‘American Rust’ – Why Jeff Daniels says his character was fun to play

Actor stars as rural cop struggling with PTSD

Jeff Daniels of ‘American Rust’ Sunday on Showtime.

Q: How did you get into Del’s headspace?

A: … There are a lot of things going on with Del. The PTSD, which is very common for people coming back from any war. You know, they call it “the VA cocktail” where they put you on these opioids to kind of dull the pain and dull the tremors and dull the anxiety and the stress … . He’s got a history as a detective in Pittsburgh that he left, and now he’s a small-town police chief. There’s a relationship with Maura Tierney’s character, Grace, that he pines for her but she’s married/not married … and she’s got her own reasons as to why she’s not jumping towards Del, and so there’s a broken heart you’ve got to add to it. And then the murder happens and Grace’s son is implicated in it … .

And you find that Del, like many of the people in “American Rust,” it’s what we all keep going back to. These are good people and they have dignity and they have dreams and hopes just like everybody else, and most of theirs were unfulfilled. And they’re still good people but whether it’s the economy or their circumstances around them, are pushing them into bad decisions simply to survive … . And then those people are complicated, they’re very human and they’re fun to play.

Q: We know that Del is such an honorable man, but he has a tendency to be cop, judge and jury while under the influence of narcotics. Does this make him more interesting to portray, and what it says about the character?

A:  Yeah.  That’s the contradictions. A lot of what we’re going for in this is real people, their good and their bad, their strong and their weak, just like people in real life. This is less of a Hollywood-polished version of Southwest Pennsylvania and more of this cast trying to blend in and become one of them.

So, yeah, he’s still got to be a cop regardless of what he’s going through personally.  And he tries his best.  Which is a lot of what this show is.

‘American Rust’ – Jeff Daniels heads Showtime drama

George Dickie

George Dickie has been a features writer for Gracenote/Tribune Media Services since 1989, when “Hee-Haw” was still on the air and George “Goober” Lindsay was his first interview. His early interviews ranged from Jim Henson and Dick Van Dyke to Phil Collins and the Dixie Chicks.

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