Sharon Bialy and Gohar Gazazyan interview ‘The Comey Rule’ casting directors
Sharon Bialy and Gohar Gazazyan both knew that they had an incredible task in casting someone to play Donald Trump in the Showtime limited series “The Comey Rule.” “His mannerisms and the way that he carries himself has been done so much in comedy. We were really leaning towards a sort of authentic portrayal of him, but there’s still that part of him that is almost like a sketch version of a person,” Gazazyan remembers in our recent interview (watch the exclusive video above). They would eventually land on Brendan Gleeson, but there was one small problem: he turned it down. This forced Bialy to exercise her powers of persuasion to help change his mind. “I wrote a beautiful letter to him. And then I just kept calling and saying, he really should talk to Billy. You really should talk to Billy or, or read it again. And the manager was really helpful, saying, let me talk to him and we just kept, we just didn’t want to take no for an answer.”
“The Comey Rule” is a dramatization of James Comey‘s tenure as the head of the FBI from 2013 until May of 2017. The limited series consists of two episodes written and directed by Oscar nominee Billy Ray. The first examines how Comey (Jeff Daniels) handled the FBI’s investigation into Hillary Clinton’s use of a private email server while serving as Secretary of State. While this is going on, we see some of the ethical questions that are arising from Trump’s presidential campaign. The second episode examines the relationship between Trump and Comey as the Russia investigation starts to come into focus and eventually culminates in Trump firing Comey from his position.
In addition to Trump, the pair also faced a daunting task in casting Trump’s presidential predecessor, Barack Obama. “I give a lot of credit to our producer, Shane Salerno, who wouldn’t let us settle. We had found a couple of people that were good actors who really looked like him, and they didn’t have that star power in a way that Obama has himself,” Bialy says. In holding out, they finally were able to land Kingsley Ben-Adir in the role. Gazazyan adds, “He was a little young and so that was the thing that was kind of holding us back, but you couldn’t deny, the gracefulness that Barack Obama has that Kingsley himself also has, and there was that physical resemblance.”
The series also contains several well-known actors playing roles with not a lot of screen time. This included T.R. Knight as Reince Priebus, Joe Lo Truglio as Jeff Sessions and Peter Coyote as Robert Mueller. Bialy explains that it wasn’t a tough sell to have these people come on for such small roles. “I think Billy Ray is an actor magnet; actors love him. I think most of the actors felt a real commitment to being in this so that they could have something to say politically.” She added that the caliber of the main cast was also an undeniable draw. “You know, you do one line with Jeff Daniels and it’s often better than 25 lines with a lesser actor in terms of how you’re growing as an artist for the actors that are doing it.”