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The Evolution Of Jeff Daniels: From Will McAvoy To 'Mockingbird,' And More

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Support for on point out the following message come from. MIT system design and management jointly offered by Mit School of Engineering and the MIT's Sloan School School of management earn a Master's engineering and management join a virtual info session on Thursday December fifth from four to five PM S. D. M. I'm dot. Mit Dot Edu from NPR WR Boston. I'm David Folkenflik in. This is on on point to kill a mockingbird one Pulitzer Prize for the author Harper Lee in Spider Classic movie starring Gregory Peck defined. How many think of decency and bigotry in the American can south? Aaron Sorkin new stage adaptation has shattered records on Broadway. The actor Jeff Daniels has just secured a Tony Nomination for his depiction of Atticus finch yet. They've done more more than that together. They have Rian visioned an American classic this hour on point the actor. Jeff Daniels joins me in studio for Free Willing Conversation. This time the man is unscripted. Join US I'm talking to Jeff Daniels About Atticus finch to kill a mockingbird raised an acting onstage and onscreen. What questions do you have? You can join US anytime on point. Radio DOT ORG on twitter and facebook ad on point radio with me as I said here in studio is Jeff Daniels. He's an Emmy Award winning actor and star of the Broadway hit to kill a mockingbird. He's been just. It just been nominated for a Tony Award for best male lead in a play for that role. Jeff Welcome to on point thank you Atticus finch to kill a mocking bird. What drew you to this role? It's atticus finch in Tequila mockingbird. It's one of the great. He is one of the Great Iconic Heroes Albeit fictional. You people put him up on Mount Rushmore. They put him next to Washington Lincoln and and They revere him and to get the opportunity to originate. The role on Broadway in a script by Aaron Sorkin was a no brainer regardless gregory packing back in the success that Mr Pack Atwood It's You don't walk away from from an opportunity like that. I want to get listeners. A couple taste of what it's like to attend got to see the production. Some days ago was was very stirred. You know you you laugh at points during it you ache points during it. It's it's a very stirring production in this Seen Atticus Finch is questioned by daughter Scout about the upcoming trial where he'll represent. Local African American sharecropper who's been falsely accused of raping a white woman the Small Walk Town of Macomb Alabama and in many ways. This is the fulcrum. This is the crucial point of of the play. Scout is portrayed by Celia Keenan Bolger Atticus. This man everyone in town since they are right. And you're wrong just above is we'll we'll don't they usually mean that they're right and you're wrong. No there's an old saying a person is Smart People Adum a mob acts out of emotion. Absent facts absent contemplation. Mostly absent responsibility. What they get in return is anonymity conscience can be exhausting? It'll keep you up at night right. Mobs a place where people go to take a break from the conscience and for Alabama it seems to me that atticus finch is in some ways. It's living unconscious right that. There's this person they looked to in some ways for wisdom. Yeah he is He's the guy you go to Get something fixed or get a legal thing You don't have the money you can pay him and vegetables. And he is kind of a touchstone Mutt he also sits on his porch he also steers clear of it. All he doesn't get involved volved in changing Monroeville changing the that's what's different about the play. Atticus comes to that. He's got a lot of good advice but actually getting off the porch and going and changing things is something he comes to in the play versus. you know you assume that he's just going to save the day from page one He's just in the play. He's a small town. Lawyer gets paid in vegetables Monday. The judge comes over and says we represent this black guy who was accused of wrongfully of raping a white woman. Roy White Girl would you any you know. He's got to get off his porch. And it's one hundred percent chance. The Guy is one hundred percent innocent and addresses belief that there's goodness in every one and you're better angel will win out much like it says in the Bible when you you know the the goodness will always overtake the bad. And that's not how it works out. There's a there's an exchange early on and play between a gem atticus his son Jeremy and scout who is sort of all kids were played by brilliantly adult actors but but all the kids are are kind of the joint narratives the course that propels the play Ford in many ways. But there's this exchange where gems talk and the audience. He says our father was wise and kind and a scholar alert but when it came to confrontation he was meek and Scout. DEFENSIVELY SAYS HE WASN'T MEEK GEM says I didn't say week did I. I said meek a weak person can't fight a meek. I won't fight but make them in the fight of its life. Atkins says there's fundamental goodness and everyone. I say being polite is no way to win a war. You guys really elevated. Aaron earned Sorkin in your portrayal as well in your no-doubt crafting this with him. Seat brought the plate of Broadway. You guys elevate this tension about atticus finch in a way. That's very different than what people might have. Taken from Gregory Peck sort of certitude or the book is presented by Harper Lee. It's feels to me. It's a different point