Time travel may power the story of 11/22/63, but don’t expect to see any flux capacitors in the small-screen adaptation of Stephen King’s bestseller. The series, about high school English teacher Jake Epping’s (James Franco, below) trip back in time to stop the assassination of President John F. Kennedy, focuses more on the era than on the thrills of science fiction. “It’s a yarn,” exec producer Bridget Carpenter says, “but it needs to be seeded in the truth and the reality of the time.”
To research the period, writers combed the archives of Dallas’ Sixth Floor Museum and even pored over the diaries and letters belonging to Lee Harvey Oswald. That attention to detail and immersive production design made Franco himself feel like he was working in the late 1950s. “Playing a time traveler is like being an actor,” he says. “You have to go to a different time and place and fit in.”
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At the same time, Carpenter explains that it was important to capture the period’s feel. The late 1950s and early ’60s, with its charismatic First Couple and romantic fashion (think gloves for women, hats for men), evoked a “modernity” that doesn’t exist anymore. “This country was a more optimistic country before Kennedy was killed,” she says. “I think that’s why people want to hark back and create some nostalgia around that.”
Still, 11/22/63 won’t just be a history lesson; it will also be a story of romance and of an everyman hero on an epic journey. While Jake hunts Oswald and heads to the grassy knoll, he discovers how his actions have dire consequences. “The question is: Can the past really be changed?” Carpenter says. “The past pushes back when you try.” It is a Stephen King tale, after all. What could go wrong?
11/22/63 premieres Feb. 15 on Hulu.
To continue reading more about 11/22/63, pick up the new issue of Entertainment Weekly, on newsstands Friday, or buy it here.