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Stephen King loves Hulu's '11.22.63' -- and director J.J. Abrams loves Stephen King

J.J. Abrams’ admiration of Stephen King is palpable.

As he sat in front of a room of assembled journalists at the Television Critics Assn. press tour in Pasadena to discuss Hulu’s upcoming limited-series thriller “11.22.63,” based on the hugely popular King novel of the same name, Abrams shared a story of meeting the fabled author while working on “Lost.”

“I was lucky enough to go with Damon Lindelof and Carlton Cuse to Maine, where my wife is from, to sit with Stephen and go to a horror movie with him afterward,” Abrams said, going on to detail the encounter and their viewing of “The Descent.” “Every time someone died horribly on screen, he would cheer, and I just fell in love with him.”

King’s novel is a meaty thriller that follows the tale of a time traveler attempting to stop the assassination of President John F. Kennedy. Executive producers Abrams and Bridget Carpenter maintain that what changes they’ve made from the source material were necessary and judicious.

According to Abrams, King agrees with them.

“I was unsure he was going to embrace some of these significant adjustments, but they were necessary and he saw that,” Abrams said.

Beyond matters of adaptation, Carpenter has been fixated throughout the process on ensuring an accurate representation of the entire era surrounding the Kennedy assassination.

“That era of Kennedy, was probably up until that time, the most photographed presidency. We’re talking about the most beautiful couple that ever walked into the White House,” Carpenter explained, going on to say, “You don’t need to know much about Kennedy or the events to know those images. As American people, they’re emblazoned on us.”

It’s these unshakable images that drive the series to be so meticulous in its representation of events — whether it’s designers going through the Zapruder film frame by frame to recreate costumes or the shooting in Dallas  — and that emotion carries through to the actors’ experiences as well.

The cast was awed by their time in Dallas.

James Franco, who plays time traveler Jake Epping, said the process was like revisiting the past, but also doing something new.

Co-stars Daniel Webber and T.R. Knight had similar things to say about the process. 

“There was such an excitement going in there and attempting to recreate the film and the images,” Webber said.

Knight said the time spent in Dallas was “like going to a wake,” adding that “your skin feels different.”

Hulu’s “11.22.63” airs the first of its eight episodes Feb. 15.

Follow me on Twitter at @midwestspitfire.

Copyright © 2016, Los Angeles Times
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