The Challenges of Working Sorkin's 'Newsroom'
By ALLEN DI BENEDETTO
March 08, 2013
Esteemed Emmy and Academy Award winning writer Aaron Sorkin, known for his cerebral, often intricately verbose writing style on such well-regarded dramas as A Few Good Men, The West Wing, The Social Network, and, most recently, Moneyball, returned to his native television last year with the HBO series The Newsroom, which he created and currently executive produces.
The show, which features an all star cast that includes Jeff Daniels, Emily Mortimer, Dev Patel, and Olivia Munn, just to name a few, continues Sorkin's seemingly career-long obsession with process, this time focusing on the inner workings of a popular late night cable news show struggling to keep things in order amid ever-mounting personal and professional setbacks. The show is multifaceted, to say the least, but just how do the actors involved handle working on such a complex, ambitious series?
ET caught up with the cast of the show at the Saban Theater in Beverly Hills during The Paley Center for Media's annual PaleyFest Event, where they revealed their techniques for dealing with the often challenging, deliberately written material.
"Actors complain about [dialogue], well, we got plenty to say on Newsroom," series star Jeff Daniels tells ET. "It's a huge memorization, but the trick is to memorize it in a way that you get on top of it so it's just falling out of your head. And that's just a lot of repetitions. Weekends are spent with a script. Every weekend."
"It becomes a sort of endurance test in terms of memorization, to keep [Aaron Sorkin's] words in your head," actor Thomas Sadoski confesses, "and you have to, every single one, because he spends so much time, and he's so focused on writing each specific one. He's so particular about what he's writing, we owe him the respect of making sure we get it right."
Slumdog Millionaire and The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel star Dev Patel, who plays blog writer Neal Sampat on the show, spoke highly of the material, telling us, "It's always different. The great thing is, you really get to know your character, cause you're living this guy for a long time. It's a memorization game, cause of the sheer amount of lines that we're saying, especially for someone like Jeff Daniels who plays a news anchor. But it builds a rapport. We have an amazing rapport on the set now. We're a humorous bunch. It makes the days go by."
Patel also revealed how he came to audition for the show despite some initial hesitations, confessing, "I read the script the first time, and it was amazing. It was like reading this beautiful scripture. But I was terrified. I called up my agent and I was like, 'it's just over my head. It moves so fast. I don't think I can do it. I'm terrified.' And they pushed me to do it. I flew out to New York to sit in the read-through and I watched all the other amazing actors read their lines and the room was electric. The ball was always up in the air, it never dropped, and everyone was bouncing off each other. The dialogue just had a rhythm to it, so I was like, 'I've got to do this.' He wasn't a very big character at the start so it was a leap of faith, and Aaron was really generous in writing me out a nicely fleshed out character by the end of the first season, which was really cool."
Sorkin himself spoke fondly of his experiences working with the cast, as well as his appreciation of HBO for giving promising material such as Newsroom time to build its audience. "I think it's different because it's a new group of people that I'm working with, and I love this group of people, so that makes it feel different," he tells ET. "And doing it on HBO makes it feel a little bit different too. There are a lot of great things about working for HBO, but one of them is that they don't care as much about how many people are watching the show as they do how much the people watching the show are liking the show, so that's a great business model for me."
For more from Newsroom, including journalist and television host Piers Morgan on the most interesting guest he's ever interviewed, watch the video!