Rob Lowe, who stars as President John F. Kennedy in National Geographic’s Killing Kennedy, says he’s not off-put by the fact that it’s based on a book by Fox News anchor Bill O’Reilly. “I didn’t think about it all, because the book had come out and been so successful,” Lowe, who dabbled in politics, on the Dem side, in the past, said this morning at TCA Summer TV Press Tour 2013. Anyone working in show business today is looking to get a big on a project with “an advantage”, Lowe explained, and “the book’s a massive best-seller.” “Five million books in the last year”, NatGeo Channels president Howard Owens jumped in during the Q&A session. “And when you read the book it’s nothing if not very straightforward about the facts of the story,” Lowe said.
A TV critic wondered if the panel worried this project would be boycotted like efforts to boycott Ender’s Game, based on the book by controversial author and anti-gay advocate Orson Scott Card. Not sure why critics thought that was a possibility, given the big ratings NatGeo did not so long ago with O’Reilly’s other book, Killing Lincoln. Anyway, Killing Kennedy screenwriter Kelly Masterson said not, because while he has “a different political position” than does O’Reilly, he was “happy to learn I had an awful lot in common” with the Fox News Channel star – both Irish Catholic upbringing and a “devotion to the memory of John F. Kennedy.” Asked whether they were concerned viewers might not “draw the distinction” between O’Reilly the author and O’Reilly the Fox News Channel primetime star, Lowe shot back, “he kicks everybody’s ass on a nightly basis, so I don’t know how bad it would be.”
TV critics wondered how Lowe felt about playing a character who’s been done so many times before on the small and big screens (including Greg Kinnear on TV fairly recently in “The Kennedys” miniseries that got killed by History but resuscitated by Reelz). Lowe said it was no different than playing Hamlet and pointed out his performance won’t just be compared to that of other actors, but to that of other presidents. “Every president today talks like him — they’re like bad actors who found the greatest that ever was, and imitate him. He was The Man. He was the first telegenic president, and it’s become nothing but that now.”
Last January, NatGeo announced it had greenlit Killing Kennedy from Killing Lincoln producer Scott Free, about the assassination of JFK, based on the book Killing Kennedy: The End Of Camelot, penned by O’Reilly and Martin Dugard. Killing Lincoln and Killing Kennedy were positioned as part of National Geographic Channel’s new emphasis on narrative historical programming under Owens. Last fall, the network picked up its first feature film, John Stockwell’s SEAL Team Six, which premiered to 2.7 million viewers — Nat Geo’s largest audience of 2012.