1 of 5 | Mimi Leder directed "Deep Impact" and "The Morning Show" season premiere. File Photo by James Atoa/UPI | License Photo
LOS ANGELES, Sept. 12 (UPI) -- Mimi Leder directed the season premiere of The Morning Show, premiering Wednesday on Apple TV+, which involved a space launch similar to the one in her 1998 movie Deep Impact.
The show's fictional morning show sends an anchor on board a shuttle launched by tech mogul Paul Marks (Jon Hamm). Leder said she drew on her Deep Impact experience to portray her cast weightless in space.
"I had the experience of floating actors on wires [simulating] zero gravity," Leder told UPI in a recent Zoom interview. "We shot all the interior of it in one day, but it took months to prepare."
The Morning Show depicted a private shuttle launch, akin to Elon Musk's SpaceX. Since The Morning Show still filmed on the ground, Leder said the cast had to learn to manipulate their own bodies on wires to simulate weightlessness in space.
"We could twist and float them and make them turn over, but they had to also participate with their strength to do it," Leder said.
Production designer Nelson Coates designed the shuttle to look like a private enterprise's space vehicle. Though Coates did not design a NASA-worthy vessel, it was an elaborate piece of machinery.
"The spaceship had to really function," Leder said. "It had to turn. It had to move. It was quite a feat."
In the 25 years since Deep Impact, Leder said The Morning Show could take advantage of more research about private spaceships. Visual effects also enabled producers to create the bridge to the shuttle in front of a green screen background.
"Nelson also built the bridge, but then the rest of it is [computer-generated imagery]," Leder said. "You're imagining that you are 12 floors above the ground entering the spaceship."
Season 3 also intensifies the drama on the ground. Hackers access the servers of the show's fictional network, UBA. In Episode 2, Leder conveyed the panic at UBA by cramming three handheld cameras in the control room.
"It's much easier to shoot handheld in the control room than it is to bring dollies into the control room because they take up a lot of space," Leder said. "It created a lot of tension. Handheld work always does."
Leder also showed the personal side of the hack when anchor Bradley Jackson (Reese Witherspoon) learns the hackers uncovered her personal files. In the final cut, Leder muffled the sound of UBA President Cory Ellison (Billy Crudup) and news division President Stella Bak (Greta Lee) trying to reassure her.
"When I was directing it, I wanted to stay on her face and really not hear what they had to say," Leder said. "We needed to feel it."
Crudup and Lee filmed scripted lines in the scene. Leder said she adjusted the audio levels to make sure it did not feel "corny" for such an important scene.
"We cut it and lowered the sound," Leder said. "We did all these sound effects, finding the right level."
Leder has been with The Morning Show since its development in 2018. Leder directed the very first episode and has remained an executive producer.
Although Leder said she has been developing feature films and other series during The Morning Show, she has yet to find a time she can take on a different project.
"The Morning Show has been so all encompassing," Leder said. "I'm there in the beginning prepping production and then I'm there to the bitter end, the last VFX, the last color correction."
Leder said she finished post-production on the final episode of the season on Sept. 1.
"Directing a pilot and then staying on a show, helping to create the story season after season is much harder than directing a feature," Leder said. "I would say, 'How can I make it different? How can I make it cinematically stronger? How can I tell this story in a different way?'"
Before The Morning Show, Leder had directed television since the '80s. Her resume includes episodes of L.A. Law, ER, The West Wing and Shameless.
Although Leder did not work on The Leftovers from its inception, she said the extent of her involvement with that show was the closest to The Morning Show. Leder joined the Damon Lindelof-created HBO series in the first season and remained until its series finale.
"I came on in the fifth episode and helped change the course and direction of the show," Leder said. "It was finding itself and that was one of the most rewarding experiences of my career."