How 'The Loudest Voice' Portrays Gretchen Carlson as Its Real Hero

Showrunner Alex Metcalf explains how the fall of Fox News CEO Roger Ailes and the rise of the #MeToo moment can be tracked to Carlson's bravery.
JoJo Whilden/SHOWTIME
Naomi Watts as Gretchen Carlson in 'The Loudest Voice.'

[This story contains spoilers for "2015," episode six of Showtime's The Loudest Voice.]

"He has no idea what's coming for him" are the final words of The Loudest Voice episode six, "2015," as former Fox News host Gretchen Carlson (Naomi Watts) hits send on the announcement that she's suing Roger Ailes (Russell Crowe) for sexual harassment. There's still one more episode to go in the Showtime limited series, but those with any knowledge of the events surrounding Ailes and Fox News at that time know that it's the beginning of the end for him (especially as the series began with the moment of Ailes' death).

"So much of it is about her decision about how to move forward with the case," showrunner Alex Metcalf tells The Hollywood Reporter about the episode. "I think she went into it sort of innocently — she was just trying to get an apology and a recognition of what happened to her, without the understanding that the machinery of Fox would not turn against Roger, but would turn against her."

The episode is a tumultuous one for Gretchen as a character, as she not only undergoes yet more abuse from Ailes, but also learns that her Fox News contract is not being renewed and gets abruptly escorted from the building. In addition, she finally tells her husband, Casey Close (played by Josh Charles), about Ailes' abuse and her plan to sue him for sexual harassment, a conversation that does not go well initially, as Casey fails to grasp how much she'd been affected by Ailes' abuse.

Metcalf doesn't believe the episode contains too much in the way of fictionalizing what actually happened when Carlson made the decision to sue Ailes for sexual harassment. "I feel what we did is a lot of condensation," he says. "Things were complicated and deep in the weeds — Gretchen originally went to one lawyer, that lawyer said she had no case, but maybe she should talk to [lawyer] Nancy Erika Smith. And so that's how she found her."

The timeline ended up being compressed for the series, because "there were a lot more steps along the path than we could actually put into the show and also make dramatic," says Metcalf. "That said … the movement forward and the challenges of it and Gretchen's decisions along the way I feel are pretty accurate.

"If anything is fictionalized, I think it's possibly [Gretchen's] relationship with Casey, but that said, she didn't tell him for over a year, and she didn't tell him about the recordings until she had decided to sue. So, I mean, that stuff is all very true. And I know that there was conflict between them about it, which we definitely put into the show."

Metcalf credited writer Laura Eason, who scripted the episode, for identifying just what made those scenes between Gretchen and Casey so real and affecting. "It's a very specific female response that I don't think men necessarily understand, this idea of like, 'Oh, it wasn't that bad — can't we just, you know, push it under the rug a little bit and move forward with our lives?'" he says. "I think that discrepancy between the female experiential point of view of this kind of harassment and the male point of view of, oh, you know, he didn't rape you, therefore it wasn't that bad, is really interesting and hard to talk about."

In filming those scenes, Metcalf says he and Charles talked a lot about Casey's point of view as both Gretchen's husband as well as a prominent sports agent: "The conversations that Josh and I had mainly were about the reality of Casey, or at least the fictional reality, and being clear that he's not being dismissive and he's not being insensitive and he's not being kind of anything negative. He just doesn't get it."

Adds Metcalf, "That really was the most important aspect of things that we really talked about it while we worked through this. He just doesn't understand. It's not a comment on the character of Casey or the reality of Casey, but it is this male-female break about these issues."

While in the show, Casey's point of view is understandable, Gretchen goes forward with the lawsuit, because as Metcalf says, "to just sweep it under the rug and move forward with your life, on some level, yes, it would be easier. But on another level, obviously not. You want to speak your truth to that ugly power."

Also appearing in the episode for the first time are Gretchen's lawyers, Nancy Erika Smith and Neil Mullin, played by Jessica Hecht and Timothy Busfield, respectively, two veteran actors who enhance the show's all-star ensemble. "I think people were excited about the show and about telling this story," Metcalf says. "In the world we all live in now, it's history, but it's really recent history and its impact is so, so profound to everybody. I think people really responded to being a part of that."

Viewers will see the full impact of Carlson's lawsuit in the finale. Her pressing send on the announcement at the end of this episode is, to Metcalf, not just a major turning point in the tale of Roger Ailes, but for the world in general. "I do maintain that she opened the dam of responsibility to the entire #MeToo movement," he says. "[Harvey] Weinstein was a year later."