Julianna Margulies on Criticism Around Her Playing a Gay Anchor in ‘The Morning Show’: “We’re All Making Assumptions”
In the Apple TV+ drama, the Good Wife star joined season two to play Laura Peterson, an iconic, openly gay anchor at the morning show’s fictional network who develops a romantic relationship with Reese Witherspoon’s character, Bradley Jackson.
During a visit to CBS Mornings , Margulies was asked to respond to the opinion that actresses in the LGBTQ+ community could better portray a character like Laura.
“I can understand that,” said Margulies of the casting criticism. “My response would also be: We’re all making assumptions as to who I am, and what my past is and what all of our pasts are.”
Margulies, who is married to attorney Keith Lieberthal and mom to their 13-year-old son, went on to explain, “I understand, 100 percent, that I can’t play a different race. But I am an actress and I am supposed to embody another character. Whatever their sexuality is doesn’t matter to me, the same way watching a gay person play a straight person. Are you telling me that because I’m a mother that I can never play a woman who has never had a child? Or, if you’ve never been married that you can’t play a married woman?”
She continued, “You have to be careful on where you’re drawing the line there. We’re actors. We’re supposed to embody a character regardless of their sexuality. When it comes to race and gender, that’s a whole different story and I 100 percent agree with that.”
When speaking to The Hollywood Reporter ahead of the season , Margulies said she jumped at the chance to join season two and stir up drama between the leading anchors played by Witherspoon and Jennifer Aniston. “Instead of bringing a man in to upset that balance, you bring in a woman. I found that to be such a nice breath of fresh air,” she said of Laura’s intimidating stature.
Showrunner Kerry Ehrin told THR that while she considered casting an actress who publicly identifies as gay in the role of Laura, she explained, “Casting has so many different elements that go into how it plays out, and I do very much care about inclusivity and representation, and I feel like that’s something that we all need to work on.”
Ehrin also previously told THR the idea to explore Bradley’s sexuality came about when Witherspoon shared with Ehrin that she felt Bradley was queer after season one. Witherspoon added that the romance was inspired by “more than one dear friend of mine being in her 40s and finally feeling free enough to really figure out who she was and explore her sexuality without knowing really what her path was going to be and just being a little open-minded about loving people; and how it doesn’t matter who you fall in love with, it can come up out of nowhere in your life. And that’s what Julianna’s character really represented.”
When speaking on CBS Mornings , Margulies said she relates to the character of Laura by also arriving at a place in her life where she can live her truth, “where you go: This is who I am, take it or leave it; I’m not interested in pretending, I have no skeletons in my closet, I’m not hiding. I’m telling the truth and if you don’t like it, then I guess you’re not in my orbit.”
The Morning Show anchor she plays, whom she calls “so open and honest, it’s refreshing,” had to restart her career after she was outed and subsequently fired in the ’90s. “She was on a morning show, got fired and started from scratch and came back because she was a great journalist. Not because it had anything to do with her sexuality,” Margulies added on CBS Mornings.
By bringing up questions around publicly identifying and how it relates to authenticity in casting, Margulies’ stance echoes sentiments shared by other Hollywood actors.
Benedict Cumberbatch, who played a gay role in 2004’s Imitation Game , recently told Indiewire about playing a gay character in the upcoming film Power of the Dog : “It wasn’t done without thought. I also feel slightly like, is this a thing where our dance card has to be public? Do we have to explain all our private moments in our sexual history? I don’t think so.”
After the release of Cameron Post , the film was name-checked, among a handful of other prominent films, in a conversation on queer erasure in cinema. When noted as an example of a straight actor playing a gay lead role, star Chloë Grace-Moretz, an LGBTQ advocate, told The Independent , “Well, I think what’s important is don’t assume anyone’s sexuality. I mean, across the board, don’t assume.”
Kristen Stewart similarly weighed in on the conversation around her release of 2020’s The Happiest Season , telling Variety , “I would never want to tell a story that really should be told by somebody who’s lived that experience. Having said that, it’s a slippery slope conversation because that means I could never play another straight character if I’m going to hold everyone to the letter of this particular law. I think it’s such a gray area.”
She continued, “You kind of know where you’re allowed. I mean, if you’re telling a story about a community and they’re not welcoming to you, then fuck off. But if they are, and you’re becoming an ally and a part of it and there’s something that drove you there in the first place that makes you uniquely endowed with a perspective that might be worthwhile, there’s nothing wrong with learning about each other. And therefore helping each other tell stories.”