of view the book and the movie took Scout at the age of Eight. I believe and you're looking up. You're looking up at atticus. He's on Mount Rushmore. He's already on a pedestal and we took the pentecostal away. He's still believes what he believes. He's still still a very righteous man. A very decent man very honest man buddies just a small town lawyer who gets paid and vegetables in one day. The judge comes over and changes changes his life. It's you come at advocates and play from I level versus looking up at Mount Rushmore. And that it's the same guy. But he you know again the play he becomes atticus in the play. He is an atticus on page. One he falls into the role that he was meant onto. Plan some ways. That's kind of what we did. And and by by taking that approach you. Then there's a struggle to Hang onto decency and respect and compassion and all of that he. It isn't just assumed. And you know happy endings. It isn't He walks face first into a wall of resistance Aaron Sorkin has talked A bit publicly about this earned. Sorkin of course The Oscar Award winning winning screenwriter. Playwright your collaborator on the HBO. Show the newsroom. We can talk a bit about later on He wrote this version Tequila mockingbird. He talked about his inspiration in some ways. He talked last month. That the vent for the New York Times which he explained that his conception of advocates was influenced by modern times and specifically interestingly president trump's response the violent I went white supremacist protests. That tore through Charlottesville Virginia in the summer of two thousand. Seventeen when I would go to the book and Read Atticus Atticus saying that there is goodness everyone goodness can be found in everyone. Suddenly it started to sound too much to me like there were five on people on both sides now. I know that those two men are coming from two very different places when they say that but I was angry and I I was frustrated and I wanted to atticus to pick damn side of already. We Need Atticus finch on our side. We don't need him pointing out the goodness everyone everyone. Now I've got three girls and I try to teach my kids that the idea of empathy being kind of a a supreme human value the ability. You know I don't know that I would put it quite the way that it's put by atticus where you've got him. Walk a mile in somebody else's skin before you can criticize them but the idea that the kids don't buy that either. Yeah I bet they don't kids. I'm not sure my kids always buy unless you try to you. Try to instill that and yet here. He's saying that can be a virtue. So blinding it's a flaw. Yeah Yeah There isn't goodness everyone and I think that's certainly challenged today in two thousand nineteen and The better angel will not win out all the time. There's power there is money. There is control. Their dominance awesome. That has nothing to do. With being empathetic and I agree with Aaron. Atticus has to pick a side. He has has to get off the porch. We need him now. We need his voice and He's forced to do so by taking this case. I WANNA play a clip from a scene in which he meets a his client that indicates that will electons to get off the porch Atticus gets assigned a case by sympathetic local. Cool judge his client. Is Tom Robinson. That's the African. American sharecropper who's been falsely accused of raping a young White Woman Robinson is portrayed by the actor. Benja Akina Bay. I'm a lawyer. I know the facts of your case of you so choose. I will defend you in open court in front of a jury. Not much appears just but still group of people to whom are not guilty verdict is available. Excuse me Sir. Yeah wasn't able to follow that either. I I can't tell you how to plead but I can't and I must give you my best advice. You won't be my Lilliana Tom very thing. I won't in the world. Be Your lawyer right now. Negro man the white teenage girl. I wouldn't be going in with a winning hand. But I'm compelled to defend us an officer of the court and in that capacity of taken a Sal Holt to give him a best council which is you cannot and you must not lead guilty and go to jail for a crime that you did not could not commit now. Obviously there's a play about the nineteen thirties. The small dusty Asti town in Alabama language is going to be a little different than it might be now but it sounds to me as though you feel the issues. Continue to echo today. Yeah yeah they do What do you think the play does for those who come to see it? What are you hoping that they get funded? The the thing that the AH play can do that. The movie in the in the book can't you can't put it down. You can't hit pause. You can't come back to later. You're in the room. They shut the doors and when Tom Robinson is found guilty. You're in the room when he's found guilty and everything that you feel about that which is usually you can't believe it even though the you know the story being in the room when Bangla has to get up and his ca can Kovtun led off to jail and eventually it'll be electric chair. You know where he's going and you can see him and that long walk across the stage as they take him out after he loses the case you feel it in a way that you don't necessarily necessarily feel it In the bulk in the movie. And that's one of the things we were tired out With this play was the I want you to feel. I want you to get hit with it. I want you to walk out. Changed and seven months of performances and people are walking out change. We're discussing to kill a mockingbird with the Star of the Broadway Smash Jeff Daniels. You can join our conversation with