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Rob Lowe brings JFK into the “hair and now” with Killing Kennedy

- November 9th, 2013

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Rob Lowe had to wrap his head around John F. Kennedy’s very specific hairstyle.

“There’s a lot of hair technology going on there, in case you didn’t notice,” says Lowe, who has the title role in Killing Kennedy. “We’re used to seeing him in black and white. But when you see him in colour, he almost has ginger hair.

“So my whole look is very sort of dialed in. I’m keeping it a secret as to how I did it.”

Killing Kennedy, which is based on a book by Bill O’Reilly and Martin Dugard, is a two-hour docu-drama that debuts Sunday, Nov. 10 on the National Geographic Channel. Besides Lowe, Killing Kennedy also stars Ginnifer Goodwin as Jacqueline Kennedy, Will Rothhaar as Lee Harvey Oswald and Michelle Trachtenberg as Marina Oswald.

It was 50 years ago this month that John F. Kennedy was gunned down and the string of recent TV documentaries is long and impressive. Killing Kennedy is a dramatic portrayal that simultaneously charts the highs and lows of two men – JFK and Oswald –  and their respective relationships with their spouses during the buildup not only to JFK’s assassination, but to Oswald’s as well.

Hair secrets aside, Lowe says that when it came to JFK’s voice, the hard part was that the comic voice everyone uses when they’re doing JFK – basically Mayor Quimby on The Simpsons – isn’t necessarily the way the president spoke in real life.

“Look, I’m not Darrell Hammond from Saturday Night Live, right?” Lowe says. “I mean, if you want a guy who can imitate Kennedy, I’m not the guy you come to. But you’ve got to sound like him.

“Just technically, what I learned was he really had two voices. He had the voice that we all know, ‘Come to Berlin.’ He had that voice, which is the voice everybody imitates. And then he had the way he spoke in private, which was very different.

“There’s actually a linguistic term called the ‘Kennedy stutter step,’ not to get too technical. Basically, it’s his stammer, and that’s what you don’t see a lot of. I tried to bring that, I immersed myself in it. But then you forget about it, you do the voice, and you go to the things that are more important, which are honesty, authenticity, connection with the actors, all of the stuff that actors do on a daily basis.”

Actors actually don’t get to play John F. Kennedy on a daily basis. It’s the fortunate few who can pull it off.

“In terms of what we share, I don’t know,” Lowe says. “(JFK) was an optimist. He said, ‘We’ll put a man on the moon in 10 years.’ I can’t think of any president before or after who would dare make that kind of prediction and then live up to it.

“I’m a kid from Ohio who said I wanted to be a working actor, so I believe in optimism.”

Optimism and hair technology, that is.

bill.harris@sunmedia.ca

JFK was no Don Draper, and now Killing Kennedy’s Rob Lowe knows why

- July 26th, 2013

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BEVERLY HILLS, Calif. – Rob Lowe always wondered why John F. Kennedy never looked as spiffy as Mad Men’s Don Draper in terms of attire.

After all, even though one is real and one is fictional, JFK and Don Draper both were ladies’ men in the 1960s.

“I never understood why (JFK) didn’t have a more happening, Don Draper-type thing going on,” said Lowe, who is playing JFK in the upcoming made-for-TV movie Killing Kennedy. It will air this November on the National Geographic Channel, both in Canada and the U.S.

“(JFK’s) little kerchief, whatever the heck it is, pocket square, was always barely sticking out and sometimes smashed,” Lowe continued. “Like, ‘Dude, you are the president. Have somebody make you look tight.’ ”

Well, in researching the role and watching countless hours of JFK footage, Lowe found out some things.

“(JFK) used reading glasses always, but he was rarely, if ever, photographed (with them), because he thought it made him look old,” Lowe said at the Television Critics Association tour. “And he kept his reading glasses in his pocket.

