When The Morning Show returned for its second season last week, it opened with a real surreal moment: Hasan Minhaj singing and dancing. Yes, singing and dancing. (More of that in a bit.)
The erstwhile The Daily Show correspondent and host of the Peabody Award-winning The Patriot Act (cancelled too soon!) joins the Apple TV+ drama as Eric, a new anchor embroiled in the frenemy feud of the eponymous news production’s headliners Alex Levy (Jennifer Aniston) and Bradley Jackson (Reese Witherspoon and Jennifer Aniston) and other behind-the-scenes dealings.
For Hasan, who turns 36 this Thursday (Sept 23), coming to work on as an actor-for-hire was just as surreal as us seeing him singing and dancing onscreen. “When you’re writing your own show, you write every line, ‘Hello, my name is Hasan Minhaj’ all the way to ‘Thank you, good night’,” Hasan tells 8days.sg via Zoom from Los Angeles.
‘[But] in this project, I’m servicing [director] Mimi Leder’s vision, I’m servicing [show co-creator] Kerry Ehrin’s vision,” he continues. “I’m servicing the larger narrative that is created for Jennifer Aniston, Reese Witherspoon and the entire main cast of The Morning Show. That’s what it’s really about and that’s really fun to do — to be part of someone’s else world.”
Here, Hasan lets us in on how he got involved in The Morning Show and the legacy of The Patriot Act.
8 DAYS: First things first, how did you land The Morning Show gig?
HASAN MINHAJ: Funny enough, the way I got the audition was during my sister’s wedding weekend. We were getting ready for her reception dinner when I get a call from my agent saying, “Hey, check your e-mail, there’s a role that I think could be perfect for you. You’ve played a fake TV host for years [on The Daily Show] and there’s a role here where you could play one. I don’t really think you have to act, but all you have to do is be able to sing and dance.”
And I go, “I can’t sing and I can’t dance,” but I look at the role and I go, “Oh, all I have to do is be as good at singing and dancing as a morning show host,” and if you’ve ever watched morning television in the United States, none of them are good at singing or dancing (laughs).
So I ended up doing the audition with my mum. My mum played the role of Reese Witherspoon, a.k.a. Bradley Jackson, and I guess the producers found it endearing and cute, so I got cast. My sister wasn’t happy that I was auditioning on the way of her reception dinner, but I think she’ll be happy once the season comes out.
We need to talk about that dance…
What did you think of my song and dance? This is more important. I tried my hardest!
It’s weird! It’s really surreal seeing you do that.
Weird in a good way, or weird in an alienating way?
A mixed bag, but mostly fun. We’ve never seen you doing something like that before! Did you have to do a lot of takes to get that scene right?
Yeah, there were a lot of takes. But it sounds like you’re saying it was bad.
No, it’s not! It is, but in a good way.
Use this soundbite — this is a nice way of you telling me it wasn’t great…
Your appearance on The Morning Show feels like a companion piece to the episode on The Patriot Act called ‘Why The News Industry is Dying’.
Totally! (laughs). Now look, the episode I did on The Patriot Act was about why local news is dying, specifically. But The Morning Show takes place in the world of a national news network, so it’s a much bigger news programme.
But yes, what’s most interesting about Season Two [of The Morning Show] is that it explores all the social and cultural things that are happening in the country in regard to cancel culture, gender dynamics in the workplace, and the racial reckoning that was happening in America in 2020.
You were in The Spy Who Dumped Me three years ago. How have you evolved as an actor since that movie?
I think I’ve gotten better. I think my singing and dancing needs to get better, according to your advice (laughs). I think expanding my horizons and doing more interesting projects and dramas like The Morning Show has been really fun for me. Coming from the world of comedy and then transitioning into a more dramatic world has been really fun. All I want to do as an artist and as a performer is just continuing to stretch myself.
Back to that The Patriot Act episode, you mentioned how unwatchable news is today. Do you still watch the news?
Oh, thank God, no. I’m not hosting a show anymore, so I don’t have to watch the news every day, and I don’t have to be on Twitter. Woo! I cannot tell you how much healthier that is for my lifestyle.
How bad was it when you were doing The Patriot Act?
It was bad, dude. I was strapped into the matrix. I had to keep up with everything that was happening — not only domestically, but around the world, and I had to somehow put it into a funny PowerPoint presentation. It was wild.
I really love your PowerPoint presentations. I need to steal some of your ideas for my meetings.
One of the greatest gifts of The Patriot Act was that it’s 40 episodes and there’s so many kids that are in high school and college who’ve told me that they’ve plagiarised from the show and they’ve just taken the transcription off YouTube to put into their essays and turn them in. The average grade that those papers have gotten is 92 or higher, and that’s probably my biggest source of pride.
Jon Stewart is returning to TV on Apple TV+. Are you excited to see him back? Do you guys keep in touch after he left The Daily Show?
Totally! I have this personal e-mail address and I like to send Jon a message every few months just to check in and see how’s he doing. I usually ask him for advice. Jon is like Jewish Yoda. He has the wisdom and experience, and I’m a young padawan. I usually call upon him when I need advice, whenever I’m in a pickle.
If you were do a story on Singapore on either The Daily Show or The Patriot Act, what would it be?
I would do a 1MDB scandal follow-up.
The Morning Show is now streaming on Apple TV+. The Patriot Act is available on Netflix.
Photos: Apple TV+, TPG News/Click Photos