Big-time Hollywood actors usually travel in style. Many have private jets. John Travolta even flies his own 707.
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Then there's Jeff Daniels, who drives an RV. In fact, to get to Los Angeles to shoot his new series The Newsroom, which premieres on HBO this Sunday night at 10, he and his wife, Kathleen, hopped in their rig and hit the road.
"I drive it myself. It's 42 [feet long]," Daniels says proudly. "Took the dog with us."
With the 57-year-old actor behind the wheel, they stayed overnight in RV parks, Walmart parking lots or truck stops on the 2,200-mile trek from their Michigan home. When they arrived, Daniels eased the RV into a parking spot near the soundstage, where it stayed for five months of filming. When the show's first season wrapped in May, they drove it back.
It's unorthodox, for sure, but Daniels pretty much defies every preconceived notion about Hollywood actors. He's as down-to-earth as it gets. He and Kathleen have been married for 33 years — they were high school sweethearts in Chelsea, Mich., where they still live. After he established himself in Hollywood, they moved back to Chelsea, where Daniels founded and still helps to run the Purple Rose Theatre Company (named for the classic Woody Allen film The Purple Rose of Cairo, in which he starred). The theater was built with lumber and materials provided by the Chelsea Lumber Co., the business founded by his father and which his siblings still own.
Is it any wonder he once starred in Pleasantville? In Chelsea, Kathleen and Jeff have raised three children together — two sons and a daughter — but with their youngest now out of college, they're adjusting to life in a newly empty nest.
"Our kids are in their twenties now, which is a wonderful time," he says. "Anyone with a subscription to AARP knows, there's a freedom that comes with [an empty nest], and Kathleen and I are really enjoying it."
That freedom includes more time to play guitar, a 30-year hobby that has become a part-time career. Daniels has now recorded five albums of original blues music and plays gigs around the country, turning the versatile RV into his own private tour bus. This summer, the Martin Guitar company unveiled a new custom guitar: the OM Jeff Daniels, which he helped design.
"That's a huge honor," he beams. "It's probably the most prestigious American guitar company."