Emmy Watch: Jeff Daniels Faced Down Brendan Gleeson in The Comey Rule

Within the Showtime restricted collection, Daniels as FBI Director James Comey confronts wiley Irish actor Brendan Gleeson as Donald Trump.

The mark of a really perfect actor is the facility to ship an impressive efficiency, even with out numerous noise. That’s what Jeff Daniels does in Billy Ray’s ripped-from-the-headlines two-part restricted collection “The Comey Rule,” which hit Showtime September 27, 2020 for max have an effect on forward of the November election. For this docudrama, Daniels took on a well known determine in fresh American historical past  — FBI Director James Comey — who went toe-to-toe with President Donald J. Trump (Brendan Gleeson), who infamously fired Comey in Might 2017.

Daniels (“The Newsroom”) brings his trademark decency and gravitas to the position. (He’s additionally 6’3″ to Comey’s 6’8″.) Ray, Oscar-nominated for the tailored screenplay for “Captain Phillips,” pursued Daniels as a result of “he brings rapid credibility,” he stated in a telephone interview. “You realize the man’s telling you the reality. With any person as polarizing as Comey, that’s the most important rent. Jeff is any person The usa already relied on. I had to have an actor so assured that he wouldn’t be thrown via the truth Trump is the bells and whistles fireworks section on this display, an actor who can accept as true with his personal stillness and quietude and know numerous energy in that.”

“The Comey Rule” breaks into two portions: Evening One ends with the election of Trump, and Evening Two begins along with his taking place of work. “On the finish of Evening One we made the case there’s a shark within the water,” Ray stated, “and as we cross to wreck, our hero is within the water, ‘Now what’s going to occur?’ I assumed so much about ‘Jaws’ as we had been making this: the verdict to carry off on seeing the shark for so long as humanly conceivable, in order that whilst you do, it in point of fact pops. You don’t see the shark till your hero does.”

Evening Two pivots at the dramatic one-on-one White Space dinner between the FBI Director and Trump, who aren’t meant to speak privately. The FBI Director tries to navigate the perilous dialog as Trump asks him for a loyalty pledge. Daniels provides us a person who’s as cast as Mount Rushmore: contained, unresponsive, and poker-faced as he stands up in opposition to new boss Trump, who comes on robust, with threat, threats, and bombast.

If Comey is the taciturn hero, a person of few phrases, Trump makes an impressive villain. Gleeson, who to start with resisted accepting the position, does now not play him as silly. “You’d by no means name a mob boss an fool,” Ray stated. “Brendan is a smart actor with improbable physicality. Maximum vital, he’s fearless.”

Billy Ray, Jeff Daniels and James Comey right through a reside video interview for “The Comey Rule.”

Anne Thompson

For Daniels, taking part in Comey was once about spotting that he’s FBI to the core. “Comey is a brilliant listener,” he advised me at the telephone from the Pittsburgh shoot of the nine-hour Showtime collection “American Rust.” “It’s important to be. As an FBI lawyer, he’s sitting in interrogation rooms with mafia folks. To place them away you need to get them to provide the knowledge, get them speaking. After they get started speaking you pay attention. That’s it. That’s the key. He’s a really perfect listener and concept issues thru. You wish to have to peer: ‘What’s Jim Comey considering when he made those choices?’ As a result of I react.”

To make that paintings, Daniels knew what he wanted: “Excellent actors presenting to me,” he stated, “throwing it at me in some way so Comey can obtain it, like a verbal tennis fit.” So Daniels advised Ray: “Get me nice actors round me.” Showtime got here thru with a $40 million price range for a four-hour restricted collection to beef up a loaded ensemble from Holly Hunter (Sally Yates), Michael Kelly (Andrew McCabe), and Jennifer Ehle (Patrice Comey) to Scoot McNairy (Rod Rosenstein) and Jonathan Banks (James Clapper).

