The Morning Show’s Cory Ellison

Lessons in corporate charisma from the Morning Show

How to live (and lead) like Cory Ellison

Michelle Wiles 🪄📈
6 min readNov 3, 2023

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Apple’s The Morning Show features a number of strong personalities — the narcissistic but captivating Alex Levy (played by Jennifer Aniston), the Elon Musk/Jeff Bezos not-so-caricaturesque caricature Paul Marks (played by Jon Hamm), and my favorite — network CEO Cory Ellison, masterfully brought to life by Billy Crudup.

Cory has had his ups and downs through the seasons (no spoilers). But his contagious energy remains the same. So much that his chief deputy Stella Bak remarks that he has the uncanny ability to convince people that anything is possible. A few days away from the season 3 finale, I am sharing an article about season 1’s Cory Ellison — with tips on how to be more Cory — err, successful in a corporate environment.

The corporate charisma of Cory Ellison

In the first season of Apple TV’s Morning Show, News division president Cory walks around grinning all the time.

He’s under a lot of stress: overseeing chaos in his most profitable show, reporting to a boss that despises him, plotting a corporate takeover…And yet, he manages to come off as if he is 5 steps ahead of everyone else in a game of corporate chess.

Cory might be planning ahead, but his true skill is reacting in the moment. When news drops that could get him fired (or at least shatter the formula his company has successfully profited off for decades), he grins, assesses the impact in a nanosecond, and then grins again. This could be fantastic, he calculates. And he begins planning how to make the most of the situation.

He is a planner. But he is loose. Ready. Present. Grinning.

Cory is in a state of play.

Cory orchestrating news greatness. Source: Showbiz Cheatsheet

Now me? When too many projects come up, I start to get stressed. But on occasion I found myself in state of Cory-like state, creative and in the moment, reactive and visionary, simultaneously setting plans and going with the flow. It’s wonderful. It’s productive. And it usually results in my best work and relationships.

The question is, how can I enter that state more often?

I analyzed the master himself, and came up with 5 Cory-isms that drive his infectious attitude.

5 Principles for living in a state of play

1. Set your big rocks, but free up everything else

Cory is spontaneous, suggesting to star anchor Bradley Jackson that they go on an adventure in the middle of the day in Season 1. She declines (she has work to prep). Doesn’t he? He is the network president after all.

But he is able to be spontaneous because he has already isolated what is important. If he can mould his key news anchors into stars, and slide a couple other things in place, he does not need to bog himself down with the details of everything else. On the flip side, when something is important, he jumps into action with full focus.

In either case, it means he does not need to waste time worrying. Small problem? Delegate. Big problem? Take action.

Cory reacting to shocking news as if he planned it in advance. Source: Tumblr

2. Focus on the present (and get off your device)

Cory is hardly ever on his phone. He gives every conversation his full attention. This allows him to make better decisions. It’s also part of his charm.

As Cal Newport writes in Deep Work, our constant device-checking is a drain on our focus and problem solving ability. Cory gives himself an important advantage by keeping his phone as a tool for himself, not the other way around.

3. Put your mask on first

Cory dresses in crisp suits. In one scene, he is at the gym mid workday. Chip, another network executive on The Morning Show, usually sports deep bags under his eyes. His collar is always a bit wrinkled. And he is often eating on the go. This is intentional. While Cory is smooth and in control, Chip is at the mercy of others.

And it’s not by accident. Cory prioritises taking care of himself and presenting himself well — adding to his energy, confidence, and charm, while Chip organises his life around other’s needs. Unfortunately, this makes Chip less effective than he would be if he put himself first.

Cory working from the gym. Source: I am not a stalker

4. Have a predisposition toward fun

Cory is not just focused on getting to the top of the corporate ladder. He wants to have fun doing it. In one particularly tense scene between Cory and his boss, Fred, Cory asks Fred point blank: “Are you happy, Fred?”

“I know you have a wife, a couple houses, and a network…But you don’t seem very fulfilled by any of it. I honestly don’t think I’ve ever seen you smile for more than a second or two in a row. Which is too bad, because smiling? It’s fun to smile. It feels good.” — Cory Ellison

Ouch.

Cory reframing bad news into good. Source: Quoters

But Cory’s attitude towards fun is also strategic. In an interview between the LA Times and Billy Crudup, who plays Cory, Billy notes that Cory’s less-than-serious attitude causes others to underestimate him… giving him a better platform to outmaneuver them:

His way of being is generally upbeat and his way of interacting is strange, the way his mind works. So you could imagine he’s a goofball, he’s not formidable, he’s failed upward. That’s a wonderful mask to wear. You’re constantly underestimated. [It] gives you enormous power. — Billy Crudup, LA Times

5. Actively reflect and keep learning

In The Morning Show’s first season, Cory conjures paragraph-long quotes from Robert Frost, Sun Tzu, Planet Earth, and Eater.com to frame various situations. This is not a man who sits and watches Netflix passively. This is a guy with a voracious appetite for information. And who, upon receiving it, connects the dots between that information and his life. That curiosity is what allows him to consider the future, see the possibilities in events, and convince others to get onboard his vision with rich examples.

These 5 ‘Cory-isms’ play off each other: the more you can activate, the more powerful your state of play will be. When you take care of yourself, you’re more confident, energetic, and focused, and it’s easier to take in information. When you are an active consumer of deep information, not just shallow social media, you’re able to connect dots and predict how current events will affect the future, aiding key decisions. And when you know your priorities, you do not get bogged down in small issues, and it’s easier to have fun. You can be in the moment and react quickly. You can delegate the little things and focus on what’s big. Which helps you sleep better. And be more in the moment. And make better decisions. And it goes on…

But don’t take it from me. This video of Cory’s top moments sums up his state of play.

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