“The urgent necessity that I was feeling to go make this show, I had sort of hoped was just pessimism on my part. It turns out it was not pessimism at all,” says “The Comey Rule” writer/director Billy Ray, reflecting on how his view of American politics has changed just since the premiere of the limited series last September. “The America that I was really afraid of, that I was trying desperately to reach, turns out is a very real thing and a very, very dangerous thing.” We talked to Ray as part of our “Meet the Experts” showrunners panel. Watch our interview above.
Based on former FBI Director James Comey‘s book “A Higher Loyalty,” the two-part docudrama recounts the upset victory by Donald Trump (played by Brendan Gleeson) in the 2016 presidential election and his eventual firing of Comey (Jeff Daniels) after Comey refused to drop investigations into National Security Advisor Michael Flynn and Russia election interference.
Immersing yourself in a story about very recent and very disturbing history is a “strange head space to be in,” but “there’s no way that I could have created characters that were more Shakespearian than James Comey and Donald Trump,” Ray points out. “One of the many blessings of telling true stories is that you get this human behavior handed to you that you don’t have to make up. It’s just idiosyncratic and incredibly powerful.” But the drama didn’t end there. Just since the series aired, Trump lost the 2020 election to Joe Biden but lied about widespread voter fraud, leading Republican lawmakers to try to reject the results and a mob of supporters to attempt an insurrection at the US Capitol on January 6.
Ray is making a miniseries about the insurrection too. “The challenge on that one is that everybody there had an iPhone, so there’s 10,000 hours of footage to look through, which no human being can do.” That’s different from “Comey,” where the challenge “was telling a story that everybody thought they knew, but presenting it to them in a way that they didn’t know” and getting to “the emotional core” of the title character. Let’s hope that someday soon Ray will be able to take on the challenge of making a limited series about our restoration of confidence in American democracy.
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