Skip to content Skip to footer

Jeff Daniels – American Rust: Broken Justice

How did you feel back in 2022 when the series was axed by Showtime?

I was disappointed when they cancelled it, because I really like Philipp Meyer’s book and I like the character. I like that it’s an authentic show, shot in the Midwest. It’s five hours from my house here in Michigan, so I like that. But I really like the authenticity. We don’t “Hollywood” it up — people aren’t prettier than they’re supposed to be. They look like they live in the Midwest — me included. And that city of Pittsburgh, and the rivers and the bridges and the grittiness of it — we didn’t have to dress up the exteriors. We were shootin’ what was there. That’s one of the things that makes the show special.

American Rust: Broken Justice on Prime Video. Pictured: Kyle Beltran and Jeff Daniels.
Amazon MGM Studios

You’ve got a new subtitle, Broken Justice. So is season two a reinvention?

In the case of American Rust, in a 10-episode season, we have a beginning, a middle and an end. We’re shooting a novel vs. the traditional [broadcast] network, where it’s 22 episodes and it’s the beginning, middle and an end all in one hour. So, in the first season, we took the time. We got slapped around for it [by critics], but I didn’t care. You’ve got to get to know and care about six characters. We took the time to do that so now, thanks to Prime picking it up, we can just take off. Season two, we take off, and you’re chasing us. Del is in a whole new situation than he was in season one.

Is it intriguing for you to use a “pulpy” crime story like this to sneakily conduct a character study that’s actually quite deep?

Yeah, that’s [writers] Danny Futterman and Adam Rapp. Adam, in particular, on season two, really just went, “Here’s dark, let’s go darker.” In season one, from the get-go, it was a film noir kind of thing — a lot of shadows, a lot of grittiness. And what I liked about it . . . we’re in the Midwest, we’re not very complicated people, we’re not that sophisticated — you guys keep telling us that, to the point that we started to believe it: “a simple people.” But in American Rust, these are simple, basic people who get into complicated situations, and they have to work their way out of them. I like that about the show. I like that it burrows down. As these good people make more and more bad choices, it gets complicated. A simple place and a simple people get complicated.

As someone who has been in showbiz for decades, does it feel like, with the proliferation of cable and streaming, there are more exciting opportunities for actors on TV now than ever before?

Oh my God, yeah . . . Because I’ve been on movies where you’re working with the fifth screenwriter, and working off notes from the junior executive who got them to change the sweater from a red sweater to a blue sweater just so he can [justify] his job. I remember those days. There’s certainly a lot of respect for writers on television; it’s different from the ’70s and ’80s, where you had the networks coming down on what you could do and not do. Now they want you to do everything and more. It really feels like going back to Off-Broadway, where we didn’t have the commercial demands that Broadway brings; we could do anything we wanted — and did. That’s what it feels like with the streamers. Halfway through the season, [the story] takes a turn that even you true crime sleuths who go, “Oh, I know who did it” — you’re wrong . . . We have a better opportunity to take you down roads you didn’t see coming.

American Rust: Broken Justice, streaming on Prime Video


One of the most accomplished and versatile actors of the past four decades, this Michigan native got his start in theatre before distinguishing himself onscreen in such film classics as Terms of Endearment, The Purple Rose of Cairo, Speed, Dumb and Dumber, Looper and The Martian. But some of his biggest recent successes have come via TV, including Emmy-winning turns in HBO drama The Newsroom and Netflix western Godless.


Cancelled by Showtime, then revived by Prime, this Midwestern noir based on Philipp Meyer’s 2009 novel casts Daniels as Rust Belt cop Del Harris, who struggles to uphold the law in a post-American Dream America plagued by poverty, corruption and impossible choices.

Leave a comment

Sign Up to Our Newsletter

Ritatis et quasi architecto beat

Whoops, you're not connected to Mailchimp. You need to enter a valid Mailchimp API key.