Karen Pittman on ‘The Morning Show’ Challenges Ahead, Her ‘Heartbreaking’ Goodbye to ‘And Just Like That’ and TV’s Power to Foster ‘True Inclusivity’

When Karen Pittman calls for our early-morning interview, she’s noticeably perky for someone who wrapped filming at 2 a.m. the night before. She’s in the midst of shooting “Forever,” Mara Brock Akil’s adaptation of Judy Blume’s seminal — and controversial — 1975 novel about two teens’ first love and intimacy.

“I love it! Fingers crossed it keeps going like this for the next 20 to 30 years,” Pittman says, laughing off the tiring schedule. “I’m not a workaholic, but I’m just very committed. I’m devoted to this work. I get the chance to tell a meaningful story about where women are right now.”

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In the Netflix series, Pittman plays Dawn Edwards, an upper-middle-class mother whose high-school-age son Justin (Michael Cooper Jr.) is at the center of the show’s “forever love” story.

“She is a working mother in a successful marriage. She’s bright; she’s ambitious for her kids and really very focused on them,” Pittman says of Dawn. “I’m also a mom, so the challenges that she grapples with are things that I also deal with my son and daughter. This is the first character that I’ve had the opportunity to use my experience as a mother, which is all-consuming.”

It’s a Black women-centric set — Brock Akil is joined by Emmy- and Oscar-winner Regina King, who directs the pilot episode and executive produces the show alongside her sister Reina King — so Pittman is surrounded by people who get it. “We all uniquely understand the importance of what motherhood does to you as a woman. It’s an interesting thing to explore as your son is leaving your home. It’s hard to stop being the one making decisions for your children,” she says.

Plus, the series is set in 2018 Los Angeles, adding further complication to what it means for Dawn to watch Justin head out into the world. “The refrain of police brutality and what it is to have a young son ring and resonate in the story in a way that feels relevant,” she says, explaining that the series taps into multiple facets of Black life. “We are going to Martha’s Vineyard, which is a thing in August for African Americans, so this is a little slice ‘from the Inkwell,’ which I love.”

For the last 20 years, Pittman has been pounding the pavement in pursuit of her dream of acting, and now she finds herself more in-demand than ever. At one point, Pittman was planning to shoot “Forever,” Season 4 of Apple TV+’s “The Morning Show” (where she plays TV producer Mia Jordan) and Season 3 of Max’s “And Just Like That” (where she starred as college professor Dr. Nya Wallace) in rapid succession. But the scheduling proved too complicated, so she won’t be returning to the “Sex and the City” sequel.

She looks back at her time on the comedy with fondness, knowing she aced the assignment — which was to explore what “true inclusivity looks like” by bringing a fully realized Black woman (with braids!) to a franchise that had notably lacked diversity.

“Stepping into this amazing, iconic television show with these incredible actors, I hoped that it was a place I was going to land, but it ended up being a stepping stone, which was heartbreaking in a lot of ways,” Pittman says. “But it was such an enriching, extraordinary experience. I hope that the audience still thinks on that character positively. I know I do.”

Karen Pittman on ‘The Morning Show’
Karen Pittman on ‘The Morning Show’

Pittman hasn’t gotten scripts just yet for Season 4 of “The Morning Show,” but she’s had discussions with creator Charlotte Stoudt about where Mia might be headed next.

“I know some of what’s going to happen for Mia, but I don’t want to spoil it. We’ve talked very loosely about emotional themes, about what she’s challenged with and struggling with,” she teases. “I’m excited to know what languages Mia will speak next.” (Pittman speaks Italian and Spanish in real life; Mia spoke Russian in Season 3.)

For the last couple of years, Pittman played Nya and Mia simultaneously, earning Critics Choice and SAG award nominations for the latter. It was not only a welcome acting challenge, but it also afforded her the opportunity to open the audience’s eyes to two distinct perspectives of Black women navigating the world.

“If people look at my body of work, I’ve had this unique opportunity to reflect back to the world who women are right now in the culture, and because I was born in a Black woman’s body, to reflect what African American women look like,” Pittman says. “I feel great privilege that people welcomed me into their home, and they recognize that this woman is Mia Jordan and Nya Wallace. It’s great. This is exactly where I want to be in my career.”

Whether it be those recent roles or work in shows like “Yellowstone,” “Homeland,” “The Americans” or “Luke Cage,” Pittman sees American TV as a vital medium to foster inclusion.

“It’s a challenge to achieve, but it’s worthy,” she explains. “We get the privilege of coming into people’s homes and telling them stories. They should be stories that are meaningful and that look like them and look like the world.”

That’s how she now defines the assignment.

“As I’ve stepped into working more with actors and artists who are really making an effort to do work and tell stories that are challenging the culture and compelling and daring, one of the biggest things I’ve learned is to have courage,” she explains. “Piercing through the noise takes more patience and bravery than you might expect.”

Pittman grows wistful as she recalls the other important lesson learned over the course of her career: never quit.

“When I think about those little, tiny trailers that they have for guest stars on ‘Law & Order: SVU,’ ‘All My Children’ or ‘One Life to Live,’ and then going to this big, beautiful trailer I have now on ‘Forever,’ it’s a real journey,” says Pittman. “I’ve really had to decide to step into that journey. I’m going try to make 2025 as brilliant a year as 2024.”

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