Jeff Daniels On Building & “Getting Off Book” For Showtime’s Drama Series ‘American Rust’ – Crew Call Podcast

Jeff Daniels as Del Harris in American Rust. Showtime

If you’re looking for the best Americana drama nowadays, head over to the Pennsylvania rust belt.

After HBO’s 15-Emmy nominated detective series Mare of Easttown, we now have Showtime’s American Rust based on Philipp Meyer’s novel starring 2x Emmy winner Jeff Daniels debuting on Sunday, Sept. 12 at 10PM ET/PT.

After starring in such monumental series as HBO’s The Newsroom, Netflix’s Godless and Showtime’s The Comey Rule, Daniels executive produces his first TV series here with American Rust. He nabbed Meyer’s book back in 2005 with his manager Paul Martino, who is also an EP on the Showtime drama series. Like those in Daniels’ canon, his Buell, PA police chief Del Harris is deep-down a good guy, wanting to do the right thing, but, his conflicts run deep. As a murder occurs in town, and his girlfriend’s (Maura Tierney) son becomes suspect, Del must decide what lengths he is willing to go to protect the kid. All this while he’s trying to quit an opioid addiction in a factory town that has seen better days.

Daniels tapped Dan Futterman, one of the co-creators of the actor’s previous Hulu limited series The Looming Tower. 

Director Robert Altman once said that casting was 90% of a film.

“It’s the same thing when you’re building a company that’s going to shoot a show like American Rust,” says Daniels, “You don’t hire someone new on the way up –I don’t have time for that– I need somebody who has done it and has been successful and knows how to run the writers’ room and that was Dan Futterman.”

While Daniels left Futterman to oversee the directors, DPs and other departments, the actor mentored the younger thespians on set.

Explains Daniels, “I learned this on Newsroom: Get off book. Know it, and know what you’re going to do with it at 6AM when you show up. It doesn’t mean you can’t bounce and play tennis with the other actors. You have to do that.”

“There’s a thing in TV: No rehearsal. You use take one or take two. You can fight that or embrace that,” says Daniels, “I told the kids on the show ‘take the mirror down, and use the other actor.'”

“Trust that half of your performance is in Maura Tierney,” added Daniels talking about his American Rust co-star.

If the audience feels like flies on the wall with real people, Daniels explains “That’s just actors listening to each other; therefore chemistry.”

Daniels is a longtime renaissance man: He has his own theater company back at home in Chelsea, MI which is a longtime incubator for material, the Purple Rose Theater Company, and he passionately performs blues guitar; his album Alive and Well Enough with songs like “Trumpty Dumpty Blues”, “The Ballad of Trailer Jane” and “Jesus Was a Stoner” available now. We talk with Daniels about it all, including how he self-distributed his feature directorial debut Escanaba in da Moonlight in 2001, on today’s Crew Call:

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