“He had a nervous tic that he would take the glasses out, play with them, pull them out, play with them, and (when he put them back) it jammed the pocket square down into his pocket. That’s why you always see pictures of Kennedy with that little tiny (pocket square), because he’s got reading glasses in there.

“I mean, obviously we could go on and on, but I learned a ton, and I thought I knew a ton coming into it.”

Based on a best-selling book by Bill O’Reilly and Martin Dugard, Killing Kennedy chronicles the buildup to the assassination of President John F. Kennedy, allegedly by Lee Harvey Oswald if you aren’t a conspiracy theorist, in November 1963 – 50 years to the month that Killing Kennedy will air. Besides Lowe in the title role, Killing Kennedy also stars Ginnifer Goodwin as Jacqueline Kennedy, Will Rothhaar as Lee Harvey Oswald and Michelle Trachtenberg as Marina Oswald.

So does Lowe think Oswald acted alone?

“I’ve been following the Kennedy assassination since I was in the first or second grade and read every conspiracy-theory book known to man,” Lowe said. “I actually started off as a guy who thought there’s no way a guy could do it, and I’ve come around to thinking that they got it right, that Oswald did act alone. That’s my personal belief.

“We all like to believe that there’s some big uber thing out there. Like, even on 9/11, you would have thought, ‘We can get those planes down in two seconds.’ Meanwhile, nobody knew what was going on, the president was flying around the country. You would have thought we’d have things in place for this.

“It’s always way simpler than we think, and I think it scares us to think that things can be that simple and huge, horrible things can happen by the act of one person. We like to think there’s a safety net. Most times there isn’t. And that’s, in the end, why I come back to thinking it was the act of a mad man.”

A mad man? Or Mad Men?

People will continue to have their own thoughts on who killed John F. Kennedy. But at least Rob Lowe definitely solved the case of the scrunchy pocket square.

Bill.harris@sunmedia.ca

The Amazing Cult on the March to the Jeselnik Offensive; TV must-sees for this week

- February 17th, 2013

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Bill Harris’ TV must-sees for the week of Feb. 17:

 

1) The Amazing Race

Why you should watch: So, everybody keeps trying to tell me what a “small world” it is. So how is it that this series is entering its 22nd season (participants are pictured above) and they still keep finding exotic places to visit in different countries? Ex-NHL player Bates Battaglia is one of the competitors this time.
When: Sunday on CBS, CTV

 

2) Cult

Why you should watch: In the series debut, investigative journalist Jeff Sefton (Matt Davis) begins to delve into the dark underworld of a TV show called Cult, and its super-devoted fans. Yes, it’s one of those show-within-a-show things.

When: Tuesday on CW, CTV Two

 

3) Killing Lincoln

Why you should watch: Narrated on-screen by Tom Hanks and starring Billy Campbell in the title role, this two-hour historical drama isn’t a biopic, but rather focuses specifically on the assassination of the 16th president of the United States.

When: Sunday on National Geographic Channel

 

4) Leverage

Why you should watch: In the series finale, Nate (Timothy Hutton) takes a case linked to his son’s death. But when the job goes bad, Interpol interrogates Nate and tries to figure out not only what went wrong, but also what he really was seeking.

When: Monday on Super Channel

 

5) March to the Top

Why you should watch: A documentary about emotional and physical rehabilitation as 12 injured Canadian soldiers attempt to work together to climb the 20,305-foot Island Peak in Nepal.

When: Full-length version Sunday on Documentary Channel; one-hour version Monday on CBC

 

6) Come Date With Me

Why you should watch: An offshoot of the series Come Dine With Me, this new foray sees four eligible suitors try to out-dine, out-shine and out-date each other for the heart of one hottie. You know, just like every night in all bars.

When: Wednesday on W

 

7) The Jeselnik Offensive

Why you should watch: Comedian Anthony Jeselnik has produced some of the most fearless, or offensive, or hilarious Tweets (depending upon your point of view) that I ever have read. You may have seen him on some of those celebrity roasts. Now he gets his own series.

