Two-time Tony nominee Jeff Daniels stopped by The Tonight Show Starring Jimmy Fallon February 18 to talk about his latest starring role on Broadway: Atticus Finch in the stage adaptation of To Kill a Mockingbird.
“I knew that if I let myself worry about Gregory Peck winning an Oscar for it or Harper Lee's Pulitzer Prize-winning novel ... you just can't do that,” he said of playing the iconic role.
As it turns out, Daniels had contemplated leaving the business after Dumb and Dumber To (released in 2014). Host Jimmy Fallon asked: what changed?
“Aaron Sorkin with Newsroom turned it around,” Daniels replied. His role as news anchor Will McAvoy in the HBO series won him an Emmy in 2013; he was nominated for a Golden Globe that same year and two subsequent Emmy nominations in 2014 and 2015.
Sorkin is also the playwright behind Mockingbird. “Aaron comes to me and says, ‘We got the right to To Kill a Mockingbird on Broadway at the Shubert Theatre’—which is the Carnegie Hall of Broadway—‘and we want you to play Atticus,’ you know when Aaron Sorkin, 42 years into your career, says that it's the role of a lifetime,” he said. “Your job at that point is to give the performance of your life every night. That's how I approach it, that's how the cast approaches it, and that's why it works every night.”