The casting, at least, is inspired. They got Jeff Daniels, known for lecturing sanctimoniously about politics as Will McAvoy on “The Newsroom,” for the part of Comey. “The Comey role is kind of on the nose for Daniels, who already won an Emmy playing a Republican who’s not a Republican prone to noxious bromides about the American way,” notes David Rutz. They may have been stuck with Daniels for sheer physical reasons, actually. Not only does he bear a vague resemblance to Comey (good enough for TV miniseries work), at 6’3 he’s within spitting distance of Comey’s Lurch-y 6’8 frame. The elevated walkways laid down on set for Daniels to trod won’t need to be quite as elevated as for most other actors.
The miniseries is based on Comey’s own book and the screenwriter spent time with the man himself, so, yes, this will very much be a “Mr. Smith Goes to Washington” treatment of the main character.
He should have insisted on playing himself as a condition of selling the book rights. There needs to be a campy element somewhere in this production to offset the preachiness, like adding a little spice to a sweet dish to cut through the treacle. I’d tune in to watch Jim Comey as Jim Comey, lecturing Trump in the White House dining room on America’s civic heritage. I’m not tuning in for this:
The book shares Comey’s never-before-told experiences from some of the highest-stakes situations of his career in the past two decades of American government, exploring what good, ethical leadership looks like, and how it drives sound decisions. His journey provides an unprecedented entry into the corridors of power, and a remarkable lesson in what makes an effective leader.
From prosecuting the Mafia and Martha Stewart to helping change the Bush administration’s policies on torture and electronic surveillance, overseeing the Hillary Clinton e-mail investigation as well as ties between the Trump campaign and Russia, Comey has been involved in some of the most consequential cases and policies of recent history.
Ray researched the project for over a year in order to make the drama a fair, responsible and comprehensively documented account of real-life events. He traveled to Washington, D.C. and several other cities to meet with Comey, his family, and many other key players, including prominent journalists, FBI agents, government officials from both political parties and others.
No one wants a full career retrospective here. If you’re watching this, you’re watching for two scenes: The Trump/Comey White House “loyalty” conversation, obviously, and the scene the week before the election when our hero decides that duty requires him to upend the entire campaign by reopening the Clinton Emailgate probe.
And here’s the thing. Both of those scenes would be much more enjoyable played as comedy rather than the self-serious dramatic treatment they’re destined to receive. The entire Comey story from 2016 through his firing in 2017 is made for comedy, really. A pompous but well-meaning lawman bumbles his way through one absurd episode after another in the middle of a national election, with escalating consequences for the future of the free world, while encountering a bevy of absurd characters — Hillary, Strzok and Page, McCabe, the entire Russiagate Mos Eisley cast of characters, and of course Trump himself. It’s a political version of a “Mr. Bean” episode. Make it an over-the-top satire of history, like “Dick” or “The Death of Stalin,” mining the audience’s familiarity with the material for laughs. I’d pay good money to watch, say, Will Ferrell as James Comey puzzling over what to do with his conclusion that Hillary is sort of guilty of mishandling classified information but also sort of not. Imagine the Ferrell-ized version of the famous Comey press conference.
Imagine the Trump/Comey “loyalty” chat played by Ferrell and, for instance, Anthony Atamanuik.
The man who’s playing Trump instead is Irish actor Brendan Gleeson, who does resemble you-know-who in broad terms but will need some vocal training, as you’ll see from this 2017 clip. Exit question: What if the forthcoming IG report and Durham investigation end up accusing Comey of misconduct in the Russiagate probe? Does the miniseries get scrapped or do they do some kind of “antihero” thing with it? Jim Comey as the Joker would be good too.