questions. Do you have for Jeff Daniels. Bat Finch Harper Lee's work in adapting such well known book for the stage with questions. Do you have Jeff Daniels earlier roles whether the newsroom God's carnage dumb and dumber. I'm David Folkenflik. This is on point Support for on point and the following message come from. MIT system design and management jointly offered by Mit School of Engineering and the MIT's Sloan in school of Management Earn a Master's in engineering and management. SDS EDUCATES MID career professionals. To lead. Effectively and creatively by using systems thinking to solve large scale complex challenges and product design development and innovation using MIT's most advanced information and Communication Asian technologies join a virtual info session on Thursday December fifth from four to five PM S. D. M. DOT MIT DOT Edu. Life Kid. That friend who always has great advice about everything from Tattoo invest to how to get a great workout. We bring you tools to help you get it together. Other new episodes every Tuesday and Thursday. Listen and subscribe to life kid. This is on point. I'm David Folkenflik. We're discussing the iconic American story to kill a mocking bird it's enduring contribution discussions about race in the US. How place to modern ear? It's its most recent stage incarnation and more. You can join our conversation. What's your question for Jeff Daniels about his life in front of the camera as well as on stage with me? Jeff Daniels the Emmy Award winning actor and Star of the Broadway. Play to kill a mockingbird as I mentioned before the show I saw you in God of carnage. People may not know that you're actually quite dedicated at the theater. Hitter you've You did not live the life of Hollywood even after breaking through move back. I believe to Chelsea Michigan and fund founded the The Purple Rose Theatre there MHM named after a a great film. You're in the purple rose of Cairo about your your dedication to the to the stage and to playwright plate writing for the stage as well as being being involved in production says as an actor. It's where I started. I started in high school musicals and Community Theatre musicals in college dramas and came to New York and went to off Broadway. I didn't get in a car and drive to Hollywood. That's where I started and that's where I stayed. There's something about the artistry of the theater that that is something that just survives through the cracks of a movie or TV series series are so many people that get their hands on it. You have more artistic control at a on a unapplied. Certainly at circle repertory company off Broadway or the purple rose We don't have focus groups. We don't have marketing people coming and going you need to change the title because it won't South None of that so there I enjoy that kind of creative freedom where it's on us to do something that holds an audience starting starting at eight o'clock tonight And the theater has that for me and I've come back to New York have come back to Broadway Scott Dot Rudin as As a producer in the last ten years as shown miss much faith in me is You know he's his faith. Send me a second only to that of maybe Erin in my representatives and my family. He's just been. We're going to get you back. We want you to Mockingbird we aren't you do Blackbird Well-to-do God of carnage judge. And there's A. There's a artistry that happens in New York on Broadway when you've got to deliver it eight times a week and there's a pride that comes without there's an obligation that comes without the responsibility that comes with that to show up and hit it out of the park eight eight times a week. You can't come in and hit a single. You can't do that. And that in the theater demands that of you you can get away with more in front of a camera. They're going to. They won't use that. Take Jake not in the theater so for two reasons. I want you to tell me. He told me before we started about your last twenty four hours just itemize. I mean people think as a big star can get a table. Oh every once and Broadway you know it's probably like you're getting worked man so tell me about your last twenty four hours well. It's the TONYS and and I've been nominated and it's hard to argue always good to get invited to the dance. You know. Just gotTa get address. It's it's it's if you're proud of what you do. That's how I look at all this campaigning. If you're proud of what you've done Do you want people to know about it. So I yeah I've been I've been everywhere and But the kind of things you've been doing I've been pretty interesting to me. You went and you gave a college talk doc. You also did you two performances. Yesterday as I was told earlier that you might have had a day off yesterday not the case the two performances. But tell me about the differences in the audiences. Well I I yeah. I gave a commencement address at Cain University. Which I which I worked on I worked hard on down the road? And the you know you're the Guy Playing Atticus finch on Broadway. Go ahead and and you've got to deliver a message that is an you know you don't become advocates but you do you ever responsibility to kind of. Maybe you've learned something you might want to pass it on to these young kids. So that's how I took yesterday morning. Then we had a student matinee for fourteen hundred. I'm going to assume. Eighth Graders From New York City about as diverse as an audience. As you're going again and that's a different audience. That's what's great about. The kids leads is that they're into it. They're listening. They may talk they may hear something and