Appropriate to this presidential election cycle for the ages, Deadline’s The Contenders Emmys event launched today with panels on political projects from HBO. First up: All The Way, an adaptation of the Tony-winning play starring the Tony-winning Bryan Cranston as LBJ. It premieres on the network May 21.
All The Way takes President Johnson through the controversial period of the Civil Rights Act of 1964. Playwright Robert Schenkkan also wrote a sequel, The Great Society, which takes Johnson’s story from 1964-1968. When asked whether he plans to reprise the role in the sequel, Cranston said with a laugh: “I don’t know. I did the play in Boston, then did it on Broadway…. Now I did this. I’ve done it I think. I don’t know that I would come back around (and do it again), but who knows?”
The panel included Cranston, Anthony Mackie (who takes on the role of Martin Luther King Jr.) and executive producer/director Jay Roach, who also directed Cranston in his Oscar-nominated turn in Trumbo.
Roach said executive producer Steven Spielberg acquired rights to the play and brought it to Roach while Roach was working on Trumbo. Roach, who is noted for political projects, talked about why he took on this one: “For me it’s just the personal drama against the stakes of how we shall run our nation.”
Cranston compared the politics of 1964 to today’s rough-and-tumble playing field. “Now if someone disagrees with you, they become the enemy”, he said. “(Then, LBJ) would dine with the opposing party.”
Mackie admitted with a laugh that he was intimidated by the idea of portraying MLK, and taking on the iconic role alongside the award-winning Cranston. He also noted that he looks nothing like the real King, but hoped that “by the end you would forget that.”