On Monday, June 23, 2014, I spoke on the phone with Emmy® Award-winning actor and Michigander extraordinaire, Jeff Daniels, on topics ranging from acting to music; from child-rearing to baseball; from his hometown of Chelsea, Michigan, to New York, L.A., and the film set of Dumb and Dumber (1994); and from his award-winning role as the charismatic anchorman, Will McAvoy, on the hit HBO show The Newsroom (2012-present) to his role as the lovable numbskull, Harry Dunne, in the long-awaited (20 years, in fact) sequel Dumb and Dumber To (2014), due out on November 14.
Daniels is not only an actor, a writer, and a musician, but he is also a huge supporter of the arts and Michigan, and of the arts in Michigan. He’s the founder of The Purple Rose Theatre Company in Chelsea, and he’s an all-around upstanding guy. He even dialed me back when my call was dropped.
As of tomorrow (August 13), Daniels is kicking off a 14-date tour of Michigan and the greater Midwest with the Ben Daniels Band. The complete interview will be featured in the forthcoming issue of Old Northwest Review this fall, but I thought it would be good to share a little taste of it with you today, just in time to book your tickets to their first show at the State Theatre in Bay City, Michigan, tomorrow night. Be sure to report back to us on the experience. –K.M. Zahrt
K.M. Zahrt: How does your music fit into your career?
Jeff Daniels: You know, you walk out with your guitar with your own songs. You’re the writer. You’re the director. You’re the performer. There’s no studio. There’s no editor. I like that. I like that creative freedom. Certainly the acting gets a lot of people to buy tickets. I enjoy acting for a lot of reasons, but I understand why they’re showing up to see me play music. I always find myself enjoying that creative control, and I don’t get that anywhere else.
KMZ: I understand you’re gearing up for a tour this August, playing shows around Michigan and the greater Midwest.
JD: I’m going to go out with my son’s band, the Ben Daniels Band. I’m really excited about that. It’s not going to be, he opens and they stand in the shadows or something. We’re putting a show together. When I get out of The Newsroom in mid-June, then we’re going to go into rehearsal and going out for the tour in August. I’m really looking forward to it. It’s going to be a lot of fun.
KMZ: Are you working on anything right now with music or writing?
JD: There’s a play I’m trying to write for the Purple Rose. I’ll start that back up again in the fall, and turn that in. We’ll see where we go after that. There’s a new CD that I’ve done with Brad Phillips. Brad produced it. I’ve played with Brad a lot. He plays mandolin and fiddle. We’ve been playing together on the road and at the Purple Rose for quite a number of years. I had him produce it. We’ve been working on that over the past year, and we’ll release that in the fall. We don’t have a name for it yet, but it’s a new CD with all Michigan musicians. And Dumb and Dumber To is coming out, so we’ve got to brace ourselves for that.