Jeff Daniels on Getting Inside a Story

Jeff Daniels: I need to be able to think like the character… in here, the part that you don’t hear. If I can think like the character, then everything else will kind of fall into place if you’ve done the prep work. At the end of the day, you want to be able to think like Atticus Finch or think like Harry Dunne. You want to be able to get inside like that, so then you’re just riding impulses, you’re just riding instincts. When you get that key into whatever the character is, then it’s jump off the clip and go. With Bernard in The Squid and the Whale, it was like, “We’re going to go dark? Let’s go dark.” But that led to God of Carnage, and that led to The Newsroom. And I remember doing God of Carnage on Broadway with Jim Gandolfini, and the movies were drying up, and I wasn’t getting anything that I wanted to do. I said, “Jim, I’m thinking about television,” and he goes, “Get yourself a good writer. I’ve got David Chase.” And luckily for me, Aaron Sorkin wanted me. When you’ve got the writing, as Woody said, you can write it. They’ll challenge you, too. A good writer will challenge you. From 2009 on, I’ve been fortunate to have good writing come my way, and that’s kept me not only in the business— but interested in the business.

Sam Fragoso: When it came to The Newsroom, Aaron Sorkin was looking for an actor that could express that rage, that could tap into an anger. He did not think that you entirely had that at first, is that right?

JD: Yeah, there was nothing really in film or TV that showed what he needed. That kind of knee-jerk rant that McAvoy needed to go on. Aaron needed to be able to see that before he cast me. I got a tip, a heads up that that’s what he needed to see. We were sitting at a breakfast table at the Four Seasons in New York—I was meeting Aaron and Scott Rudin for the first time—and I told a story about where I had lost it. And then I bang the table, and the orange juice glasses rattled and jumped, and coffee, and people at the other tables were turning around looking, and Aaron’s going, “ok, ok ok… good, good.” I was halfway through the story, and I was going to finish it because I wanted this part.

SF: So, you strong-armed him into giving you the role?

JD: I auditioned! I had to show that I could get there, and it might be uncomfortable and embarrassing. That’s all I knew. I didn’t know anything else except it’s a show about a newsroom. So it was like, if he needs to see this, here’s my best version of it. By the end of the breakfast, they said I got the part.

Source link

About The Author

Scroll to Top