The Accuracy Of The Comey Rule Casting Is Downright Eerie

How soon is too soon? With the 2020 presidential election less than six weeks away, there is a certain amount of nauseating deja vu happening with the return of several key players from the 2016 presidential election: James Comey, for instance. Because even though we’re currently still living through the havoc wreaked by Trump’s win, Showtime has already drummed up a two-part drama series chronicling the events leading up to his victory and the tumultuous days and months afterward, as seen through the eyes of the former FBI Director. The Comey Rule is based on Comey’s 2018 memoir, A Higher Loyalty: Truth, Lies, and Leadership, which called our current president “unethical … and untethered to truth and institutional values." In the book, Comey also asserts that "his leadership is transactional, ego driven and about personal loyalty."

Written and directed by Billy Ray (who wrote and directed based-on-a-true-story films Shattered Glass and Breach), The Comey Rule relies heavily upon its actors to bring well-documented public figures to life in ways both disturbingly accurate and entertaining.


Jeff Daniels plays Comey, adopting his serious and deadpan demeanor, opposite Brendan Gleeson, who plays a menacing Trump. Other actors of note include Holly Hunter as acting Attorney General Sally Yates, T. R. Knight as former White House Chief of Staff Reince Priebus, and Joe Lo Truglio as Jeff Sessions. Here, we take a look at the incredibly eerie transformations these and other Oscar and Emmy winners underwent in order to bring our stranger-than-fiction reality to the screen.

Photo: Courtesy of Showtime.

Jeff Daniels Plays James Comey

When Comey visited the set of The Comey Rule during filming, he felt “slightly ill,” he told Daniels in a joint Zoom interview with The New York Times. According to the former FBI director, the actor “ruined [his] day,” which was a huge compliment and testament to Daniels’ acting skills. Daniels, for his part, was just coming off a year of playing Atticus Finch in To Kill a Mockingbird on Broadway, and said he initially “[didn’t] have a clue how to” play Comey, which he saw as a good sign. In the Times interview, Comey called Daniels’ depiction “eerily accurate.”
Photo: Ralph Alswang/Walt Disney Television via Getty Images.

The Real James Comey

A lot can be said about James Comey and his role in the 2016 presidential election, ranging from his peculiarly timed announcement that the FBI would be investigating newly discovered emails from Hillary Clinton’s personal server just days before the election to later, leading the investigation into the Trump campaign’s possible ties to Russia. For the former FBI director, then, The Comey Rule is somewhat of a bid for redemption. “I thought it was important that this work be shown to the American people before the election,” he told the Times. “I hope it makes a difference because it tells the truth.”
Photo: Courtesy of Showtime.

Holly Hunter Plays Sally Yates

Holly Hunter set aside her role on Succession as politically savvy CEO Rhea Jarrell for a bit to join the cast as Sally Yates, the acting Attorney General who famously declined to defend Trump’s travel ban and was promptly fired hours later. “Though I’d never met Holly before, this part was written for her,” director Billy Ray previously told Deadline. “There was no one else who could play it. In my first phone call with her, I spent 10 minutes just telling her how much I loved her in Broadcast News. She’s the kind of actor who makes a movie better, instantly.”
Photo: Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images.

The Real Sally Yates

The real-life Sally Yates was somewhat of a precautionary tale for Comey, because her refusal to uphold Trump’s travel ban got her axed from her job in a quick matter of hours. (Granted, as the acting Attorney General, she was only set to be in her role for a short period of time anyway.) She later resurfaced to testify to a Senate Judiciary subcommittee about former National Security Advisor Michael Flynn and his relationship with Russia. There, she testified that Flynn had flat-out lied about his contact with Russia, and also suggested that the White House had failed to do anything with the information she had given them.
Photo: Courtesy of Showtime.

Michael Kelly Plays Andrew McCabe

Four-time Emmy nominee Michael Kelly is no stranger to political dramas — fans of the now-defunct Netflix series House of Cards will recognize him as fictional Chief of Staff Doug Stamper — which is why he was such an obvious pick to play Acting FBI Director Andrew McCabe in The Comey Rule.

“When I first met Jeff Daniels on this movie, I told him, I’m going to surround you with racehorses who are also workhorses,’” director Billy Ray told Deadline. “That’s Michael and Jennifer [Ehle]. So talented, so good at their craft — they fill their characters yet it feels effortless.”
Photo: Alex Wong/Getty Images.

The Real Andrew McCabe

President Trump has made targets of many high officials who’ve challenged him over the years, but his focused distrust of Andrew McCabe is notorious. McCabe, who was Comey’s deputy, came up in conversations between the FBI director and the president frequently, most notably during the infamous dinner the pair shared in January 2017. The president repeatedly referred to McCabe as “your guy McCabe” and asked Comey if he would “be okay.” Ultimately, McCabe was fired in March 2018 on charges of misleading the FBI; he sued in retaliation.
Photo: Courtesy of Showtime.

