Look, nobody inside the morning show‘s second season had their best year ever. There was the COVID-19 pandemic. There was a great death. There was a very ill-timed declaration of love, followed by a trip to a coronavirus-soaked emergency room.
But of all the personalities on the morning show, Daniel from Desean Terry might have had the most frustrating year. At the end of Season 1, with Alex and Bradley as whistleblowers alerting viewers to the network’s legacy of covering up scandals, a new world order seemed to be sweeping through the studio. But in Season 2, Daniel — a gay, black TV host who dreams of sitting down at the table — was routinely knocked down whenever he was ready to continue. Towards the end of the finale, he quit the show and drove west to remove his elderly grandfather from a potentially COVID-infected nursing home.
Now that the season finale is streaming (read a recap and post mortem with Reese Witherspoon and Billy Crudup), we can share our chat with Terry about Daniel’s tough season 2 ride (including that impromptu rendition of Neil Diamond’s “America” we’re still cringe all the time.) Read on for his thoughts.
TVLINE | At the end of last season, it seemed that a major change was underway on the network. And then we come back and, at least for Daniel – correct me if I’m wrong – it seems like not much has changed.
Yes, I think those are actually 100 percent facts.
TVLINE | Do you think he thought maybe a new era was dawning?
You know, it’s just really hard for me to respond to things that have to do with Daniel’s relationship with… AND SO FORTH. Because I immediately connect it to the real world, and people who feel marginalized within the workspaces in America, in the world and capitalism, and how it’s often dangerous. So sometimes I have to say to myself, wait, are we talking about Daniel, or are you getting your own stuff out, Desean? [Laughs]
TVLINE | Well, we also want to hear what you think, Desean, so feel free to answer however you like.
It seems Daniel has decided to bury himself deeper in the work as I think he is covering up a lot of pain in the AND SO FORTH world. He didn’t get the anchor position, they brought in someone else, and that’s where he starts this season. And then things really get going when the Alex Levy character is invited again for AND SO FORTH with a huge increase and [he knows] the full story of what happened, and not see her as the feminist hero the rest of America sees. That really kills him.
TVLINE | Daniel is the first character to take the coronavirus seriously. He is the one who was sent to China to cover it. He’s been there all season doing the work – but he can’t get a grip on the network. That’s so frustrating.
Yes, it is extremely frustrating… Yes, he comes short every step of the way. First he didn’t get the anchor position, then he goes and he does the deep dive with them and sends it to China, and then when he comes back he’s in a more weak spot with the network. None of these efforts have been validated for him. So it’s a very hard battle, leading to where he ends up at the end of the season: he realizes that this is just not the place for him at the moment. I support that decision to leave the network at that time because he really had it.
TVLINE | The “star power” conversation he has with Mia is shocking.
Yes. Yes, exactly. But it starts this huge conversation, because they said he doesn’t have the it factor… You could say they probably do [done audience research]. But it then brings up this question: How are you going to trust a system that is deeply geared to advancing whites? Do you see what I’m saying? …I forget the exact words that [Daniel] says, but he says that even bringing up this idea of this “it factor”, Which is an instrument of white supremacy, to be honest and clear.
And so he’s trying to separate himself from that whole system… It’s about separating your personal relationship with things compared to, “Wait, this system is flawed.” And the system is the thing that’s holding Daniel back, and it’s hard for people to see that, isn’t it?
TVLINE | Right. Looks like he would be such an obvious employee to elevate. I hate that he doesn’t get a reward.
Yeah, well, I think maybe with Daniel – and this is a maybe, I’m trying to figure it out myself – that’s because he is doing wanting to have awkward conversations… And that’s not necessarily the morning TV the UBA wants.
TVLINE | I want to talk to you about the “America” scene. First, did you have a good understanding of Neil Diamond’s lyrics before shooting the scene? Or did you have to hurry?
Oh, yes, no… I didn’t know that song. [Laughs] And you know what’s interesting is we went through a few different songs and then [showrunner] Kerry [Ehrin] landed on that song, which I find very interesting. It’s a very layered song… And somehow Daniel just knows the lyrics to Neil Diamond’s song.
I love how people react to it. [Some] people cheer, some people say, “Oh my god, my stomach hurt all the time. What are you doing?!”
TVLINE | At the moment we have no idea if there will be a third season. But if so, do you think it’s scorched earth for Daniel at UBA? Or do you think there is a reality in which he could return?
Oh, I’m sure there’s a chance for him to return. To be quite honest and fair, the advice I’ve been given, whatever my relationship with corporate America, is that sometimes leaving makes you more valuable. And it took Daniel a long time to have the balls to take care of himself in a different way. So I think it could probably give him, in one form or another, more value at AND SO FORTH. And he can say to himself, “Well, I should have done that sooner.”