When: Tuesday on Comedy

 

8) Revenge

Why you should watch: The Graysons host their annual Labour Day party – my God, these people throw a lot of parties. Meanwhile, Jack and “Faux-manda” embark upon what is sure to be a stress-free honeymoon.

When: Sunday on ABC, City

 

9) The Good Wife

Why you should watch: Tensions flare when Will and Diane ask Alicia and Cary to face off against them in a mock trial. Hey, remember “Mock Trial with J. Reinhold” on Arrested Development? Now that was funny.

When: Sunday on CBS, Global

 
10) Once Upon a Time

Why you should watch: While Mr. Gold (Robert Carlyle), Emma (Jennifer Morrison) and Henry (Jared Gilmore) seek out Mr. Gold’s son in New York, Regina (Lana Parrilla) attempts to track down one of Rumplestiltskin’s most treasured possessions back in Storybrooke.

When: Sunday on ABC, CTV

 

bill.harris@sunmedia.ca

@billharris_tv

The actor did it; new TV special Killing Lincoln stars Billy Campbell, narrated by Tom Hanks

- February 13th, 2013

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Abraham Lincoln is the comeback president of the year.

And now even the National Geographic Channel is leaping on the Lincoln bandwagon.

Killing Lincoln, a two-hour historical drama that debuts Sunday, Feb. 17, is the National Geographic Channel’s first original scripted project. Featuring Tom Hanks as the on-screen narrator, it stars Billy Campbell (pictured above) as the title character and Jesse Johnson as assassin John Wilkes Booth.

The 16th president of the United States is everywhere these days, in no small part because of the Academy Award-nominated film Lincoln, starring Daniel Day-Lewis.

But unlike the movie, Killing Lincoln focuses specifically on the assassination.

We really sort of pick up where the Lincoln film left off,” said Erik Jendresen, the writer and executive producer of Killing Lincoln. “I think of (Steven) Spielberg‘s film as the prequel to Killing Lincoln.

Spielberg’s film really focuses on the 13th Amendment (to the U.S. Constitution, which abolished slavery). It’s the story of the victory of Abraham Lincoln.

Ours really is the story of the tragedy, and the irony that, with the ending of the Civil War, the signing of the surrender, and the 13th Amendment passed, Lincoln had a moment – literally maybe 48 hours – in which he was able to shed all the grief and pain and responsibility he had been living with. And it was all taken from him.”

Campbell is a veteran actor who in recent years is best known to TV viewers for his role as Darren Richmond on the AMC series The Killing (apparently he likes shows with that word in them). Campbell was asked if he felt any weight on his shoulders playing Lincoln, especially in light of Lewis’ Academy Award-nominated performance.

I felt almost no weight at all,” Campbell insisted. “The script was so brilliant and so deep in its own way that it was all there on the page.

And I felt really, really safe in the hands of some obviously very passionate people who were passionate about doing this the right way. So I felt nearly no pressure.”

Killing Lincoln actually has a Law & Order feel to it, right down to its own version of classic two-note musical tag. But no real-life murder wraps up as neatly and tidily as a Law & Order episode.

Hanks makes the striking observation that 1,500 theatre patrons were eyewitnesses to the murder of Abraham Lincoln, and yet no two accounts matched. Few even could agree on what Booth shouted after leaping to the stage from Lincoln’s private box.

One of the things that struck me emotionally when I was researching this – and kind of hurt my feelings because I’m a real (American) patriot – is that up until this moment, the White House always was known as the people’s house,” Jendresen said. “It literally was open 24 hours a day. Anybody could walk in to see the president.

The security Lincoln had was solely to get him from one place to the next, not to be there with him. And yet, the threats against Lincoln were numerous. Nothing was ever really done about it.

I don’t think anybody could conceive this would happen. Subsequently, of course, it began a trend. It’s as if we invented something in this country.”

Comebacks aside, some things are better left uninvented.

bill.harris@sunmedia.ca

@billharris_tv