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The Surprisingly Sympathetic Underdog of 'The Newsroom' Responds to the Show's Critics: 'We're a fantasy TV show!'

Photo of Alison Willmore By Alison Willmore | Indiewire August 7, 2012 at 2:18PM

While Aaron Sorkin's HBO drama "The Newsroom" continues to polarize audiences and madden many critics with an attitude toward the world of journalism that might gently be described as high-handed, one character has emerged as a complex and surprisingly sympathetic counterpoint to the fantastical idealism of Will McAvoy's (Jeff Daniels) "News Night." Isn't it time to start rooting for Team Don? Don Keefer, played by Thomas Sadoski, was introduced as a sort of antagonist, the executive producer who, in the pilot episode, leaves Will's show for a better, later slot, taking much of the staff with him. Compounding that disloyalty, he also appears to be a neglectful boyfriend to Alison Pill's peppy associate producer Maggie, who seems destined to eventually end up with her kinder coworker Jim (John Gallagher, Jr.).
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Thomas Sadoski 4

I'm sensing that you've read some of the reviews in which people have taken the show personally, in terms of its representations of and its aspirations for journalism. What are your reactions to those reviews? Are you still reading them?

Um, no. [laughs] Frankly, I have only a tangential knowledge of the criticism of our show. People have taken offense to the way that we're presenting aspirational journalism. I'm sorry that they're taking offense. I think that we've never pretended to be anything other than what we are, which is, you know, a television show.

We are presenting a fantastical version of what journalism could be in a perfect world in which everybody got to do the things that they wanted to do or the sources came in the right way. It was important for Aaron and for our show and will continue to play itself out as the season does -- to see these people fail at doing that and to see the crushing resistance that they're going to get from higher ups from various places that real journalists actually have to deal with.

In terms of criticism, I don't begrudge anybody their opinion. I have a great deal of respect for a lot of the critics who have come out in favor of our show and a great deal of respect for the critics who have not been particularly favorable to our show and some critics who have been incredibly unfavorable towards our show. What I don't respect and what I don't personally have time for or any interest in is the sort of criticism that's snark masquerading as intellect. People taking down Aaron for being Aaron. If you don't like the way that Aaron writes, on my TV there are some 900 or so other channels. You're absolutely free to tune in to something else and I'm not going to hold it against you. I understand that our show isn't for anyone and I don't think any less of people who don't like our show.

"What I don't respect is the sort of criticism that's snark masquerading as intellect."

You've done a lot of work in theater, including with Neil LaBute, another writer who's has a very distinctive voice in terms of dialog. Do you feel like that experience has helped you approach someone who writes in an almost theatrical way for TV like Aaron?

I don't think that Aaron writes in an almost theatrical way, I think that Aaron writes in a blatantly theatrical way for television. That's where the line in the sand is drawn. Some people like that and some people don't. I'm personally thrilled to work with somebody who's writing theatrically for television. There's a whole idea that television and movies for some reason need to be more realistic than theatrical drama or literature. Is it because we're painting with pictures rather than using a literary art form? I don't understand why there is that sort of delineation that because we're on TV, we have to be more realistic in our portrayal of things.

Working with people like Neil, coming up in the theater, growing as an artist in the theater -- it's a literary art form and there's a respect for the written word and the writer that comes with being a theater actor. I think it did prepare me and prepare a lot of us in this cast for working with somebody like Aaron who is, frankly, a brilliant playwright. That's what he's doing. He's writing these 90 page plays each week. And we get to do them. I was thrilled to have the opportunity to work with a writer like that. It certainly eased the transition in terms of the style of the two mediums.

Thomas Sadoski 5

So what's it like playing the part of a love triangle we've been encouraged to root against?

You're dealing with a guy who's been under an incredible amount of work-related stress. There's a great deal of focus on what's been going on at work, and once starts to calm down and he starts to get invited back into the fold, he opens his eyes and looks up and says, "Jesus Christ, my personal life is going to hell."

It's in keeping with one of the things that's great about these characters, that they are so capable at what they do but so utterly lost when it comes to life. I personally find that incredibly endearing. It's not easy to play the part of the triangle that everybody wishes would just disappear [laughs]. You ultimately like to be rooted for from time to time. I've had a great time sort of watching the evolution of that opinion.

This article is related to: Television, TV Interviews, HBO , The Newsroom, Thomas Sadoski, Aaron Sorkin, Interviews





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