What You Don't Know About Jeff Daniels

For over four decades, Jeff Daniels has wowed audiences with his immense range as an actor. From being one part of Dumb and Dumber with Jim Carrey to playing a no-nonsense news anchor in The Newsroom, the actor consistently wows audiences with his comedic timing and epic monologues.

After getting his start on Broadway, the actor went on to star in numerous big-name films, including Speed, the live-action remake of 101 Dalmations, Pleasantville, Steve Jobs, Looper, and The Martian.

Daniels has been nominated for more than 40 awards across his career (via IMDb), and won 24, including two Emmys for his roles in Godless and The Newsroom. Daniels certainly has plenty more to give audiences, as he'll be starring in yet another TV series for Showtime, called Rust. Not only that, but Daniels recently released his seventh studio album (yes, he's a musician too).

Is there anything he can't do? Well, here's what you don't know about Jeff Daniels.

Jeff Daniels started his career in theater

Daniels grew up in Chelsea, Michigan (via AARP), and left home after studying for three years at Central Michigan University. After enrolling in a theater program, Daniels went on to study at respected Eastern Michigan University drama school, which led him to be invited to join the Circle Repertory Company in New York City.

"One thing they taught me in Circle Rep: 'You have nothing if you don't connect with the audience, nothing, it's just self-indulgence," Daniels told Vanity Fair (via Howard Schatz). "It's the magic of it, it's the sleight of hand of it, you can grab it, lift yourself, become someone else. The ability to take a roomful of strangers on a journey is fascinating to me."

With the full support of his family, Daniels made the move and started his career on stage. He featured in off-Broadway productions of My Life, Lulu, Two from the Late Show, Fifth of July, and Johnny Got His Gun. Daniels' first role on film was Milos Forman's Ragtime in 1981, which was followed by appearances in Terms of Endearment and The Purple Rose of Cairo (via IMDb).

His agents tried to make him turn down 'Dumb and Dumber'

Up until 1994, Daniels had been playing very serious roles. That was until the script for Dumb and Dumber came along, which included a role that Jim Carrey specifically wanted an actor to play instead of a comedian. "He wanted an actor that would make him listen because he knew it was ping-pong," Daniels explained to Entertainment Weekly. "So I just let him lead, and Harry Dunne was like on a half-second delay to whatever Lloyd would do."

Daniels' agents very nearly made him give the role up (via The Hollywood Reporter), but the actor was adamant that he wanted to try comedy. He explained, "The three of them were going, 'OK, we're stepping in. You're not gonna do this movie. We're gonna get you out of it. You're on the Oscar trail to be nominated'."

He obviously didn't listen, and Daniels and Carrey went on to become one of the most iconic comedy duos on film. "I wanted to do comedy. And this was a chance to do it with somebody I thought was really good at it" (via The Hollywood Reporter).

Jeff Daniels is an accomplished musician & has released half a dozen albums

If there's one thing Daniels loves more than acting, it's music. "I started out doing musicals in high school and summer theater—that was my ticket onto the stage," Daniels explained to South Jersey Magazine. "I was able to sing, and whatever you pick up in musicals, you take with you."

However, when he joined the Circle Repertory Company in the late '70s (via New York Theatre Guide), he stopped completely. "The last thing they would do is a musical, so the music was suddenly, abruptly out of my life." So, Daniels brought the music back in by purchasing a guitar, which he threw into his car knowing that his "time in musicals was over" (via South Jersey Magazine).

During his career as a singer-songwriter, Daniels has released albums since 2005, with his most recent dropping in November of 2020. "I wanted people to pay attention [with this record]," he told Cleveland.com. "That means people like me, instead of taking the safe route and just being quiet, have to speak up. ... Otherwise, we're gonna live in a country that I don't want to live in."

Jeff Daniels auditioned for The Newsroom over breakfast

Daniels landed the role of network anchor Will McAvoy in The Newsroom pretty late into his career, and the actor continues to be eternally grateful for the role. "I couldn't have predicted that. I knew it would help," he told Collider. "I was to the point where it was like, 'How long do I want to keep doing this? At what point do I play the role I really don't want to play, for very little money, standing next to some 28-year-old who's making $10 million?"

That point thankfully didn't come, thanks to an impromptu audition during a breakfast meeting with Newsroom creator, Aaron Sorkin. "I really kind of did it there in the middle of the breakfast meeting ... and told a story where I started banging on the table," Daniels told HuffPost. Despite people looking up from their eggs in disbelief, the actor "ended up getting the role by the end of the breakfast meeting."

He moved his family to Michigan instead of Hollywood to create a "sense of normalcy"

Daniels married his highschool sweetheart, Kathleen Treado, in 1979, and the couple has three children together: Ben, 34, Lucas, 31, and Nellie, 28. "[Raising kids] slows you down," Daniels told People. "It always reminds you when you go back into a movie or a play that it's an extra dose of special."

Instead of staying in Hollywood to pursue his career, Daniels and his wife decided to move back to Michigan in 1986 to raise their family so they could "create as much a sense of normalcy as possible."

The actor explained (via The Hollywood Reporter), "I think I've always been kind of mistrustful of the 15 minutes [of fame]. That's one of the reasons that we wanted to raise the kids in Michigan because we knew how to do it there." He didn't think his career would last that long, so he thought, when it's over, "at least this way I'd be home."