Jeff Daniels doesn’t mind ‘The Newsroom’ haters

Writer Aaron Sorkin and actor Jeff Daniels attend the after-party for HBO's new series 'The Newsroom' at Boulevard3 in Hollywood.
(Angela Weiss / Getty Images)

“The fact that everyone is talking about it, for whatever reason: challenged by it; disturbed by it; annoyed by it; loving it; can’t wait to see the next one -- all of the above, we absolutely love it.”

Jeff Daniels is speaking of the new HBO drama “The Newsroom,” in which he stars as insufferable newscaster Will McAvoy, and he wants you to know he’s undaunted by the commotion the Aaron Sorkin series has stirred up since its premiere last Sunday.

The workplace drama marks Sorkin’s first new TV series in nearly six years -- with past shows including NBC’s hit “The West Wing” and the short-lived “Studio 60 on the Sunset Strip.” The premiere of “The Newsroom” drew a solid 2.1 million viewers, but reception for the series has been less than warm.


“The fact that it’s blown up, the fact that people love it and that people hate it — that people are just screaming at Sorkin and getting bent out of shape about this, that and the other thing -- it’s great,” Daniels told The Times on Tuesday by phone. “What we love, believe it or not, is that people are talking about it.”

They’re not just talking about it, they’re tweeting about it ... and impresonating characters as they do so. As the Washington Post pointed out, Twitter accounts devoted to drunk versions of Will McAvoy and Charlie Skinner, played by “Law & Order” vet Sam Waterston, have already been created -- (@drunkwillmcavoy and @iamdrunksam, respectively).

“I don’t mean to speak for Sam, but I think we’re both honored to be Twitterized,” Daniels said. He added that he wasn’t surprised to hear his Twitter impersonator types his messages mostly in caps -- “I can see that. I mean, based on the pilot, sure. Will shouts a lot.”

And, particularly in the pilot, part of the barking includes prattling off stats effortlessly and without losing his breath. How does he do it?
“It takes a while,” he said. “I don’t have a photographic memory so it’s reps. The short answer is, you memorize it like a grocery list. You just get the words in there in the right order — don’t do anything with them and then you pick up speed. One you start to pick up speed, there’s a rhythm to them. Aaron writes rhythmically, there’s a musicality to it. Then it becomes a little easier to go through it.... Once you get it in your head, it just kind of rolls. It’s flows like a river … a very fast river.”

And he doesn’t think it’s outlandish. “We did a screening in New York a few days ago and all those guys were there — Chris Matthews was there, guys from CNN, guys from “60 minutes,” producers who have been producing for three decades. These people, they’re smart, smart people. It’s not unheard of to have that kind of information in your back pocket. Someone like Will, who knows the number and knows where America stands, he studies this stuff. Those people are out there.”


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Follow Yvonne Villarreal on Twitter: @villarrealy