How Does Tony Nominee Jeff Daniels Do Broadway? By 'Sprinting Face First into the Wall 8 Times a Week'

By: May. 24, 2016
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It's undeniable that Jeff Daniels' career has been a varied one. From his Emmy-winning role on Aaron Sorkin's THE NEWSROOM to one half of the comedy duo behind DUMB AND DUMBER, the stage and screen star has proven his versatility time and time again. Now he's back on Broadway in a role that has proven to be his most grueling yet.

Daniels just took part in SAG-AFTRA Foundation and's Conversations Q&A series, celebrating the vibrant theatre community in New York City and the actors who aspire to have a career on the stage and screen, where he talked to Richard Ridge about the journey his career undertook.

This is not Jeff's first time in Blackbird, as he played the role a few years ago at the Manhattan Theatre Club. On why he chose to revisit the play, he explained: "Broadway is a big deal. To star on Broadway is not a small deal. When you get the opportunity to do that, and you don't get them that often, cherish it."

BLACKBIRD tells the story of Una and Ray. Fifteen years earlier they had a relationship and haven't set eyes on each other since. Now she's found him again. The play has Jeff Daniels and Michelle Williams opposite just each other on stage for long periods of time.

On working every night opposite Michelle, Daniels says, "If you take the f**king mirror down, half the performance is in the other person. What he or she is saying... they're giving you the thing that's gonna push you over here. And if you're really listening, we're human beings. She's not going to do it the same way every night. She can't, we're not robots. So, listen for those differences and use them, especially if it's 8 times a week in a play. Anything you can hear or see or feel that's new or real, grab it and then throw it back to her. We do something new every night"

On giving a high energy performance every night in a play like this? Daniels claims, "There's only one way to do this. You gotta grab hands and sprint face first into the wall 8 times a week."

It's not even just an emotionally draining performance, but a physical one as well. "You eat right," Jeff declares. "Because when you eat the pizza and the 20 buffalo wings on Saturday night because you got Sunday off and you're hungover on food until Monday afternoon, that's not a good thing. You can't do that. So you eat right, you sleep all the time. I mean I'm 61, I'm in bed all the time!"

To see the rest of the interview, in which he talks about his roles in DUMB AND DUMBER and THE NEWSROOM, as well as getting advice from Jack Nicholson ("Well, this ain't Broadway. This is the pro game!"), check out Richard Ridge's interview with Daniels, here!

Photo by Walter McBride