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How Jeff Daniels steps into Atticus Finch’s shoes

Atticus Finch is one of the most recognizable characters in American literature. The small-town Alabama lawyer from Harper Lee’s classic novel, “To Kill a Mockingbird,” has gotten an update on Broadway, more than half century after the book was published.

Set in the 1930s, the story centers on Finch’s defense of Tom Robinson — an African-American man wrongly accused of assaulting a white woman — and offers lessons about race, class, injustice and morality. The new take on “Mockingbird,” which opened in December, comes from famed screenwriter and showrunner Aaron Sorkin.

Jeff Daniels stars as Finch. He’s best known for roles in movies like Sorkin’s “Steve Jobs,” “The Purple Rose of Cairo” and “Dumb and Dumber,” as well as TV shows like “The Newsroom” (another Sorkin project) and “The Looming Tower.”

Last week Daniels was nominated for a Tony Award for his portrayal of the “upstanding” lawyer. Daniels said it was the “role of a lifetime.”

“You go out before that closing argument, you can just feel yourself change,” Daniels said, describing what happens when he’s on stage for the story’s climatic courtroom scene. “You stand up straighter, and there’s a thoughtfulness. Now it’s like you’re inside the suit, inside the guy.”

Coming soon on the PBS NewsHour, chief arts correspondent Jeffrey Brown sits down with Daniels for a look at “Mockingbird” in its latest dramatic reincarnation. Check your local listings for the time.

READ MORE: How newspapers reviewed ‘To Kill A Mockingbird’ in 1960

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