and You know a line and ooh I can't believe he just said Yeah. You hear the Boba. It's what I imagined Shakespeare back at the Globe Theatre Theater in La centuries ago where the audience would talk back to the characters groundlings. There's a little bit of that. There's a little bit of that and there's a there's a physical altercation later in the play in the Second Second Act to atticus has with Bob. You'll and when I get into that you can't hear a word we're saying because fourteen hundred kids are reacting acting as if superman in his Cape just flew down and you see that you know. They're they're kind of astounded to see this physical action from lawyer who wants to stay on the porch. Yeah and he's suddenly Auden. He's in this physical altercation and they're cheering cheering me. Like I'm superman coming down from the clouds and I'm saving the day and I've got at this speech that have to spit into Bob. You'll hear you don't hear a word of it because the kids are O o o. Oh Yeah I mean it's fourteen hundred and and it's great. It's terrific the other thing too about the student. Matinees is that there are give or take twenty teachers out there chaperoning. On Teacher's salary my daughter's a teacher public schoolteacher. I know what they make and a Broadway ticket is too who expensive for that salary. This is their chance to see. Kill a mockingbird. Yeah they've got a section for the kids that are they're trying to keep off their iphones and all of this stuff. But it's their chance to see the play and so you throw it at the kids but also the teachers and you know in a way. It's thanking them for doing. What if they do? I want to take a couple of calls now on on this This subject is to production from Oklahoma City. Oklahoma Matt's on the Air Matt Join Us. You're on the line with Jeff Daniels. Hi How are you guys good. I'm a very big fan of your work. Thanks so much for all the incredible work that you've put Out over the years and I come from teaching As well High School here in Oklahoma City and To kill a mockingbird was on our book book list we we read it every single year It's by far my favorite book of all time. I have such a great affinity for it but one of the things that I would get blowback from every year without Southfield was I. I wouldn't edit myself as I would read it I would. I would present. It adds it was presented by Harper Lee. And and and and as I would get blow back from that I with just kind of I would tell them I really believe that she wrote this Using the words she did because she wanted you to feel the weight of that content. She wanted you to feel how nasty some some of those words were and how they truly made that culture feel in macomb there but I wanted to know how does that affect your performance. It's just all do you guys. Do you get blowback from some of that content where people think you know. Maybe we've talked about this for too long or maybe this isn't the right place to talk about these kinds of things well for us. It basically boys boils down to the N.. Word and the N.. Word was normal in the thirties. Certainly in White Alabama it it was. It was used as if you were just you know any other word and our job as actors is to find that and let at the FBI kind of how we approach it the way it should be a reaction to an audience. Now it should be it. Should it should get pinned some years back of the audience. I I kids as a teacher with kids I I can see why there are parents and administrators going. Let's just get that book out of there because it's just too tough often. We don't want anything that's GonNa you know. Be Controversial on and I agree with you. I think Harper wanted people to feel it kids to feel it adults also to feel it the jets comfort yet. Yeah that's all part of it and it certainly is part of the play again. When I you know the people are in and bang? We're we're using that word. White people in the white characters are using that word in the play and it's jarring for them and and and mm-hmm but that's the way it was and that's part of sucking you into that world That that makes you pose you in and then punches you right in the face. Ace when Harper's story Kinda Rolls Out I understand the frustration of of Matt. But it's it's And there's a reason why she. She wrote at the way she wrote. That can help you with parents met no. Yeah yeah I I don't think so it's it's still a tough sell. I think that But at the same time you're right what literature is all about is saying that. Let me take you into this world and let me make you feel everything that I can possibly make feel with words on a page and if that if the if the goal is achieved and if you come away with the higher respect for culture that maybe you didn't have respect for. I think it's worth it. Thanks so much for your call. Matt I want to take one more call now from scituate Massachusetts Mark Tell us your thoughts on this high I really just wanted to thank Jeff Daniels for specifically for work on a skill MOCKINGBIRD I am the grandson grandson of of the civil rights leader Whitney on and I had three biracial daughters. And you know I'm I'm afforded a great deal of privilege wage and you know we live in a really nice community and I fifteen years trip to New York City And she texted me after that show show and she said that was the most meaningful thing I've I've ever seen And this is how they seen it as having seen seen the movie having read the book. We just adopted a dog from Alabama and Harper and and aren't you know so she knows there's unfairness in the world and It's it's not always easy to expose Kids from communities like ours to You know to diversity to To be able to understand stand that there is unfairness to be empathetic and soon to have her. Text me after that Just let let me know that you know the performance must have been a doozy Because for a fifteen year old kid texture DAB and say you know those the most meaningful thing I've ever seen Says A lot. I think appreciate We it really V.. At night after night after night I watched fourteen hundred. Mainly White Americans get their ears pinned back. They're they're experiencing injustice racial injustice racism. I mean you go to the to Latonya and Benja Shona Zona some of the door on the African American members of the cast and you and they kinda go. Yeah yeah this is a surprise to you and it is to White America got. I had no idea it felt this badly. Well that's kind of what it felt like back down and what it feels like right now. Welcome to To being you know this white him. It's a wakeup call for White America. That's what play really does mark. I Want I want to thank you for that. Call also acknowledged for the listeners. Who might might not be where Whitney young was really noted American Civil Rights leader your grandfather spent most of his career working to end Employment discrimination the US and turned the National Urban Urban League into really a fighting force in a major civil rights organization. Here so thanks for that call back through the generations about about the influence here. I WANNA play a clip. That gets at something thing that mark acknowledged there's a point during the trial it's a it's a pivotal cross examination where atticus is questioning. I'm Bob you'll that's the he's the father of the accuser of Tom Robinson he was making this false accusation. Bob Ewell is portrayed by the actor Frederick Weller. You're Mr you will you were doing allowed to run on that night. Say ran in the house ran to the window. Ran Inside. Ranelagh ran for Mr Tate. Did you run run for a doctor. Your honor to state that this man in me had post air go hawk conversation outside his house which you believe makes him disqualified qualified from asking me questions judge. The witness came to my house. We had a nice chat during which he threatened to Lynch. The defendant May and I made up some Latin words to end the conversation. It's a pretty funny moment and yet that funny moment envelopes and embraces a a pretty stark truth that he's cross examining a guy who's willing to Lynch people particularly willing to Lynch black people and anyone who would help them and there's A. There's the question of race that hangs over both the subjects you guys are exploring and the very nature performing this. Is your colleague Benja economically Who Plays Tom? Robinson soon had a very moving piece in Washington Post. Read as well ensure you've talked through a thousand times You know Between hearses and on off and on the stage he wrote in part. It's headlined every night racists. Kill me then I leave the theater for a world of danger Obviously an African American actor. He said what surprised price means how much it hurts. My heart to tell this black man story with it's inevitable end for the nightly consumption of this audience. I didn't realize how desperate I'd be for the comforting. In cases of people of Color in the sold out. Fourteen hundred thirty five seats Shubert theatre. I know that black people could come to this place. Share the pain experienced onstage. In way white theatergoers cannot and I think Sorkin at some event was asked a little bit about the way in which the characters were allowed to breathe and evolve the way in which the African American characters PURNEA and and Tom Robinson were given much more agency a much stronger sense of who they were but this was still very much a plane. Somebody's about Out White People Ryan for White People. I would say four to tell me about that. Well it's it's it's not news to into Banja and Latonya and California and Tom. This is how black people are treated. This is not news. This is not a newsflash. This is not an all my God. What a story? I had no idea they. They've lived at for decades centuries. Maybe so It it's it's you know. A lot of ways today. America is atticus sitting on the Porch Porch. We have to decide whether we want to get off the porch convinced of our fundamental decency but sitting on the porch or is it enough to just sit on the porch and go I believe in goodness and everyone and then I'm GonNa go about my day. The border wall wall is something that happens in Texas. I'm not from Texas so that doesn't really affect me but I'm all for it. What am I getting for today and we don't we don't stick to? We don't doesn't last and mockingbird the play stays with people it they leave and they question and then they're moved by it and they like the fifteen year old daughter of the of the guy you know saying it's the most powerful thing I've ever seen or words to that effect That's that's hitting white people right between the eyes now. What are you going to do about it? What are you going to do with that? You're GONNA sit on the porch or are you gonNa you know maybe go about changing things and briefly before the end of this segment does that production then in that conception of mockingbird endure endure past the the moment we're in in the were finding ourselves in go past it. Does endure passed the moment of crisis that that Aaron you have sort of seen and say in some ways is this is a response to definitely response to it definitely response to it absolutely. This is You're going to get off the porch or not. We're discussing discussing the Broadway play to killing mockingbird with Star Jeff Daniels. We're also going to discuss his prolific career on the stage TV and silver screen. You can join our conversation. What questions do you have for? Jeff Daniels The star of terms of endearment newsroom dumb and dumber and far more what performance sticks with you. I'm David Folkenflik in this is on point and because Jesse always has really good questions. What did John Malkovich wear when he was twenty two? I don't know how to describe. DESCRIBE IT Bullseye interviews with creators you love and creators you need to know from maximum fund dot org and NPR. This is on point. I'm David Folkenflik. We're discussing the roles career in life. Jeff Daniels the stage and film star currently appearing in the Broadway hit show to kill a mockingbird where where he's starring as Atticus finch. You can join the conversation. What questions do you have for Jeff? Daniels follow us on twitter. Find US on facebook at one point radio as I say with me here in studio in New York City. Jeff Daniels the Emmy Award winning actor starred Broadway played to kill a mockingbird. We're getting responses online as well as calls pouring in GBS NOT. They're posting the under that. That twitter handle says I live in Brunswick Maine home of Bowdoin College and the Joshua Chamberlain Museum. I just wanted to thank Mr Daniels amazing portrayal Colonel Chamberlain's into movies. He's Gettysburg and God and generals. Yes I've been to that I've been to the Joshua Tree Lawrence Chamberlain Museum in Brunswick Sport the mustache at that point because that was so impressive it was It was In in Gettysburg they it was a fake one but it was a good one. Yeah it was all about the facial hair and Gettysburg had good facial digital era bad facial hair well. GM says. I love his acting appreciate the time and care. He put in the role mark. The seventh writes my general assumption if Jeff Daniels is playing a role in something. That's going to be good mean girl rights. It's given the rise of bigotry white supremacy and intolerance in this country the presentation of to kill a mocking bird is timely. I want to go to the phones for a little bit. From Auburn Alabama Caroline Orlands Caroline. Hey I was wanting to thank Mr Daniels and Adam Sorkin for getting atticus off Mount Rushmore. In this State Harper Lee Miss Nell is a literary icon. Her Sister Miss Alice's an icon of the Methodist Church. This thing it's become almost cast in amber and I would hate for to kill a mockingbird to be pride and prejudice or you know something like like this. This is those were real people. The people the situations they're writing about real and it just seemed to me in recent years. Everybody's Reading Ed. Every but it's it's losing the reality the hard reality of it and I just want to thank you for that. I appreciate Then then that's what the play does I was saying earlier earlier. It the hard reality of feeling what What's going on in the story? It's we're able to do that on stage because you're locked in a theater theater and we don't stop we don't pause you. Don't put the book down it's it's And we approach it. Like atticus is a human being with strengths and weaknesses and Mostly strengths but they're the flaws and He it makes him human relatable and accessible and more more emotionally impactful for for the audience. Before we move on I wanted to play a clip Gregory Peck won an Oscar for his portrayal. All of Atticus finch in the movie version of Tequila mockingbird which came out in nineteen sixty. Two here is Peck's atticus explaining the importance of empathy to his daughter Scout. A single kick scout get along better with all kinds of folks. You never really understand that. President you consider things from his point of view Out of his skin woke around now. I talked a little bit earlier. Nasty bit about the question of empathy and all that to me. Yeah I wanted to ask you a bit about Gregory Peck. I mean my I used to do. An impression of Gregory Pratt consisted entirely of saying skirt. So so you know like he's a pretty tough guy as person not thinking to play the role to get out of your head for that. How do you approach taking over a role that was so defined find In performance way by such a well known figure I never let him in. I had seen the movie maybe as a kid. I don't really remember Brit I had not read the book until Aaron Sorkin said would you like to play on ICUS. was not on the reading list to the school. I went to But I I and I watched the movie one more time and like a year and a half ago just to see his choices because as Robert Deniro says as an actor is only as good as his choices and I wanted to see how he chose to do that clip right there You know where he put the emphasis how he you you know the where the pauses are all that. I watched it once to see what he did but I didn't want to know any more about what he did. Because we're this isn't the Horton foote screenplay imply that we're doing it. Sure isn't and and so it. It would have been a disservice a distraction An impediment to have have him in the room with me every day. I was working on this. So with all due respect to him I hit the delete button and I looked at the role as if I were originating donating it. When it comes to Aaron Sorkin play on Broadway I was originating it I am originating and so that's the approach? I took writer on good or bad when all the book people came in and that first month of performances and held the book against their chest saying. Please don't ruin this for me. We walked up going well. We might bom here. It is and we got. We got up over them. And you know you did that and you had to. You know the Joel Rudin and others had to get through the states Issues as well and yet I think there's very much honored spirit but does updated. Melanie Hallway one of our listeners posts online. I love your point that America is advocates. Get off the Porch America she writes. WanNa take a call from kingsport Tennessee right now dylan. Thanks for joining us. What's your question for Jeff Daniels? I yeah I just had Had A question being I grew up watching dumb and dumber and just loving his comedy and everything else. I just wonder how does how does Jeff Daniels it's become advocates. How does he becomes somebody as serious as that coming from? You know being a comedian and everything else. How was he able to do so many roles and be so serious especially in some Show that is serious. That is going on right now with all the issues and everything going on with the US. Well obviously I need therapy. I I have likened it to kind of legalize schizophrenia My little trick is to keep it simple to not bring what I've done before into the rehearsal room for this particular project. Whatever that may be start fresh? That's what we did in theater off Broadway way back in the seventies eighties eighties. No one ever asked. Hey could you do that thing you did in the last play. Just do it for us. That's what you hear in Hollywood. You hear where's your mark. Where's your brand? What's that thing you do just do it for us? Theater was brand new every time and the way I would get into people would be you know you do all the preparation the reading the work that the the memorization the staging all stop. And then eventually you've gotTa think like atticus what's advocates thinking about. When he's not speaking is he listening? What is he thinking about? What scout saying what's he you know? When when when Bob Dole is on his porch kind of trying to you know convince atticus you just let this all go what are you thinking about? It's that inner monologue that actors have and even someone as stupid as Harry done on in dumb and dumber with an I. Q of eight has thoughts. He has thoughts going through his head. So if you can think like the characters a little bit and then other things will happen then you kind of become this other person. It's just a don't make believe that's all it is but it's an internal thing where you trick yourself often believing you're really either atticus finch or as stupid as Harry done. Are they still both fun. Fun Yeah I mean. I know it's a job. It's your application education. It's your profession that pays the bills does other things. It's still get enjoyment yet fulfilment described this as therapy. I'll tell you when the fifty minutes are up breath. Oh excellent It's a challenge. It's still a challenge. I'm still interested in it. It's what I do. I've worked forty two years to get as good as I can be at this and everything I've ever learned I bring with atticus and so there's this is kind of like is surgery fund Y- ESPN no but it's there's the skill and this technique in this training that comes into every night when you go on stage and so it's this execution of everything everything you've learned about this particular field. It's fun when it works and most often it works if you've done the preparation which goes with anything not just with being an actor if you've prepared and if you've outworked everybody else in particularly outworked yourself so there is no way that anyone could do this better. You have convinced yourself of that. Then you ready to walk out on stage. Then it's fun. I read somewhere that you said that. You You memorize the line for this about three months before opening. You just said you needed to have that in your head you know. Locked in that was to beat Gregory Peck and to beat the critics I I am. It's an athletic thing you you you You see all these guys and training camp and football and this and that they they they spend months getting ready for that first game I take the same approach and with the with the the heat that was on this with. He's going up. He's trying to do what Gregory Peck dead. And then the curtain goes up and the critics are sitting there and you have to be five times more prepared than the Guy who taught the book that sitting in row eight or the critic sitting there. Who's WHO's you know boned up and got ready to really review the mockingbird thing done some research on you have to be way ahead of those guys in order to look out at them and go? Oh keep up. I want to go from row. Eight at the Shubert theatre to line five a call from Oklahoma City Oklahoma. Dean go ahead. What's your what's your question for? Jeff Daniels Hi. My wife and I loved you in the newsroom and specifically the first team where you come out. That America isn't the greatest country in the world anymore. Do you feel that this play is kind of a response to try to do a course correct America one of the greatest country in the world again. I think it's it challenges. Those who watch it. Just it's like those who watched that speech newsroom. It's what art supposed to do. We aren't here to provide you the answer. We can provide what we think but then you need to walk out and go. What do I think about that? Do I agree with that. Do I not agree with that. Do I think there's work to be done. Are we the greatest country in the world. Maybe we're or not. Did they have good points if we can get you thinking on your way home. Then we're not then we're more than just entertainment than we're art than we've done on our job so for thank you so much for that. I appreciate that call and that question Dean Let's talk about the newsroom for a moment It's it was. Also collaboration with Aaron. Sorkin a political drama series on. HBO From Two Thousand Twelve to twenty. Fourteen you start as the anchor will mcevoy for the Atlantis Cable News Channel. ACN The the exterior that was filmed at the Bank of America building. Just a half block from NPR's offices here in New York There's a early on. There's a scene in which there's a panel discussion your stage. I think the university and you respond and as the speech that our caller was talking about you responding to college student. WHO's asking you why you think America is the greatest greatest country? Why you think America's the greatest country in the world? You kind of deflect the question I but after pressure from the moderator. You Change Your approach. There is absolutely no L. Evidence to support the statement that we're the greatest country in the world or seventh in Literacy Twenty-seventh in math twenty seconds science forty ninth. In life expectancy one hundred seventy eight in infant infant mortality third in median household income number four and labor force a number four in exports. We lead the world in only three categories number of incarcerated citizens per capita number brother. Dulce who bleed angels are real defense spending where we spend more than the next twenty six countries combined twenty five of whom her allies. None of this is the fault of a twenty year old college student but you nonetheless the less art without a doubt a member of the worst period generation period ever periods. When you ask what makes us the greatest country in the world? I don't know what you're talking about. Daniels I see you laughing and shaking your head of those numbers you got to memorize all those numbers. Yeah it's bringing back so you're saying thanks Erin appreciate she and what makes it great. It's that that this kind of data this kind of these kind of numbers. This kind of specificity is his in will mcevoy's had we'll mcevoy is You know the conceited. He's an outraged Republican with decent impulses is that lead him perhaps in some ways to more liberal view. It's seems as though there's a little bit olbermann little bit of Joe Scarborough. Some other folks tossed in there. You know to be Verita student like she's not the one who didn't deal with global warming right lake. All the mcevoy isn't worrying about what's fair to the student right now. I think that's actually a very fair point. How would what mcevoy deal with covering covering the current moment? Hard to say without Aaron writing it for me I think he would beyond the attack. He reminded me you know I never took. I never studied the the the guys you mentioned. I didn't study anyone. I felt that where we were heading with. mcevoy and I was guessing that I probably didn't want to say that I sat down with say Brian Williams and really shadowed him for three years years and then basically was throwing camera throwing cell phones at cameras and that looks bad for someone that you start so. I didn't study anybody but Tim Russert on meet the press. When you sat down across from Tim Russert? There was no escaping and he pressed and he talked around or game a talking point he came right through that like with a truck. And that's mcevoy. That's that's what I as mcevoy. Akhavan came to during the three seasons as the show evolved and also probably would be. What's going on now? He would be a tough interview for whether it's trump whether it's the you know anybody on his staff I don't think Kellyanne Conway would get away with what she's getting way with if she was sitting across from we'll mcevoy an honest broker Your feet are being held to the fire. And we're turning it up in the Min- so we got left you know where do you find truth and meaning right now in h Where you find so much that that caused kind of pain about our contemporary moment I find minded in the artists I'm waiting for it out of Washington and just a very complicated dangerous time To impeach not to impeach sure I don't know enough about Washington and what's at stake. I do know what I want. which is honest and accountability and the rule of law? And all I want I out. I don't know the best way to get to that but I wish it would happen tomorrow but you find meaning in artists. Frank Rich wrote something after nine eleven. I forget the magazine But six weeks after nine eleven wrote an article saying where are the artists. And we need you now. We need you to eliminate what this is reflect on what this is help us understand what just happened. And I remember springsteen doing an interview and and driving around New Jersey and he was at a light or something and somebody pulled up next to him and leaned out the window and said we need you now. Then springsteen springsteen wrote the rising. That's what I feel that the American theatre is doing with mockingbird even hearing the words of Jeff Daniels Starve the Broadway. Play Tequila L. Mockingbird Jeff Daniels so delighted to have you in Studio for the show today thank you very much. You can continue the conversation. Get the podcast website on point radio DOT ORG and follow us on twitter and facebook it on point radio on points produced by inobound justin down. Brian Harte Sanski Modest sonal cells and Poli James. Russell Schroeder Chris Tanner and Adam Waller with help from David Marino. Our executive executive producer is carrying shipment. Me I'm David Folkenflik in this is on point.

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