Showtime’s The Comey Rule is adapted from former FBI Director James Comey’s book, A Higher Loyalty: Truth, Lies, and Leadership. Written for the screen and directed by Billy Ray, the new limited series premieres on Sunday, September 27, 2020.
It tells the behind-the-scenes story of the turbulent events surrounding the 2016 election, and its aftermath. Jeff Daniels stars as Director Jim Comey, and Irish actor Brendan Gleeson portrays President Donald J Trump.
Billy Ray and Jeff Daniels spoke with the TV Critics Association about the two-part series which will undoubtedly create discourse from all sides of this divided nation.
Billy, as this is based on Comey’s book, isn’t this one person’s version of the truth?
Billy Ray: That’s a very fair question to raise. If Jim Comey had written and directed the movie, I think that would be much more apt. But he didn’t. I did.
I used his book as a jumping off point. Then I got on a plane and went to DC and interviewed dozens of people on my own. I did lots of independent research; met with people from the other side of the aisle and got their perspective too.
By the time I sat down to write the script, I had input from lots of voices that were not Jim Comey. Voices that were critical of (him,) and I think the film reflects that.
Did you feel pressure, putting this together, knowing the possible repercussions?
Billy: Absolutely. I don’t think any writer/director has been given the opportunity that I have right now. To tell a story as it’s unfolding; to be a part of a national conversation right before a national election.
That brings with it enormous responsibility and obligation. But as long as we are being truthful in our storytelling, I feel that we are the match for that.
Jeff, I was struck by how you really nailed Jim Comey’s walk in this. What did you do to prepare for the role? Was perhaps physicality a more important part of it than usual for pulling this off?
Jeff Daniels: I put two inch lifts in my shoes, which got me to 6′ 5″. I’m still not 6′ 8″, but I could act the other three inches.
I (asked) Billy when he came to me with this, “Will the network pay for great actors? I’ve got to have great people around me because I bounce off them. Half of my performance is in the other actor.” And it’s been the case up and down.
With Brendan in the “loyalty dinner,” the posture changed because here comes Trump. He’s just coming at you with this loyalty stuff, and it backed me up.
Jim (Comey) was (on the set) that day, and he said, ‘You’ve got my posture, the uprightness.’ It just comes with what you are being hit with. So there wasn’t a lot of personal training with a movement coach. It was just taking what I was given and using it.
Billy: By the way, Brendan said no the first time that we offered him the part. 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. And I’m very glad that he did. I’m glad he’s in Ireland right now, away from all of this craziness. I wouldn’t want to expose any actor to the flack that I imagine Brendan is about to get from our current president. Ireland may not be far enough away.
Do you know what changed Brendan Gleeson’s mind?
Billy: I don’t. I never asked him, because it didn’t matter and I didn’t need to know.
Jeff: I think his manager was leaning on him pretty hard. (He) was going, “(Brendan) needs to do this.”
Democrats hate Comey; Republicans hate him. What do you think the audience is for it?
Billy: I have not seen any signs in the last four years that the American public has lost its appetite for information about Donald Trump.
This country is 100 percent engaged and curious. I think that they may all have a point-of-view about Jim Comey, just like they all have about Donald Trump. I don’t see a way for them not to watch this because the actors are too good and the buzz is too strong.
Once they are watching, they are going to see that it’s actually a very fair and critical look at a lot of people. The decisions they made in 2016 and how it affected our democracy.
Is Donald Trump a character that you would like to play?
Jeff: I’d love to play him. I’m glad Brendan did. But yeah, I would have jumped at it.
Jeff: Because there’s risk involved. You could fail miserably. If you do it right, he’ll hate it; all those reasons.
Meeting Jim Soundbyte
Jeff was asked about meeting Jim Comey.
Click below for his response.
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