Jeff Daniels, Olivia Munn Offer Advice on Mastering Sorkin Dialogue

Jeff Daniels Newsroom Premiere - H 2014
Photo by Richard Shotwell/Invision/AP

Jeff Daniels has some advice for the next actor to take on an Aaron Sorkin project.

“You have to know the dialogue and know what you’re going to do with it because it’s so intricate, so tricky and so fast that if you aren’t on top of that and ahead of it, your head will explode,” the Dumb and Dumber To actor told The Hollywood Reporter, joking: “And we have seen actors heads explode on our show because it just got to be too much.”

It’s a work ethic that Daniels, who plays leading News Night anchor Will McAvoy, claims is good for anything in life — “know it and know what you’re going to do with it” — and it’s also how he’s planning to approach his future projects, though he doesn’t think he’ll ever do anything quite like The Newsroom again.

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The HBO drama, recognized for its quintessential rapid-fire Sorkin dialogue, follows real events from the past year as covered by the fictional cable news network ACN. It will wrap up its third and finale season with six episodes, beginning with one focused on the Boston Marathon bombings.

Daniels isn’t the only castmember with advice for mastering the grand monologues and quick-witted back-and-forths that Sorkin writes for his characters. Co-star Olivia Munn, who plays intense economist Sloan Sabbith, believes in fully trusting the words the Emmy veteran writes.

“Sticking to the script verbatim isn’t really a handcuff when you’re dealing with Sorkin,” said Munn. "It’s a gift.” Even keeping with something as simple as a comma, she claims, can tell you something about the character. The journalism grad has other pointers, too: “I ask a lot of questions — I think more than most people,” acknowledged Munn. “I was able to talk out my character with Sorkin a lot.” In one of those conversations, Munn happened to tell Sorkin she speaks Japanese, which led him to write it into the show.

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As for Sorkin's reputation, Munn insists he's seen as scarier than he really is. “He’s so open to [discussion]. You go into his office and there’s candy everywhere and he’s got Coca-Cola that comes from Mexico in bottles and he’s like, ‘Do you want one of these special Coca-Colas?’” she recalled, adding to the next actors to tackle one of Sorkin's scripts: "Aaron’s the nicest, easiest guy to talk to. My advice is don’t be afraid and ask a lot of questions."


Twitter: @brynsandberg