Since the trailer for The Morning Show debuted in August, Mitch Kessler has drawn a number of comparisons to Matt Lauer, who was fired from the Today show in 2017 following allegations of sexual misconduct. (He apologized for his behavior in a statement read on the show, but asserted that some of the claims were "untrue" and "mischaracterized" him.) The character, played by Steve Carell, is similarly fired from a coveted morning news show after a sexual misconduct investigation, and his longtime co-anchor Alex Levy (Jennifer Aniston) is left to announce the news to the rest of America — just as Savannah Guthrie did with Lauer.
But despite those pretty direct parallels, Carell and the rest of the Morning Show cast have insisted Mitch isn't based on Lauer — or really anyone in particular. Instead, he serves as a mirror for the many people who have been entangled in the #MeToo movement since it took hold in 2017, including other high-ranking media men like CBS' chairman Les Moonves, Fox News host Bill O'Reilly, and PBS' Charlie Rose.
"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 earlier this month. Showrunner Kerry Ehrin reiterated the point, saying it was a conscious choice. "I wanted men to recognize themselves in him, and that was part of the design of the show," she explained.
Part of that includes showing the perspective of Mitch, who maintains that he did nothing wrong and that all of his relationships were consensual. As Aniston explained during an October press conference, The Morning Show was already in development when #MeToo hit. And while it was "always going to pull the curtain of the New York media world and behind the scenes of morning talk shows," it was reworked in the wake of the movement to capture the complicated conversations brought about in real life.
"We wanted it to be raw and honest and vulnerable and messy and not black-and-white, obviously," she said, per Parade. "As we were all stumbling along, trying to figure out what is this narrative and what's happening, the show was sort of writing itself as it went along."
It's unclear exactly how much the audience is meant to sympathize with Mitch (based on reviews, the first three episodes don't help to clarify), but at least knowing he isn't based on a real person will make it easier to make up your mind for yourself.