The Showtime miniseries The Comey Rule was recently broadcast to record ratings. Billy Ray, the writer and director of the miniseries joined Rick to discuss why this was so important to be made and why now is the perfect time for its release.
I spent a couple of days watching the mini series The Comey Rule, which was fantastic. The actors were phenomenal. Jeff Daniels, I love anyway, but the guy who played Trump was just absolutely incredible.
Here to share some thoughts on this great mini-series is the writer and director of The Comey Rule, Billy Ray. Thanks for taking time for us.
Thanks for having me. It’s a pleasure.
As I’m watching it, I couldn’t help but think that had Comey just listened to his wife, we wouldn’t be in this problem. If men just listened to their wives, we wouldn’t have half the problems we have.
Well, you know, I was tempted to feel that way myself and I actually told Comey that that’s how I felt the first time I ever spoke to him. I told him flat out that I thought he had thrown the election to Trump.
Did you plan on making him the sympathetic kind of good guy character that he’s come out of this looking like?
No, I just planned on telling his story and letting people make up their own mind. I’m not going to tell people how to feel on something that’s this personal for so many Americans. My feeling was everybody thought they knew what happened in 2016, but what they thought they knew was based on the lens they were looking through.
My feeling was to go inside the rooms that no one has access to and show what actually happened at the FBI and the DOJ and the White House, and then make up your own mind.
My suggestion to the audience: You be Jim Comey for five minutes. Here are the facts on the ground; here are the pressures; here are the constraints; here are the political realities. What would you do?
That’s not an apology for Comey; it’s just an exploration of the process by which they made those decisions.
He’s in an untenable position. He knew he was screwed. He knew there was no good option here.
That’s right. Look, I’ll tell you why I wanted to make it. There’s a group of people that Trump mischaracterizes as the deep state, and those people are actually dedicated public servants. There are people who work for the United States government and care deeply about it, care about our democracy, care about the apolitical intentions of the institutions that make that democracy possible.
It is heartbreaking to be a public servant right now if you give a damn about America.
While the FBI was putting all of that effort into the midyear exam case, which is Hillary’s emails, a complete non-crime where nothing happened, at the same time, they’re investigating what Russia is doing to the American electorate, which is maybe the biggest crime of our lifetimes.
An equal amount of weight was given to both within the FBI, and a ridiculously disproportionate amount of weight was given to the Hillary emails in the public and in the press.
The fact that is that the Russians handpicked our president in 2016, and they are looking to do it again in 2020.
That’s not a matter of conjecture; that is a matter of fact; everybody knows that it’s happening. The difference is that in 2020, they have the full knowledge and willful participation of the Commander-in-Chief of the United States of America. That’s new, that’s unprecedented and what is the rest of America is going to do about that?
The one scene that grabbed me is the single dinner with Trump and Comey. Could this really have happened? Could it really play out like this?
Oh yeah. The dinner scene is what happened, and it was the only day, by the way, that I had Comey on set. I made sure that if there was going to be one day he visited set, it would be the loyalty dinner.
One of the greatest compliments I ever got was after the first take, I said, “What do you think?”
[Comey] said, “You are ruining my day in a really great way. This is exactly what it felt like.”
I asked him , “Did I get Trump right? Did I get the experience of talking to Trump right?” And he said, “You did. Because the experience of talking to Trump is, it’s like getting hit by 10 fire hoses at once. And if you can manage to get your hands on one of them, you congratulate yourself, but you’re still getting hit by nine more fire hoses.”
That’s how Trump talks, so that’s how I directed the scene. I went up to Brendan Gleeson, who plays Trump , and I talked to him about the firehouses and I just said, “Don’t let him breathe. Just keep knocking him off balance.” Then I went up to Jeff Daniels, who was equally brilliant, and I said, “Don’t ever let him see you off balance. Whatever you do, don’t let him see you shake him.” And then you got that conflict. I think that’s why those scenes have a life because the actors are playing such great intentions.
We were doing a first draft of history. We were doing the first dramatic interpretation of Donald Trump ever. And that brings with it a great deal of responsibility.
I love Alex Baldwin. I think those sketches are really funny, but we weren’t doing a sketch. We were doing a dramatic interpretation of Trump, and maybe it’ll be the only one ever because after what Brendan Gleeson just did, what actor’s going to want to take it on? I mean, he set the bar pretty high.
But what that meant to me was we had to play fair. We had to make sure that his hair wasn’t cartoonish. We had to make sure that his makeup wasn’t cartoonish, although Trump’s sometimes is. We had to make sure that the suits fit better than Trump’s suits actually do. We weren’t going to do a joke voice with him and I wasn’t going to write him ridiculous dialogue.
We were going to play him as he actually is and let his actions define him. Especially to Americans who had voted for Trump, this is the guy, this is who you chose to lead you. It’s up to you, what you think of him and his behavior, but we’re not going to stack the deck.
We’re going to let you make up your own mind. And that was the intention.
I think you succeeded there.
[Trump] loves to go after Jim Comey in the public square, but one thing is really clear and provable: James Comey has never told a lie in the public square. He’s never said anything in any interview or under oath that is untrue or is even shaky. Not once.
Donald Trump’s told 25,000 lies. That is the nature of his character; that is how he governs.
So when I was faced with a scene like that scene where I have Comey’s recollections, which were memorialized right after the meetings took place, what I had to ask myself was, have I ever seen anything in Donald Trump’s public behavior that contradicts what Comey is asserting here? And the answer was no. Everything that Donald Trump does in public comports perfectly with what Comey said he did in those meetings.