"I was in awe and unable to speak": Jeff Daniels recalls a music-filled meeting with George Harrison

On "Everything Fab Four," the acclaimed actor discusses the Beatles, his career and Netflix series "A Man in Full"

Published May 3, 2024 10:05AM (EDT)

Jeff Daniels (Photo illustration by Salon/Getty Images/Netflix)
Jeff Daniels (Photo illustration by Salon/Getty Images/Netflix)

Emmy Award-winning actor Jeff Daniels joined host Kenneth Womack to talk about the lesson he learned from George Harrison, the beauty of “Get Back,” his new Netflix series “A Man in Full” and much more on “Everything Fab Four,” a podcast co-produced by me and Womack (a music scholar who also writes about pop music for Salon) and distributed by Salon.

Daniels, who has lit up the screen for decades in such films as “Dumb and Dumber,” “The Squid and the Whale” and “Arachnophobia,” is also a stage actor and playwright, in addition to being a musician. And his introduction to how music could change the world arrived in elementary school when the Beatles debuted on “The Ed Sullivan Show” in 1964. As he told Womack, “You could just feel a change in the room. Here were fourth-grade girls, and they were in love with these British mop tops.”

His own admiration for the band didn’t really take off until a few years later, with the release of their “Sgt. Pepper” album. “It freed them up to chase anything,” said Daniels, “as long as it was different than what they'd done before.” Little did he know that as he continued to buy each album the Beatles released from then on, that one day he would end up in the same room – professionally – with one of his musical heroes.

“In 1988 I got cast in an indie movie called ‘Checking Out,’” he told Womack, which was produced by George Harrison’s company Handmade Films. While shooting in Los Angeles, Harrison visited the set. “A photographer captured a photo of George talking, because he was the only one who could talk. I was in awe and unable to speak.” Daniels had his guitar with him and asked George to sign it, and the former Beatle obliged – and ended up playing 20 minutes’ worth of songs for the people in the room. “He knew he was giving us a gift that we would talk about forever. It was a very giving thing for him to do, and I never forgot that.”


As for Daniels’ own career, from 1985’s “The Purple Rose of Cairo” (for which he named his Chelsea, Michigan-based theatre company) to this week’s release of “A Man in Full” (based on the novel by Tom Wolfe), he explained to Womack that he’s “been trying to fail for years. I’ve been risking failure every time out. It's the challenge of doing something you haven't done before.” And much like the Beatles’ continued drive to create something new in the “Get Back” documentary (which Daniels found “just fascinating”), he said, “There's something to the ‘what's next.’ It's very intoxicating. It's also very dangerous and frustrating – but there's just something to it.”

Listen to the entire conversation with Jeff Daniels on “Everything Fab Four” and subscribe via Spotify, Apple, Google or wherever you’re listening. “Everything Fab Four” is distributed by Salon.

Host Kenneth Womack is the author of a two-volume biography on Beatles producer George Martin and the bestselling books "Solid State: The Story of Abbey Road and the End of the Beatles” and “John Lennon, 1980: The Last Days in the Life.” His latest book is the authorized biography of Beatles road manager Mal Evans, “Living the Beatles Legend,” out now.

By Nicole Michael

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