I chose to read the book “11.22.63” because I’ve always been fascinated by the assassination of President John F. Kennedy of that fateful day in Dallas. I had never read any of Stephen King’s novels but I had read the short story “1408” and I loved the film adaptation starring John Cusack, so I was excited when I heard they were adapting “11.22.63” into a miniseries. A movie would not have done the massive novel justice because there was just too much story to fit into the typical 90 minute running time, and a miniseries was the perfect medium. I was even more excited to learn Stephen King would be involved. In my experience of reading a book that gets turned into a movie, when an author isn’t involved the things that make the book great get lost in translation.
James Franco was the perfect choice for the main character, Jake Epping. I think he’s a fantastic actor, and he really did an amazing job bringing his character to life. Aside from T.R. Knight, Chris Cooper, and Josh Duhamel, I hadn’t seen the other main actors in anything else but I was blown away by their talent. The casting in the whole miniseries was excellent. They were exactly how I pictured them while reading the book.
There were some differences in the adaptation, but the story didn’t suffer for it. In fact, I loved that Bridget Carpenter decided to give Bill’s character a bigger role than he had in the book. George Mackay’s portrayal of Bill was brilliant and heartbreaking. His addition to the story was so flawless that I actually began to forget he wasn’t in the book for the most part. Sarah Gadon was absolutely perfect as Sadie. Gorgeous, bubbly but obviously wounded by her terrible marriage, vulnerable but yet strong. Sadie was such an interesting character to me in both the novel and the series because she chose to believe Jake’s story of being a time traveler and being on a mission to save JFK all because she loved him.
I, like most people with human emotions, cried when T.R. Knight’s character George O’Malley died on Grey’s Anatomy as if he were an actual person and not a fictional character. I was interested in seeing how he would go from playing such a lovable character to the batshit crazy Johnny Clayton, Sadie’s ex-husband. In short: he nailed it. I know I am repeating myself here, but they really did cast this series perfectly, and the actors were just exceptional. Josh Duhamel was another actor who I had only seen in roles where he was insanely likable, but played the almost grossly charming, murderous character of Frank Dunning extremely well. Both actors captured the essence of these characters who were willing to kill to protect their carefully crafted facade as normal, non-psychopaths.
I enjoyed the novel and show’s exploration of the relationship between Marina and Lee Harvey Oswald, and it was the first time I’d seen Marina portrayed as anything but a beaten down prisoner of her marriage. There were certainly elements of that in King’s story, but it showed her as someone who would press Lee’s buttons and had a life outside of her marriage. Lucy Fry was fantastic, and I was also very impressed by Daniel Webber’s portrayal of Lee Harvey Oswald. My favorite portrayal will probably always be Will Rothhaar’s in “Killing Kennedy,” because he made Lee seem like a real person and not just the portrait of a crazed loner desperate to make a name for himself. (If you’re a JFK enthusiast like me, I highly recommend both the book and movie.)
I can’t praise this adaptation enough. The combination of an amazing story by Stephen King, the absolutely exceptional adapting Bridget Carpenter did, the perfect casting, and the just plain incredible job done by the actors made this series one of the best book to screen adaptations I’ve ever seen. Now that all eight episodes are streaming on Hulu, do yourself a favor, get comfortable and binge watch.
Happy reading and viewing,