Jeff Daniels wouldn’t be surprised, knowing how Season 1 went, to see more brickbats hurled at Season 2 of “The Newsroom.”
The sophomore round of HBO’s Aaron Sorkin-created series about a fictional cable news network starts Sunday (July 14) with Daniels back as Will McAvoy, the senior anchor who remains opinionated and obstinate.
That’s clear right from his season-opening verbal volley with a network lawyer played by new cast member Marcia Gay Harden (who won a Tony Award opposite Daniels in the 2009-10 Broadway run of “God of Carnage”).
“You know, going in, that you’re going to fry some people,” Daniels tells Zap2it, “and some folks in the media overreacted (to Season 1), One prominent cable news guy said, ‘We’ve been told to stand down on you guys because we hear you’re coming after us.’ He hadn’t even seen it yet, and a lot of them just helped that view.
“Then you get into the attack on the Tea Party,” Daniels says of one “Newsroom” element, “from a guy who’s a moderate Republican, by the way, in Will McAvoy. But they don’t hear that. All they hear is that it’s just a ‘liberal fantasy’ … or so says Fox News.
“But if they really look at the show, and if they stick around for the end of Season 2, they’re going to find Will is really saying, ‘Get in the room and do your jobs. Don’t come out until you have a deal, Congress. And White House. And Republicans. And Democrats. Govern. Work it out.’ And we don’t have that country or those politics right now. That’s what this show is screaming about, at least politically.”
As for the personal politics Daniels portrays on “The Newsroom,” the new season begins with Will confused as ever about his status with ex-flame Mackenzie McHale (Emily Mortimer), now the executive producer of his platform “News Night.”
“Emily is just a joy, and that makes it so much easier,” Daniels says of Mortimer, who literally shoves him up against a wall early in the new season. “We’re friends, and we work hard together before the day [of filming a scene] to run those lines, so that the viewer can believe these two characters have known each other for years.
“You don’t just show up, shake hands and make goo-goo eyes at each other and try to pretend that’s chemistry. We want to look like we know what each other is thinking and can finish each other’s sentences, and all that stuff takes time.
Also prepping to reunite with Jim Carrey in the movie-comedy sequel “Dumb and Dumber To,” Daniels concludes that “Will and Mac are ‘opposites attract.’ He absolutely loves her, and he can’t stand her. And she stands up to him far more than a lot of pundits and critics gave that character credit for.”