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The prolific multi-hyphenate James Franco only recently escaped the fiasco involving the assassination of fictional Kim Jong-un in The Interview, and now he’ll be trying to stop arguably the most important assassination in U.S. history. (Or at least the most controversial.) Franco has signed on for his first major TV leading role for Hulu’s time travel drama 11/22/63, based on the excellent Stephen King novel that centers on the murder of President John. F. Kennedy.
Franco will play high school English teacher Jake Epping, a man who unwittingly gets introduced to a life-changing anomaly that allows him to travel back to a specific day in the past. Even though the time jaunts appear to be instantaneous for anyone observing in the present, the trips actually age the traveler for as long as they’re in the past. Once the shock wears off, Jake takes it upon himself to try and change U.S. history by stopping Lee Harvey Oswald from shooting J.F.K. on that fateful date in Dallas. The stakes rarely get higher in TV drama.
Produced by J.J. Abrams’ Bad Robot Productions and Warner Bros. TV, with executive producing duties by King, 11/22/63 will be adapted for the small screen by Bridget Carpenter (Friday Night Lights), who will turn the lengthy novel into a nine-episode limited series. Franco will also be producing, because of course. I won’t be surprised if he ends up directing at least one episode and also tailoring all of his character’s clothes. This will be the Freaks and Geeks star’s first big TV role since Hollywood Heights and General Hospital. (He also had that extended cameo on The Mindy Project in 2013.)
While I hadn’t really considered 11/22/63 going any farther than its nine-episode run, EW brings up an interesting point, saying that if this installment does well, it could easily open things up for a second season to bring the time travel element to a different event in history with another lead character trying to change things. Anthology series are all the rage right now, with revisionist histories always serving as a good story foundation, so it’s actually pretty easy to see Hulu and Bad Robot running with this, even if Stephen King’s influence gets left behind. Hell, Under the Dome went beyond its massive inspiration, and they even had King helping for Season 2.
The 11/22/63 adaptation started off as a feature, with esteemed filmmaker Jonathan Demme tapped to direct. After he dropped out of the project, though, Hulu stepped in and picked it up. Which is great, since this story is entirely too dense for a single film.
One can assume that this project started out with Franco wanting to actually get invested in time travel for a docu-series of some kind, and when he realized it wouldn’t work out, he just reached out into the Hollywood ether and pulled out 11/22/63. However it happened, we can’t wait!