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Thomas Sadoski on The Newsroom Finale “We’re Settling All Family Business”

By on September 12, 2013
Thomas Sadoski. Copyright 2011, Brian Hedenberg Photography

Thomas Sadoski. Copyright 2011, Brian Hedenberg Photography

The Newsroom will play out its second season finale on September 15th.

Hanging in the balance on Sunday are the careers and reputations of the Newsnight team following the Operation Genoa debacle – an escalating storyline which set the tone for much of the season.

Set on Election Night 2012, and against the backdrop of a series of lawsuits levelled against ACN and executive producer Don Keefer (Thomas Sadoski), the finale is set to see tensions rise as the team struggles to avoid any misreporting, while Will (Jeff Daniels) struggles to avoid saying exactly what’s on his mind.

We sat down yesterday with Thomas Sadoski, to discuss Don’s “all over the map” season, show creator Aaron Sorkin’s unique and often controversial writing, and how the finale will effectively wipe the slate clean for what’s to come.

ScreenSpy: Congratulations on Season 3. Is it officially official?

Thomas Sadoski: That’s the question right? [laughing] I don’t know why HBO hasn’t made it official yet, but as far as we’ve been told yes, there’s going to be a third season. Jeff’s tweet stands.

SS: Don has had some great standout moments this season – some great comedy moments, some very poignant moments including his attempts to put a spotlight on the Troy Davis situation, and even a little hint of romance. I feel he’s really come into his own this season in particular. Looking back on previous interviews you did from last year – including one with us – there was a huge spotlight on Don and Maggie. Should Don break up with Maggie? Does Don love Maggie enough? Should Maggie leave Don? I’m going to put it to you that breaking up with Maggie was the best thing that happened to your character this season.

TS: [laughing] It certainly untethered Maggie and Don from that storyline and freed up both characters to have very interesting things happen to them throughout the course of this year. I think that’s been really great. I’ve had a great time playing out the stories that Aaron has written this season. It’s always a joy to get to work on his writing but certainly he’s given me really great, really subtle, really fun stuff to do. Like you said it’s been all over the map for me this season. I got to handle the Troy Davis case – and then fall out of a chair – and then get to be the voice of reason during Operation Genoa, then do a duck walk across the floor, then be there for Sloane. It’s been fun to get bounced around by the waves that Aaron has thrown in Don’s path.

SS: Do you have a favorite Don moment from this season?

TS: I don’t think I have a favorite moment. It’s so hard to say. I just love getting to go to work with the people I work with – Olivia and Emily and Alison and Jeff. I’m so thrilled to work with these people and work on that show … simultaneously, I think I’d be lying if I said I didn’t enjoy falling out of that chair. That was good fun for me.

SS: I really loved Don’s scenes with Marcia Gay Harden’s character, the lawyer Rebecca Halliday who came in to grill the team in preparation for being roasted in court.

TS: Oh yeah! How great to work with someone of Marcia’s caliber. We had such a great time doing it, and Aaron had such a great time watching it that after that deposition room scene he gave us more in the last two episodes. It’s really cool to get to work with these incredible people who come and join our family. I learned so much from working with Marcia. She’s a great lady and a phenomenal actress.

SS: Your background is theater, and Aaron’s background is as a playwright. The Newsoom often has these wonderfully simple but intensely verbal exchanges between characters in a pared down setting with very few props. Don’s long talk with Sloane, which took place under a desk, springs to mind. There is almost a sense of watching a play at times. Does your background help in these instances, and was this a deliberate choice of Aaron’s?

TS: You know, Aaron has said that the occasions when he is happiest are when our show is a play that just happens to end up on film. I think there are deliberate choices to pick moments and spots that are theatrical, and allow actors not to have to worry about cars blowing up or shooting a gun or a number of other things you come across in film and television. The actors have the opportunity to tell a story with the words they’ve been given, and I definitely think that having a theater background has helped me prepare for Aaron’s style of work because at his core Aaron is a playwright and a damned good one. So many of us are theater trained and come from that background. We have a very specific way of working on that set and a shorthand between all of us that has its genesis in our shared theater background. It plays a huge part in what we do.

SS: The Newsroom’s first season was quite a political one, with a strong focus on the world stage. While season two still contained those elements at its core, the real drama shifted inside the newsroom, and we got stories which focused on personal dramas, the debacle with Jerry Dantana, the deposition that followed, and Don being sued. Were you happy with that shift in focus? Do you think it provided the opportunity to tell a different type of story this season?

TS: First of all, those are great questions. I think it was a brave choice, and an incredibly brilliant and artistic choice on Aaron’s part to set up these people in the first season as going off on this Quixotic quest to do the news, consequences be damned, and then in the second season have them deal with those consequences – in a realistic, real world, hit the windmill, fall off the horse and look like a foolish old man way. Not a lot of writers are willing to set up their characters to be paragons of virtue and then to completely undercut them and watch them all fall. What that does is to allow for a very human story to be told. In this second season we got a lot of opportunity to see a lot of these characters fail. You learn so much about people when they’re struggling. This season has really beautifully opened up the story and the characters in a number of ways they might not have otherwise had.

SS: What can you tease about Sunday’s season finale?

TS: [laughing] I’ll say this, and it made me laugh when it happened. We read the final episode at our table read before we started shooting it. And at the end of the read there was this silence. We all looked at each other, and I don’t remember who said it but someone piped up and said “Wow, so we’re settling all family business!” It got a big laugh. Aaron ties off a lot of plot lines in this last episode. A lot of things come to fruition. A lot of gates come down on a lot of storylines. What that allows us to do is move forward into a third season unencumbered by a lot of the storylines that have been with us for the first two seasons, and leaping off off with some new story lines that have been created in this last episode. They’re going to leap into some really fun and interesting places.

Catch The Newsroom’s “Election Night, Part 2” Sunday at 10 pm on HBO.