In the early moments of the show's very first episode (debuting Nov. 1 on the new streamer), veteran morning show personality Kessler, one of America’s most trusted on-air newsmen for 15 years, is torpedoed by his fictional broadcast network for multiple allegations of sexual misconduct. Lauer cohosted The Today Show for more than 20 years before being fired for similar accusations. Kessler had just signed a massive new contract; Lauer was given a $20 million annual deal just 12 months before he was canned. The fictitious dust-up leaves Kessler's longtime cohost Alex Levy (Jennifer Aniston) forced to confront the wreckage during a live telecast, similar to Savannah Guthrie's emotional announcement of Lauer's firing.
Still, while the NBC events are an obvious inspiration for the drama, Carell and company insist The Morning Show is not a direct take on Lauer, whose image has been further decimated in recent weeks in the wake of new rape allegations by an NBC News colleague detailed in Ronan Farrow's book Catch and Kill.
"Unfortunately and sadly, there are so many different examples of this type of character out there right now, so it was an amalgam of different people," Carell told Yahoo Entertainment (watch above). "And it was on the page, too."
"It was a combination of all these different scenarios of this taking place that we were representing," agreed Aniston, who was joined by costar and Reese Witherspoon (both are also executive producers on the series, and have said the show was reworked in the wake of #MeToo). "But nothing was specifically modeled after any one in particular at all."
To their points, Lauer certainly isn't the only high-profile name in media who has been accused of sexual misconduct. CBS executive Les Moonves, Fox News host Bill O'Reilly and PBS’s Charlie Rose and Tavis Smiley have all faced varying degrees of accusations, among many others.
While it'd be extremely challenging to paint a sympathetic portrait of Lauer, given the information that's been made public since his firing in late 2017, The Morning Show depicts the perspective of Carell's Kessler, who insists he's done nothing wrong and that all of his affairs with colleagues were consensual.
"I don't know if it's a risk, I think it's just a choice," Carell said. "And it was [executive producer and showrunner Kerry Ehrin's] choice to write a character that you could see some humanity coming through."
Explained Ehrin: "I wanted men to recognize themselves in him, and that was part of the design of the show."
The Morning Show premieres Nov. 1 on Apple TV+. Watch the trailer:
Update: An earlier version of the story included Sean Hannity among the TV news personalities accused of sexual misconduct. The woman who made the allegation later modified her comments in a radio interview, saying in part, "I never thought I was sexually harassed by Sean Hannity, I thought he was weird and creepy not someone I liked."
Read more on Yahoo Entertainment: