It’s a problem Jeff Daniels rarely faces – being too short for a role.
But this was a role anyone in Hollywood – well, anyone except Brad Garrett or John Salley – would fall short of. Daniels was playing James Comey, the 6-foot-8 former FBI director.
“I put two-inch lifts in my shoes,” Daniels said, “which got me to 6-foot-5 …. I could act the other three inches.” (He’s shown here with Comey towering over Deputy Attorney General Sally Yates, played by Holly Hunter, who’s 5-foot-2.)
That’s part of the towering persona of someone who exudes authority. Comey confirmed that, Daniels said, during the only day he visited the set of “The Comey Rule,” the Showtime mini-series. “He said, ‘You’ve got my posture, the uprightness.’”
That uprightness is what people found both frustrating and reassuring. Comey had a specific vision of FBI propriety.
In the first half of the mini-series (9 p.m. Sunday, Sept. 27), that frustrates Hillary Clinton supporters … including Comey’s wife and daughter. He makes a public announcement – shortly before the election, against staff advice – that more Clinton e-mails have been found.
And in the second half, that frustrates Donald Trump. This peaked quickly during a scene in which the two men dine alone and Trump (Brendan Gleeson) asks for loyalty.
“It was Jeff and Brendan’s first day working together,” said writer-director Billy Ray. “And it was the only day that Jim Comey was on set with his 18- or 19-year-old daughter. So in terms of degree of difficulty for Jeff, it’s eight-and-a-half pages of dialog.”
From there, that second half hits like a tsunami of firings and retaliations. That peaked when it was found that staffers Peter Strzok and Lisa Page (Steven Pasquale and Oona Chaplin) were having sex.
“They were summarily smeared and dismissed because of who they sleep with,” Pasquale said, “by a bunch of people who are defending a person who is a lifelong sexual predator.”
The key to the second half was Gleeson – who almost wasn’t there.
“Brendan said no the first time that we offered him the part,” Ray said. “Jeff and I had a lot of consternation about that, because we thought he’d be so right for it. But happily, a month later, he changed his mind.”
He did the role, then retreated to Ireland, far from the political fuss that followed. It was up to Ray to oppose the original decision to hold “Comey Rule” until after the election. “This, as a commodity, just had so much more value before the election,” he said.
That’s when interest is highest, he said – although it should stay that way. “I have not seen any signs in the last four years that the American public has lost its appetite for information about Donald Trump.”
Would any of these actors like to play Trump someday? Some ducked the question, but Chaplin didn’t.
“Of course I want to play Donald Trump,” she said. “I think I’d do a pretty good job as well. I might need some time and burgers, but it would be good.”
That was spoken with the confidence (and whimsy) one expects from the granddaughter of Charlie Chaplin and the great-granddaughter of Eugene O’Neill.
– “The Comey Rule,” first half is 9-10:35 p.m. Sunday (Sept. 27), Showtime.
– Both halves are at 7:25 and 9 p.m. Monday. They repeat on Showtime2 that night at 11:30 p,.n, and 1:10 a.m. and then on Showtime2 at 8 and 9:35 p.m. Tuesday.