In 2007, Jeff Daniels starred as Ray in the first American production of David Harrower’s profoundly unsettling drama “Blackbird,” about an older man confronted by a woman over the relationship they shared when she was a 12-year-old. This year, Daniels (“The Newsroom,” “Dumb and Dumber”) returned to the show in a Broadway version — co-starring Michelle Williams — that won him a Tony nomination.
What’s changed for you, doing “Blackbird” the second time around?
Last time I didn’t explore the addiction that is this guy’s failing: 12-year-old girls. I liken it to an alcoholic. There’s the fight with the character Michelle plays, but also he’s fighting within himself. As alcoholics will tell you, you’re powerless against it. It will wait you out. And then she shows up at 27, but he can see her as 12, and she’s like an open bottle of whisky.
Does the show change much from night to night?
You’ve got to make it alive every night, which is different from a mule-on-the-trail, greatest-hits performance. So Michelle and I, being from film, where take one is different from two is different from three, sometimes I’ll just spin something differently. It wakes us up. It keeps us focused. It’s the reacting to each other, and the listening to each other, because she just came at me in a new way tonight. That makes it come alive.
You’ve done TV, film, stage. Do you have a preference?
When it’s great, nothing beats Broadway. When you get the reviews, when you get Tony nominations, and you’re out there in front of that crowd. It’s hard work. It’s a grind. But at 8 at night, you get to do it again. When we do “Blackbird” well in front of an audience, you can’t get that feeling in front of a camera.
Because of your role on “The Newsroom,” you seem to get asked about Donald Trump a lot.
I was a fictional expert. But why not? He’s kind of a fictional candidate, so why not go to a fictional anchor and get your real news from that?
What you didn’t know about Daniels
AGE: 61 GREW UP IN: Chelsea, Mich. BEST TV SHOW FOR DECOMPRESSING AFTER A PERFORMANCE OF ‘BLACKBIRD’: “Impractical Jokers” RECENT READS: “No Ordinary Time” by Doris Kearns Goodwin, “Zero K” by Don DeLillo PLAYLIST: Darrell Scott, “Couchville Sessions” POSITION ON HIS HIGH SCHOOL BASEBALL TEAM: First base