Jennifer Ehle Plays Patrice Comey

Ehle, who has built up an eclectic resume of roles in films as wide-ranging as the Fifty Shades series, Pride and Prejudice, and Zero Dark Thirty, recalled being stunned by the news of Trump’s election in 2016 while filming queer coming-of-age drama The Miseducation of Cameron Post. The next morning, she recalled to Financial Times in 2018, was “ominous.”
Photo: Gary Cameron/Reuters.

The Real Patrice Comey

Even as the wife of the former FBI director, Patrice was never privy to the government’s inner workings or Comey’s ongoing investigation of President Trump. Still, that hasn’t stopped her from being vocal about her own views of the government and reaction to the 2016 election since then. “I wanted a woman president really badly, and I supported Hillary Clinton,” she told George Stephanopoulos in 2018. “ A lot of my friends worked for her. And I was devastated when she lost.”
Photo: Courtesy of Showtime.

Scoot McNairy Plays Rod Rosenstein

Scoot McNairy’s path into acting was accidental, to say the least. His initial interest in film revolved around hopes to be a wildlife cinematographer, and eventually led him to being in front of the camera in shows like Narcos and True Detective and films like Argo and 12 Years a Slave. In The Comey Rule, he’ll play Rod Rosenstein, the former Deputy Attorney General whose memo became a catalyst for Comey’s firing.
Photo: Mark Wilson/Getty Images.

The Real Rod Rosenstein

What did loyalty mean to Rod Rosenstein? The former Deputy Attorney General famously penned a memo casting doubt on Comey’s handling of Hillary Clinton’s email investigation, which was subsequently used by Trump as a basis for Comey’s dismissal. Rosenstein later reportedly regretted his decision to write the memo and felt used by the president. He subsequently, according to The New York Times, told multiple people that he planned to wear a wire to record Trump so he could be “vindicated.”
Photo: Courtesy of Showtime.

Kingsley Ben-Adir Plays Barack Obama

This fall, Kingsley Ben-Adir will be tackling two once-in-a-lifetime roles: playing Barack Obama in The Comey Rule and Malcolm X in Regina King’s One Night in Miami. To prepare for his part as the iconic president, Ben-Adir told The Los Angeles Times that he “watched and listened to [Obama] a lot” and “had a fantastic dialect coach.” But beyond that, he dug deep to understand where the former president was “operating from as a human being — his fears, his dreams, his intentions. I think the function of Obama in the piece is to provide contrast to Trump,” he added, “as an example of a president who operates from decency and kindness, someone who just wanted to leave the country in a better place than when he found it.”
Photo: Mark Wilson/Getty Images.

The Real Barack Obama

Because most of the two-part miniseries focuses on Comey and his relationship and subsequent fallout with Trump, Obama doesn’t play a very prominent part in The Comey Rule. It instead shows just one of two Oval Office meetings Comey had with the president when he was being considered for the position of FBI director, as well as a possibly fictionalized scene in which Comey recalls the being held captive at gunpoint by the Ramsey Rapist as a teen (Comey mentioned the incident in his book, but never specified that he told the story to Obama).
Photo: Courtesy of Showtime.

Brendan Gleeson Plays Donald Trump

Irish actor Brendan Gleeson’s portrayal of Donald Trump is already receiving high praise from critics and viewers alike just based on The Comey Rule trailer, but according to director Billy Ray, the compliments will likely be met with an equal amount of criticism and ire. “I wouldn’t want to expose any actor to the flack that I imagine Brendan is about to get from our current President,” he said in an interview with The Irish Sun. “Ireland may not be far enough away.”
Photo: Erin Schaff-Pool/Getty Images.

The Real Donald Trump

The entire second episode of The Comey Rule is dedicated to Comey’s relationship with the Trump administration in the months leading up to his firing. It should come as no surprise, then, that Trump doesn’t exactly get a hero cut in the two-part series; instead, Trump comes across as menacing and manipulative. The scenes that he and Comey (Daniels) share are largely taken exactly from Comey’s account in A Higher Loyalty, including the notorious conversation they allegedly had when Comey presented Trump with the Steele dossier and the “golden shower” tape.
Photo: Courtesy of Showtime.

Jonathan Banks Plays James Clapper

Veteran actor Jonathan Banks’ portrayal of former National Intelligence Director James Clapper may not be the focal point of The Comey Rule, but it is definitely an important addition to an already star-studded cast. Banks is perhaps best known for his droll turn as Mike Ehrmantraut in Better Call Saul, but as Clapper, he is much more buttoned up and intense in his distaste for corrupt politicians.
Photo: Joe Raedle/Getty Images.