As he sits down with the president, Comey doesn’t know what to anticipate. “He was once considering,” Daniels stated. “When Trump begins speaking and masking about 8 topics in a single paragraph, it’s like 9 fireplace hoses coming at you suddenly. You clutch one and reply to that. It’s an issue of seeking to stay up. The scene of the loyalty dinner particularly, is an entire wonder to Comey. He by no means noticed this coming. So now you’re simply seeking to stay your head above water on this torrent, this tsunami of phrases. Trump says, ‘I would like your loyalty.’ He doesn’t take a knee and say, ‘You may have my loyalty.’ That’s the struggle within the scene. When Comey’s resolution isn’t that, it’s one thing else, then the dam bursts. It turns into vital to let Brendan Gleeson come up with that Trump, after which attempt to stay your head above water.”

However Daniels as Comey is retaining his expression clean. “He’s an FBI director,” Daniels stated. “You don’t tip what you’re considering, you don’t disclose what he’ll say or do. The place is it written that you need to display and inform?”

At one level Ray requested Daniels to turn just a little extra. “Billy, I’m considering!” he stated. “ the tale. It’s possible you’ll wish to know the main points. You realize Trump requested for a loyalty oath that didn’t get spoke back, that Comey made notes and put them in a secure. You wish to have to peer what I’m doing? I’m getting out to the limo and striking down fresh notes as temporarily a conceivable. That’s once I’m appearing what I’m considering. On the time, I’m considering, ‘How do I resolution that? What do I say that doesn’t put me in compromising place and will get me out of this room?’ I’ve an inner monologue. There was once stillness to it.”

So as to add additional pressure at the day they shot the scene: Comey was once gazing. The ex-FBI director were given the shakes when he sat in a director’s chair at the set right through the filming, he stated on a video panel. “I used to be about to throw up on my sneakers,” he stated, “sitting at midnight as they recreated what I lived in some way I discovered very demanding. I discovered it in point of fact tricky to relive…it hit me like a wave.”

He recalled how his thoughts raced as he requested himself, “‘How do I give protection to the FBI? What do I say?’ I used to be seeking to handle distance. ‘How do I do this now?’ Looking at that scene, Jeff doesn’t say the rest, however you’ll see the turmoil via taking a look at his eyes and the way in which he’s preserving his jaw.”

“You’ve ruined my day,” he advised Daniels. “You introduced again the combat, the awkwardness.”

“That’s my process in a nutshell,” Daniels stated, “with out announcing so much, to turn you all that. If the man I’m taking part in noticed it, landing! I’m there.”

The Comey Rule Showtime Jeff Daniels

Jeff Daniels in “The Comey Rule”

Ben Mark Holzberg / CBS Tv Studios / Showtime.

In an effort to get within Comey’s head —as soon as the reluctant writer’s spouse talked him into collaborating; the previous FBI Director’s first response to Ray and manufacturer Shane Salerno adapting his 2018 memoir “A Upper Loyalty: Fact, Lies and Management” was once “hell no,” he stated — Daniels listened to Comey learn his personal audiobook. And so they talked for hours.

“The sum of the method ended up being as though we had 3 months to sit down down with [Comey] and pay attention to his aspect of the tale,” Daniels stated. “We heard the tale at the telephone or on the web or in mainstream media in October 2016. I were given to sit down down with him in an actual particular method as a actor to grasp what he did and why he felt it was once the fitting factor to do. In contrast to what we discovered on the web, he wasn’t seeking to make it about himself, or make some political dictum or be capable to write a e-book to grow to be restricted collection. He resisted it. He was once going to do the fitting factor. He was once making choices that had been apolitical. That’s one thing many didn’t see, when in October 2016 election, when [Comey] reopened the [Hillary Clinton private emails] case, folks noticed him as corrupt and self-serving. Now not even 3 weeks later, within the days main as much as the election, he stated, ‘No, those emails had been not anything.’ That was once too past due. The preliminary Jim Comey reopening the investigation was once other from the retraction headline that claims, ‘We didn’t in finding the rest.’”

From his Emmy-winning position as information anchor Will McAvoy on “Newsroom,” Daniels discovered “how temporarily information organizations and information administrators run with one thing after they don’t have all of the knowledge,” he stated. “That’s the entice we’re in now: ‘I noticed it on my telephone, it will have to be true.’ That’s the place we had been long ago then. I got here away considering, this man, there have been penalties to what he did, definitely. However there have been numerous folks, together with the American public, who had been misinformed via the clicking. He turned into the massive villain. However Comey had legitimate causes for doing what was once proper below the rule of thumb of legislation and placing onto the integrity of the FBI.”

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