Wednesday afternoon, Aaron Sorkin held a live one-hour Q&A on HBO.com to answer fan questions. The creator of HBO’s new show “The Newsroom” has received a lot of media flack over his portrayal of working journalists, so the opportunity gave viewers the chance to ask Sorkin anything.
For the most part, Sorkin played it safe, answering questions about how long it took him to come up with the pilot (nearly a year, not including the six weeks for writing), his biggest challenges while penning a television show, and his love for “His Girl Friday.”
However, there were some great moments where Sorkin discussed his decision to cover past news, his knowledge of Pop-Tarts and his alleged “sorkinisms.”
Q: Do you have any plans to guest-star any real reporters like Christiane Amanpour, Jake Tapper, or anyone else on the show?
Sorkin: 'Real people will only play themselves in news footage. There are some shows where stunt casting is fun (in fact I've played myself on 30 Rock and Entourage) but I think on this show it would just seem out of place. These characters inhabit a heightened and idealised version of a newsroom.'
Q: 'You chose to tie storylines to prior current events. What was your reasoning behind this and how recent do you plan regarding current events?'
Sorkin: 'The show's set in the recent past because I didn't want to make up fake news. I wanted to do 'His Girl Friday' set against the backdrop of actual news events. I knew when the first season started and when it ended and it was a year ago this month that the staff and I began wallpapering the writers room with every single news event from that 18 month period.'
Q: 'Ive noticed recently that your writing is drawing on your previous work. Has there been a determination to pull from your previous success?'
Sorkin: 'I think that's a very kind way of saying the truth--which is that I have a limited imagination.'
*This week, a YouTube video started circulating the Web showing Sorkin borrows from previous works. It was also noted Sorkin borrowed from previous speeches during his graduation speech this past May at Syracuse University.
Q: 'In writing the old adage is write what you know. You have a BA in FIne Arts. Did you just use a specific writing formula to create these stories and characters to fill in the blanks? Also, where did you go to do research for these shows and what type of experience do you have in sports, politics, and newsroom day to day activities.'
Sorkin: 'I've hardly ever written about something I know (if I did, I'd be writing a lot about Pop Tarts.) Whether it's the White House or a newsroom or writing code for a new social networking site, I use expert tutors who give me crash courses so that I can make you believe that the CHARACTERS know what they're talking about.'
Q: 'What is your hope for this show? Do you think it can be the basis for talks about hard, 'real' journalism and how much we are lacking that?'
Sorkin: 'Discussions about journalism and current events would be a huge bonus but this show is meant to be watched with popcorn. It'll succeed or fail depending on how engaged you are with the characters and the personal stories that begin to unfold during the first season.'
Q: 'When you are creating a new show, how far out do you plan out? Two seasons, three? And once you make those plans, do you commit to a bible?'
Sorkin: 'The Newsroom is the first time I've done any planning at all. With the other shows I've done I was really flying by the seed of my pants at the time. With The Newsroom I knew what the arc of the season would be when I started. There's some room for making course adjustments along the way. By at large the first season of The Newsroom is a 10 hour story broken into 3 acts.'
Q: 'Why was Jeff Daniels chosen for this role?'
Sorkin: '... I've been a fan of Jeff's since he did '5th of July' off-Broadway. My only concern was that I thought he might be too nice. (Will McAvoy, as you'll learn, is a damaged guy with a lot of chaos going on inside.) Jeff was tipped off that I thought he was too nice so he came to a lunch meeting with me determined to demonstrate that he's a sonofab----. It didn't work--he's still the nicest guy in the world--but his performance 'God of Carnage' is what landed him in Will's anchor chair.'
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