Jeff Daniels, who scored his first Emmy as lead actor in a drama Sunday for his role as acclaimed but troubled news anchor Will McAvoy in the HBO drama “The Newsroom,” said he was surprised but not shocked by one of the biggest upsets of the evening.
After all, Daniels won over a field of heavy hitters, including last year’s winner Damian Lewis of “Homeland,” three-time winner Bryan Cranston, repeat nominees Jon Hamm (“Mad Men”) and Huge Bonneville (“Downton Abbey”), and fellow rookie Kevin Spacey of “House of Cards.”
“I’ve been neutral about this whole thing,” Daniels said backstage. “I’ve been nominated a bunch of times -- Google it -- enough to not hope too much. You’re glad to be invited to the party. There are six of us nominated. There easily could have been 10 other guys. I was happy to win, but surprised.”
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The victory definitely put him in a party mood: “We’re going to party till dawn. And then I’m going to get on a plane to start shooting ‘Dumb and Dumber 2.’ The intellectual free fall from Will McAvoy to Harry Dunn -- imagine, if you will.”
Though “The Newsroom’s” acclaim from critics has not attracted huge ratings, Daniels emphasized that the drama would return for a third season. The second season concluded last week.
“We’re going to come back.... But we just don’t know when yet,” he said. “They’re trying to work it out with [creator Aaron Sorkin]”.
When asked if his role on the show had changed his opinion of the news media, Daniels gave kudos to his real-life counterparts.
Said the actor, “I’ve had great respect for these guys on all the major networks, especially when it’s breaking news. That’s when they earn their money because they have to get it right on the fly. It’s not easy to do. They’re competing with the Internet, they’re all struggling to tell it right.”
He added that he understood that the TV news industry was not focused only on sensational stories such as the Casey Anthony trial. “I’ve had a lot of the major guys say thanks for showing that struggle, that they’re at least trying to put the good stories on the air. I’m glad we were able to illuminate that.”
Even with two seasons of “The Newsroom” under his belt, Daniels said he still grapples with managing the rhythm of Sorkin’s rapid-fire, heavily detailed dialogue.
“Every two weeks, we get 80 to 85 pages, a lot of scenes where you go around the corner,” he said. “Rat-a-tat-tat. We want it to feel like that this is just falling out of our heads. That’s the trick. We work hard at it to make it look natural and spontaneous.”
Though he spoke of the lofty ambitions of “The Newsroom,” he eventually returned to the sequel of “Dumb and Dumber,” one of the biggest hits of his career. He was looking forward to reuniting with Jim Carrey, and said those who loved his bathroom scene in the original won’t be disappointed.
“There are some things we are going to do that will make the toilet scene look lame,” he promised. “Pale I cant divulge what. Just that they’ve topped it. The best thing about it: I get to work with a comedic genius.”