“This is it,” Jeff Daniels told Today Show hosts Hoda Kotb and Savannah Guthrie November 26 of his latest Broadway outing: Atticus Finch in the new stage adaptation of To Kill a Mockingbird. “I've never had ‘Oh I've always wanted to play King Lear’ or something, and [my wife] goes, ‘This is the role of a lifetime,' and I go, 'Yeah I'm kind of realizing that.’”
Based on the beloved novel by Harper Lee, the stage version uses adult actors to play the child characters. “It's a burden on the three actors that have to do it, but the audience has told us within 30 seconds that's gone,” he said. “The performances of the three folks—Celia [Keenan-Bolger] and Will [Pullen] and Gideon [Glick]—they make the show as far as I'm concerned. And it works. Besides you’ve got Aaron Sorkin dialogue. Find me a nine-year-old that can do that. They don’t exist.”
On the story itself, Daniels says, “I think it's timeless. Great art is timeless. What Harper did in the early '60s based on 1934 Alabama, it still resonates today. Racism has been in this country since The Mayflower saw land. It's just been a part of this country. It hasn't gone away by any stretch, and this reminds us of what we are and who we are and maybe who we can become if we work at it.”
And Daniels will work at it for some time. “I'll be in it for a year. Which is what the old guys— Fonda did it, Jason Robards did it,” he said. “I'm in.”
Watch the full interview above.