Well before the April 2018 debut of Get Up (8-10 a.m. ET weekdays, ESPN), director Cindy Morello was already developing a legacy at ESPN.
At the time of the pilot show, Morello was 23 years into her ESPN career, working her way from technical director to lead director. That role (now 27 years in) is focused on Get Up .
From working with teams in Bristol, Conn., and New York to managing talent chemistry and many other tasks, Morello has helped turn Get Up into a success story, alongside several other women such as director Biana Clark and producer Tory McMahon. As recently as November 2021, Get Up and First Take combined to propel ESPN to the top cable network among 18-34 year olds from 8a-12p ET with a combined 884,000 average viewers.
Morello values the team effort that goes into directing a successful show. She tells Front Row what it’s like to prepare for the show and why listening is an important quality for successful directing.
Describe your journey to director at ESPN.
I started at ESPN in March 1995 as a technical director after working local news in Florida. I realized very quickly that I missed the directing part of the job. I moved to ESPN’s directing department in 1996 as an associate director and ultimately became a director in 2001.
Get Up is a show where talent has chemistry; how do you capture that for the audience?
Our 6 a.m. ET production meeting is so crucial for me because I get a sneak peek into everyone’s opinions, and having that knowledge helps. For example, when [ESPN NFL analyst] Ryan Clark is going to look at [ESPN NFL analyst] “Monday Dan” Orlovsky with disbelief.
— Kevin Negandhi (@KevinNegandhi) December 27, 2021
That allows me to be able to show that moment when it occurs. It’s the ability to listen that’s often most important, especially on Get Up. I’d like to take more credit, but they make my job very easy because the talent has so much fun doing the show. Also, you can never go wrong putting [ESPN NFL analyst] Marcus Spears’ smiling face on TV!
Host Mike Greenberg asks you questions while on air. Are there any inside jokes or a specific story you’d like to share?
Greeny will call me by name on air when he wants a certain piece of video, a graphic, or wants to show something talent is wearing or has in their background. The trust that Greeny has in me that he’s willing to call for something live, knowing I’ll get it for him, is the ultimate compliment to me.
When we turn the hour to 9 a.m. ET, he often calls for me to “roll the tease.” “Roll it, Cindy,” gets a good laugh in our control room! After one of the first times Greeny did that on air, my mom called me and said, “Greeny said your name on air!” My response was, “I know mom, I was there.” Even after 32-plus years in TV, my mom still doesn’t fully understand what I do!
What advice do you have for women in production at ESPN if they aspire to direct their own shows?
This advice is honestly for anybody. You can’t be a good director if you are not a good listener. Some of the best work in my directing career came from my listening skills. Get Up is probably one of my best examples because I’m able to anticipate reactions, successfully collaborate and help bring a producer’s vision onto the screen — all from actively listening.