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Emmys 2013: What James Gandolfini Told Jeff Daniels Before ‘The Newsroom’

Actor talks "intellectual freefall" from "Newsroom" to "Dumb and Dumber To"

Three years before his Emmy nomination Thursday for HBO's "The Newsroom," Jeff Daniels appeared on Broadway with the network's most celebrated actor, James Gandolfini.

Gandolfini's "The Sopranos," created by David Chase, opened the door to many more cable dramas with complicated protagonists — including Daniels' Will McAvoy. 

"I did talk to Jim about a lot of things," Daniels told TheWrap about their co-starring work in 2009's "God of Carnage." "One of them was a series on television, and he had nothing but great things to say about HBO,and said 'Get yourself a good writer.'"

"I was lucky that a good writer wanted to get me," he said.

That writer was Aaron Sorkin, who with Daniels has created a crusading newsman determined to bring civility and common sense back to the news media — and the country.

Daniels said he was out on the links when he learned Thursday morning he had been nominated for Outstanding Lead Actor in a Drama Series.

"I was playing golf, and I got the call that I'd been nominated, and then I hooked into the woods, but I didn't care, I was so happy," he said.

"The Newsroom" hasn't always been kind to journalists, and journalists haven't always been kind to "The Newsroom." The Emmy nomination might provide Daniels a sense of validation — if he had paid attention to criticisms in the first place.

"I stopped reading reviews in late '90s," he said. "I'm aware that there were some various things, but it doesn't affect me, it doesn't matter to me. Because we've got to do what we do and what we think is best based on decades of doing it. That includes from Aaron on down. There's a reason why HBO wants him to write a series."

"The validation I need is whether HBO picks it up for another season every year."

He said he appreciates McAvoy for his complexity, flaws, and the fact that he does the right thing — "on occasion."

"The responsibility that he displays when he's in that seat, giving information to millions of people. They all have it, that's the one thing that kinds of shine through all the guys that do it for real. But amidst all of that he's a complete idiot when it comes to so many other things on the personal side of his life. Certainly his relationship with MacKenzie [Emily Mortimer]. That's one of the best things to play. He absolutely loves this woman — and can't stand to be around her at the same time."

Speaking of complete idiots: Daniels will get to go from playing McAvoy to reprising his role as Harry Dunne in "Dumb and Dumber To." He says he's ready.

"I think it's going to be a bit of an intellectual freefall to go from Will McAvoy to Harry Dunne, who I believe has an IQ of eight," he said. "I look forward to that, and I hope I don't have headaches trying to simplify Will's brain into Harry's."