Throughout the second season of The Morning Show, it’s easy to get caught up in the resounding performances from stand-outs like Reese Witherspoon as Bradley Jackson or Jennifer Anniston’s Alex Levy, but there’s one performer who thrives in the subtlety and quietness of her moments: Julianna Margulies as Laura Peterson.
Margulies is no stranger to prestige acting, winning multiple awards for her performances as Alicia Florrick on The Good Wife and as Carol Hathaway on ER. On The Morning Show, she’s now surrounded by even more prestige, but the subtleties of her performance make her brilliance as Laura Peterson seemingly fly under the radar.
Unlike most of the other characters on AppleTV+’s newsroom drama, Laura isn’t defined by explosive blow-up arguments or uncontrolled emotions she’s quite literally defined by the opposite. Which, ultimately, is what makes her scenes with Witherspoon’s Bradley so wonderful: Where Bradley is a bomb on a short fuse, Laura is the picture of calm and collected, always.
The quiet confidence of Laura Peterson is so unique to the series and is so refreshing. But, just because she’s not exploding at least once an episode does not mean she’s emotionless, or that Margulies is bringing anything less than Witherspoon is to their scenes. The minute details of her performance in each episode make rewatching her scenes mandatory; I often find myself revisiting her scenes two or three times each, just to make sure I’m absorbing the full breadth of the performance and clocking all the intricacies of Laura as a character.
Episode 6 showcased Laura at her most vulnerable while dealing with both the trauma of returning to morning TV and subsequently being outed once again. The calm she exudes while speaking with Bradley in her dressing room during the show comes from years of practice, especially in an industry simply waiting for its performers to crack.
After being outed and fired from YDA, Laura couldn’t afford to crack. She had to remain the picture of strength and composure to fight tooth and nail to get back into the industry that ostracized her, and it’s clear that she’s certainly not going to start breaking now when she’s finally back at the top.
She carries that composure into this conversation with Bradley, trying to calm her down so she can do the same, but there is a subtle shift during their conversation. Bradley expresses that she’s not embarrassed, but that she doesn’t want anyone to know she’s in a relationship because then people will know when it ends. She says she’s never had a relationship last more than a few months because she gets bored or restless, and this revelation changes things for Laura. It’s extremely subtle, but Margulies stiffens as Laura’s walls instantly go up, so much so that you can almost see them.
She can tell that Bradley is deflecting, blaming anything but her own complicated feelings about her sexuality and her family trauma for her reaction to being outed. Despite the frustration Laura feels, she still is the picture of a kind and caring with Bradley, telling her that she’ll cover for her for as long as she needs. Laura’s patience and understanding with Bradley are wonderful to watch, but she still has her limits.
During a conversation the two have over the phone later in the episode, Laura establishes that it’s Bradley’s job to get therapy to help herself and those around her. She is not going to be picking up her broken pieces anymore, and it’s interesting to watch as she is simultaneously caring and stern.
In comparison to Billy Crudup’s Cory, who is morally questionable and a difficult puzzle of a person, Laura maintains her sympathetic nature because she is just so earnest. Unlike Cory, Laura has said multiple times that she has nothing to hide, and the open nature that she exhibits creates a level of trust in her character that cannot be achieved with Cory, especially now.
Even in their motivations for wanting Laura to guest host The Morning Show, Cory had an underlying agenda, one that hurt everyone around him in the process. Laura, on the other hand, braved her trauma because her girlfriend thought it would be fun to work together.
Laura is also a wonderful character in how her lesbianism is tied to her personality, and how that is something a lot of queer characters are missing on TV, especially today. The urge to remove characters from their sexuality by writing them exactly how they would straight characters is a noble cause; one that stems from wanting to move away from queer characters who are nothing but stereotypes, but moving to the complete opposite end of the spectrum isn’t helpful either.
Yes, queer people are much more than just their sexuality, but the experiences that come with being queer undeniably shape our personality and view of the world. Laura on The Morning Show is a perfect representation of this idea. If you took the lesbianism out of Laura Peterson, she’d be a completely different character.
She wouldn’t have been fired by YDA, so she probably would be in direct competition with Alex as the host of the top morning shows. She would’ve never been ostracized the way she was, and she wouldn’t have had to work twice as hard to be in the position she is now. These experiences color every scene she’s in, even when the scene isn’t a direct conversation about her sexuality.
During episode 3, Laura interviews Alex, and she asks if Alex ever slept with Mitch during their time hosting The Morning Show together. This line of questioning, from Laura’s reasoning, stemmed from the betrayal and animosity she felt towards Alex for outing her to YDA, causing her to be fired.
It’s incredible to see Laura’s character be so affected by her sexuality since it is so true to life. It also puts her in a category with infamous queer characters like Lexa or Piper Chapman, who can’t be removed from their sexuality either. It’s refreshing, especially since, to treat queer characters exactly like straight characters, the queer experience gets watered down, becoming less relatable in comparison to a queer life lived in the real world. Laura’s queer experience feels lived in and real, despite being on a national scale.
It’s truly been a joy to watch Laura evolve over this season of The Morning Show, and I’m anxiously awaiting the final episodes to see where her story ends during the season finale. We can only hope that AppleTV+ will renew the show for a third season, and if they do, I hope they keep Laura Peterson around. She’s a powerhouse in her way, and losing her unique brand of intensity would be a true shame.