Jeff Daniels Conquers Rattlesnake Fear for Netflix's 'A Man in Full'

Jeff Daniels shares insights on life beyond the screen

by Zain ul Abedin
Jeff Daniels Conquers Rattlesnake Fear for Netflix's 'A Man in Full'
© Arturo Holmes/Getty Images

Jeff Daniels, the seasoned actor known for his dynamic range across comedy and drama, recently tackled one of his most daunting challenges yet - shooting a scene with a live rattlesnake for Netflix’s latest drama series, A Man in Full.

Despite his aversion to snakes, Daniels, 69, had to confront his fears head-on as he portrayed a struggling real estate mogul in this gripping adaptation of Tom Wolfe's novel. In an exclusive interview with PEOPLE, Daniels shared his intense discomfort during the filming.

"I can’t deal with snakes," he confessed. The presence of the rattlesnake, safely enclosed in a glass case, did little to ease his anxiety. "Nobody with a brain in their head is going to pick up a rattlesnake unless you’re a rattlesnake wrangler," he remarked.

Nevertheless, Daniels persevered through multiple takes, determined not to let his fear show. "We did 10 takes of me trying to tap on the glass, and I told myself, ‘I’m not going to blink. I’m not going to move.’” This isn't the first time Daniels has stepped out of his comfort zone.

His career is peppered with bold choices, from comedic turns like his memorable role opposite Jim Carrey in Dumb and Dumber, to serious dramatic roles such as his portrayal of Atticus Finch in To Kill a Mockingbird on Broadway, which earned him a Tony nomination.

Balancing Fame and Artistry

Daniels’ personal life mirrors the thoughtful, deliberate choices he’s made professionally. In 1986, he opted to move away from the bustle of Hollywood and New York City to Chelsea, Michigan, where he has raised three children with his wife Kathleen.

This decision to avoid the pitfalls of fame has grounded him, he believes. "I didn’t want to get contaminated by stardom," Daniels explained. Apart from acting, Daniels contributes to the arts through his nonprofit theater, the Purple Rose, where he serves as artistic director and has penned 22 plays.

His latest project, a comedy inspired by a quirky local news headline, showcases his penchant for storytelling. Reflecting on his ambitions now in his 60s, Daniels notes a shift in his perspective. "The thing that goes away is the ambition," he states.

After his acclaimed run in To Kill a Mockingbird, he feels there’s little left to prove. His recent work, including a role in the Prime Video series American Rust and now in A Man in Full, exemplifies this new phase of his career where he can choose projects that genuinely interest him without the pressure of constant career advancement.