Jeff Daniels deftly captures the former FBI director in Showtime's 'The Comey Rule'

  • Jeff Daniels stars as former FBI Director James Comey in "The Comey Rule," airing Sunday and Monday on Showtime.

    Jeff Daniels stars as former FBI Director James Comey in "The Comey Rule," airing Sunday and Monday on Showtime. Courtesy of Showtime

 
By George Dickie
Gracenote
Posted9/27/2020 7:31 AM

A crackling script and a talented cast bring the extraordinary story of the 2016 U.S. presidential election to life in a two-part event series upcoming on Showtime.

"The Comey Rule," airing Sunday and Monday, Sept. 27 and 28, gives an immersive account of the events leading up to and following the election of Donald Trump as president, looking at the early days of the Russia investigation, the FBI's investigation of Hillary Clinton's emails and their impact on the election, as well as the stark political divide that has resulted.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                       
 

It also focuses on the tempestuous relationship of two men -- FBI Director James Comey (Jeff Daniels) and Trump (Brendan Gleeson) -- whose initial uncomfortable alliance turned to rancor following Trump's firing of Comey in 2017.

The able cast also includes Holly Hunter as acting Attorney General Sally Yates; Michael Kelly as former FBI Director Andrew McCabe; Scoot McNairy as former Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein; Oona Chaplin as former FBI lawyer Lisa Page; and Steven Pasquale as former FBI agent Peter Strzok.

Comey's book "A Higher Loyalty" served as the basis for the story, which was adapted for television by director and Oscar-nominated screenwriter Billy Ray ("Captain Phillips"), and was augmented by interviews with several of the key players. Thus, there is information here that doesn't appear in the book.

What comes through is the selflessness of those who serve their country and, in Comey's case, his devotion to the FBI.

Jeff Daniels plays former FBI Director James Comey in "The Comey Rule," airing over two nights on Showtime.
Jeff Daniels plays former FBI Director James Comey in "The Comey Rule," airing over two nights on Showtime. - Courtesy of Showtime
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"Comey is a relentlessly optimistic man," says Ray, who had unlimited access to Comey. " ... The day after Trump was elected, Comey said to his family, 'He has an opportunity to lead from the center in a lot of really interesting ways. And that office changes people. He's going to grow.' Even after his first few meetings with Trump, which were so unsettling, Comey was still giving Trump the benefit of the doubt, looking for ways to help Trump do his job better. ...

"Until the day Comey was fired, he considered himself a subordinate of the president," Ray continues, "whose job it was to support the president in every legal and ethical way possible -- and that was a dynamic I found dramatically captivating."

As Trump, the Irish actor Gleeson fairly disappears into the hair and skin of the 45th president, getting his voice, intonations, expressions and mouth movements to a tee. And Daniels deftly captures Comey's dedication to what he believes is the greater good.

"Watching the two of them on the set was like watching two great athletes stepping into a ring," Ray says. "Their focus, their talent, their utter commitment -- and the way they challenged one another, pushed one another to be better -- it was a beautiful thing to see."

• • •

"The Comey Rule"

Airs at 8 p.m. Sunday and Monday, Sept. 28-29, on Showtime

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