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J.J. Abrams and Cast of ‘11.22.63’ Talk JFK Assassination, Stephen King

Hulu’s upcoming event series “11.22.63” — which debuts on February 15 — is based on the novel by Stephen King, which imagines a world where the main character goes back in time to prevent the assassination of John F. Kennedy.

Executive producers J.J. Abrams and showrunner Bridget Carpenter and the cast — including James Franco, Josh Duhamel, T.R. Knight and Chris Cooper — recounted their experiences filming the provocative drama in a panel Saturday at the Television Critics Association press tour in Pasadena, Calif.

The series filmed mainly in Toronto, but spent time in Dallas for key scenes recreating that fateful day. The production got incredible access to all the key sites, including the Texas School Book Depository, and shut down Dealey Plaza for a day. The experience affected the cast deeply.

“It hit me hard, being in Dallas,” said Carpenter.

Franco called the experience “eerie,” he said. ‘It felt like revisiting but also that we were doing something new that hadn’t been done before.”

TR Knight said, “Your skin feels different. It feels like you’re going to a wake.”

They all said they’d read the book before filming. Franco said he’d even tried to secure the rights, but learned they’d already been locked up by Abrams. Luckily, Abrams offered him the starring role. Franco went on to direct an episode as well — “in his spare time,” joked Carpenter. As the star, Franco appears in nearly every scene.

Necessary changes were made to the series, including expanding a minor character so that they could avoid giving the series a voiceover. “The people who have read and loved the book will be deeply satisfied,” said Carpenter.

Abrams said Stephen King responded positively to all the changes they made. “They were necessary and he saw that,” he said. Abrams was effusive with praise for the novelist, who he’d begun a close relationship with during the “Lost” days. He recounted a story of going to see the movie “The Descent” with him and “Lost” showrunners Damon Lindelof and Carlton Cuse. “Every time someone died on screen, he would cheer,” said King.

Watch the official trailer for “11.22.63” here:

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