"It was a rare time when I didn't take their advice," the star of Broadway's To Kill a Mockingbird tells PEOPLE

By Dana Rose Falcone and Alicia Dennis
May 23, 2019 12:00 PM
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Jeff Daniels is celebrated for his dramatic performances as a Western outlaw in Godless, a counter-terrorism expert in The Looming Tower, a brazen news anchor in The Newsroom, and currently as lawyer Atticus Finch in To Kill a Mockingbird on Broadway. But sometimes, Daniels just wants a laugh.

So in 2013, after winning his first Emmy for his starring role on Aaron Sorkin’s HBO drama, the actor jumped right into filming something a little, well, dumber.

“I won the Emmy for the first season of Newsroom on Sunday night and was on the set of Dumb and Dumber To in Georgia on Tuesday morning [for the] first day of shooting,” Daniels, 64, tells PEOPLE in this week’s issue.

Credit: Martin Schoeller
Jim Carrey and Jeff Daniels in 2014’s Dumb and Dumber To
| Credit: REX/Shutterstock

As he reveals to PEOPLE, Daniels’ agents weren’t thrilled at first about his choice to join Jim Carrey in the 1994 original, and advised him against originally taking the role.

“It was a rare time when I didn’t take their advice,” Daniels says. “But their position was, ‘We are trying to turn you into a serious, dramatic actor. You can do a comedy, but you can’t do a dumb comedy that’s aimed at 12-year-old boys with the guy who just did Ace Ventura.’ ”

RELATED VIDEO: Mary Badham Visits To Kill a Mockingbird on Broadway

For more on Jeff Daniels, pick up the latest issue of PEOPLE, on stands Friday

But the three-time Tony nominee went for the part because he wanted to flex his comedy muscles.

“I had done some indies that didn’t make money because I loved the scripts and I knew I could do more and I knew I could do comedy,” he says. “I figured if I could do Dumb and Dumber and stay with [Carrey], all the dramas I was doing and then have done subsequently, that’s range.”

The film would go on to become a huge hit for the actor, grossing over $247 million worldwide.

To Kill a Mockingbird is now playing on Broadway.