The Real James Clapper

The real-life James Clapper was dealt his fair share of shade from President Trump, to put it mildly. The president has called Clapper, then the former National Intelligence Director, not “a smart guy,” for instance. Back in 2017, Trump accused U.S. spies of leaking allegations that Russia had compromising information on him, but Clapper defended the intelligence community adamantly, saying that he was “profoundly dismayed” by the leaks. He would go on to publish his own memoir in 2018, Facts and Fears: Hard Truths from a Life in Intelligence, after retiring from public service.
Photo: Courtesy of Showtime.

Oona Chaplin Plays Lisa Page

As the granddaughter of late English actor Charlie Chaplin, Oona Chaplin’s lineage precedes her, but it’s her role on Game of Thrones as Talisa Maegyr and another on BBC drama The Crimson Field have given her a strong fan base. In The Comey Rule, Chaplin plays FBI lawyer Lisa Page, who has an extramarital affair with FBI agent Peter Strzok (Steven Pasquale), and whose secretive texts were ultimately used as part of the Robert Mueller investigation.
Photo: Mark Wilson/Getty Images.

The Real Lisa Page

In an interview with The Daily Beast in late 2019, Page opened up about how infuriating and painful it has been to be the butt of Trump’s jokes following the release of her text messages with Strzok. “When the president accuses you of treason by name, despite the fact that I know there’s no fathomable way that I have committed any crime at all, let alone treason, he’s still somebody in a position to actually do something about that,” she said at the time. “To try to further destroy my life. It never goes away or stops, even when he’s not publicly attacking me.”
Photo: Courtesy of Showtime.

William Sadler Plays Michael Flynn

Earlier this year, William Sadler reunited with Alex Winter and Keanu Reeves to play Death in the third installment of Bill and Ted; this fall, he’s doing an about-face as former National Security Advisor Michael Flynn. He told Collider that in order to portray the straight-laced retired US Army lieutenant general, he had to play it serious. “I didn’t try to do an imitation of Michael Flynn,” he said. “What I tried to do was find a believable path for this character through what happens to him. That’s my philosophy of acting. If you can get the audience to believe what they’re seeing, even just a little bit, you can take them anywhere.”
Photo: Andrew Harrer-Pool/Getty Images.

The Real Michael Flynn

Ah, Michael Flynn. The former National Security Advisor’s involvement with Russia (and his subsequent dismissal in 2017) fanned the flames of speculation that Trump’s administration was in cahoots with Russia to steal the 2016 presidential election. His guilty plea in late 2017 made him the first White House official to face formal charges stemming from the Mueller investigation — though he would hardly be the last.
Photo: Courtesy of Showtime.

T.R. Knight Plays Reince Priebus

T.R. Knight has come a long way since his role as friendly medical resident George on ABC’s Grey’s Anatomy. The actor plays former White House Chief of Staff Reince Priebus in The Comey Rule, a part that likely involves a lot more interpersonal juggling and maneuvering than even Grey Sloan Memorial’s drama-filled staff required.
Photo: Alex Wong/Getty Images.

The Real Reince Priebus

What’s a good political tale without some brown-nosers? Reince Priebus famously helped Trump win the election in 2016 as the chairman of the Republican National Convention, and was thereafter rewarded with the role of White House Chief of Staff. Loyal to a fault, Priebus continued to praise the administration even after he was ousted in July 2017, telling The Atlantic that “the president has accomplished an incredible amount of things in the last six months,” despite evidence to the contrary. “The future can be great, and the past has been pretty good,” he said.
Photo: Courtesy of Showtime.

Joe Lo Truglio Plays Jeff Sessions

As an actor, Joe Lo Truglio has the sort of face that’s hard to place, but easy to remember. He’s perhaps best known for his role as Deputy Frank Rizzo on Reno 911! and as Charles Boyle on Brooklyn Nine-Nine. (And let’s not forget his many appearances on Drunk History.) But in The Comey Rule, Truglio will play perhaps his most memorable role yet, as former Attorney General Jeff Sessions. “You know, it's not like I’m super good looking, but I’m also not 70 years old,” he said on The Last Laugh podcast in September.
Photo: Alex Wong/Getty Images.

The Real Jeff Sessions

Sessions is a key character both in the context of The Comey Rule and in the greater, reality-based context of Trump’s presidency. In 2017, he adamantly supported Trump’s decision to fire Comey and refused to divulge the contents of his conversations with the president about the dismissal, thereby posing a roadblock in Democratic lawmakers’ attempts to link Comey’s firing to Russia’s election meddling.
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