role you've done before?

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    Emily Mortimer says:

    Well one of my best memories of acting was the first proper role I every got which was Beatrice from "Much to Do About Nothing" in a college adaption of the play. In a way I certainly haven't ever played a character that's come close to having all the different shades of that Shakespearean woman until I got to play MacKenzie.

  • Q

    The Newsroom has such a diverse and talented cast. Is it a fun set to be on as well?

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    Emily Mortimer says:

    The cast were all not only brilliant actors and really exciting to do scenes with but also excellent people and awesome to hang out with. My one regret from season 1 is that we were all too nervous and busy to get drunk very often together but I need to make up for that in Season 2!

  • Q

    I love your shirts in the show... Who designs them?

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    Emily Mortimer says:

    It's a funny thing but the way things work in TV is a bit like Cinderella. You get given everything in the pilot episode when they're trying to get picked up and then by Episode 2, it's all turned into pumpkin! I had a $1000 shirt designed by Celine in the pilot and by episode 2 once we knew we got picked up much less money was being spent on my shirt, but the genius of Hope our costume designer is that she manages to make everything look expensive and the look that was established by Albert Wolsky in the pilot was so classic and perfect for MacKenzie that we all knew where we were from the get go. A very important moment for me in finding my character was when Albert insisted on me wearing the green jacket with the black piping in the pilot episode. He said it was just not what I would wear in real life, out of my comfort zone enough. It helped me transform into this person who really isn't me and I kept leaning towards more subdued clothes but Albert who was a genius suggested that jacket and it was a really important meeting for me in finding that character.

  • Q

    How would you describe MacKenzie's view of Sloan after their first meeting? Has MacKenzie view on Sloan changed since that initial meeting? If yes, can you describe how she views Sloan differently?

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    Emily Mortimer says:

    I think it's more a case of Sloan having grown to realize that Mackenzie is not a complete mad woman and not as demented as I come across in the first meeting with her in my office. MacKenzie from the moment that she came through on the set, correcting the grammar of her auto cue on how she speaks about the economy, from that moment on Mackenzie is taken with Sloan and sees she is an intelligent, capable woman and is much much more than a beautiful sexy woman. I think in that moment she decides in typical MacKenzie fashion decides she wants Sloan to teach America about economics and she also wants to be her best friend. Sloan takes a bit of persuading from both fronts but soon discovers that MacKenzie is someone like that she can actually be friends with and both women who are in different ways slightly socially dysfunctional find an unlikely friendship in each other.

  • Q

    Mac has taken on a role as Maggie's mentor in Season 1 - what is the most important thing Maggie can learn from Mac's character?

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    Emily Mortimer says:

    I think fear of failure is something that holds everybody back in their lives and it's something that I try to help my children not be scared of because it's inevitable that we're going to fail and the sooner you get over being frightened of it, the better. It's easy to cope with success in life, a much bigger challenge is coping with failure and not letting it hold you back or get you down. As I said before I think MacKenzie's greatest asset is that she doesn't fear failure. I think that's something that Maggie can do with a little bit more of. It's something that we can all do a little bit more of!

  • Q

    Never before have I been moved by a television series in the way that The Newsroom does. Punchy dialogue, deliciously idealistic yet so very grounded in the human elements to each story. If you had to single out a particular life experience that has helped you prepare or draw on the necessary emotion required to nail the scenes in the way you do, which would it be?

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    Emily Mortimer says:

    Nothing really prepared me for the task of grappling with my scenes in The Newsroom! I came like a lamb to the slaughter, having led a rather protected innocent life (I now realize) doing independent films. The pace on TV is so much faster and more furious – especially doing Sorkin. But I guess I have always been drawn towards do the very thing I’m most terrified of doing. I think I feel most comfortable when I am scared witless and quite sure that I am completely out of my depth. Mac is drawn to danger too I think. So that was the primary emotion I drew on. Fear.

  • Q

    What are you most looking forward to about Season 2?

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    Emily Mortimer says:

    I really want to know what happens! We start shooting on November 12th this year, just after the election, so that’s going to make things pretty spicy. Sorkin always leads us up the garden path with what’s going to happen on the show. He’ll come down from the writer’s room and say things like, “ “Episode 9 “ opens with Will kissing Mackenzie up against a wall”, and get us all excited and then of course it turns out not to be true. We never know until the next script is in our hot little hands, what is going to happen.

  • Q

    How do you think your background in theatre has helped you with this role on "The Newsroom"?

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    Emily Mortimer says:

    Everyone assumes that if you have an English accent you have spent years treading the boards on the stage of the Royal Shakespeare Company. But my background is in fact bad TV in England (lots of costume dramas in which I had to wear wigs that looked like they had been dropped from outer space onto my head). More recently my background has been film.

  • Q

    Do the precise percussion and melody of Sorkin's writing make Mac's more emotional moments more or less challenging to achieve?

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    Emily Mortimer says:

    Both more and less challenging. So much of the task of working out how to do a Sorkin scene involves hearing the music of the scene. Sorkin majored in the history of musical theatre and he kind of writes arias more than speeches. So in preparing for one of his scenes you first try to find the melody and then once you have that, you try to modulate it and give it depth and variation. When you crack a Sorkin scene, it’s the best feeling in the world, but often you go home feeling like a loser.

  • Q

    How do you memorize Aaron's long and very precise dialogue?

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    Emily Mortimer says:

    By pacing around my trailer endlessly trying to make the words go in. I didn’t sit down for 5 months. I just paced. And once I had them in my head I was scared to move it in case they fell out.

  • Q

    What aspects of the Newsroom reflect most to your character, as an actress, and you personally?

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    Emily Mortimer says:

    My father was a writer who wrote, among other things, for television in England. He wrote idealistically about justice and the law and he also wrote with great humour and a deep forgiveness of human weakness. I think I am drawn to Sorkin’s writing in part because it reminds me of my Dad to whom I was very close.

  • Q

    What is it like working with Jeff Daniels and Aaron Sorkin?

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    Emily Mortimer says:

    Those dudes are pretty awesome. Jeff is the kindest, loveliest, most supportive person. I couldn’t have done this intense, crazy-making job without him. Sorkin is a mad genius and a supportive, loving boss.

  • Q

    What do you think motivates MacKenzie?

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    Emily Mortimer says:

    Mackenzie wants to fix things. She wants to fix the news and she wants to fix Will McAvoy who she also happens to be in love with. She is heroically, maddeningly optimistic about her ability to fix things.

  • Q

    That's all the time we have for today's Q&A. A huge thank you to Emily Mortimer for joining us. Anything else you'd like to say, Emily?

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    Emily Mortimer says:

    Thank you everyone for watching the show and being so enthusiastic and taking it to your heart because that’s why we’re doing it. It’s such a good feeling knowing that people are really enjoying The Newsroom and it makes it all really worth while. Thank You!!!

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