On HBO’s The Newsroom, which enters its final season this fall, Olivia Munn plays a TV anchor and economics whiz who can expound on the Glass-Steagall Act while also presenting, as one of her producers notes, an incomparable pair of legs. Munn’s sexy-smart persona, like her character Sloan Sabbith’s, has both helped and haunted her. In 2010, when she became a correspondent on The Daily Show With Jon Stewart, her pinup-for-geeks image—she’d cohosted a nerd-centric program on the G4 channel and appeared (clothed) on the covers of Playboy and Maxim—set off a firestorm on women’s blogs. “I got over that a long time ago,” says Munn, 34.
Since then, she has starred as Channing Tatum’s love interest in the 2012 film Magic Mike, and her turn on The Newsroom has been lauded by critics as the standout performance of the Aaron Sorkin dramedy. Growing up on a U.S. Air Force base in Japan, Munn watched TV shows sent by family friends from the States. “But they never taped anything current,” she says. “We watched I Love Lucy.” That might account for her screwball energy and comic timing, which she works hard to hone. “I write lots of notes on my scripts,” she says. “I call it my sheet music. I have to hit words certain ways.” It’s an approach well-suited to working with Sorkin, whose dialogue is famously rapid and musical. “I’m a naturally fast speaker,” says Munn, who will appear with Johnny Depp in next year’s action-comedy Mortdecai. “I think I’m the only person in history who had to slow down for Sorkin.”