Friday, January 4, 2013

Winter TCA 2013: NatGeo's Announcements & Killing Lincoln

by Amy K. Bredemeyer

The National Geographic Channel has been making a big investment in series television and in making its specials “special.” They have the benefit of being an old brand in a market where many competitors re-brand themselves every two years. Today, they presented information on some of their upcoming works, including February’s two-hour factual drama Killing Kennedy, based on Bill O’Reilly’s best-selling book, and series Inside Combat Rescue, following US Air Force battle medicine. Animals are still a major focus for them, of course, and the new features will include Spoiled Rotten Pets (pretty self-explanatory), The Incredible Dr. Pol (a house call-making vet), Leader of the Pack (a series that matches abandoned dogs with adoption candidates), and, of course, Alpha Dogs, which was a main focus later in the panel. Furthermore, a couple of competitive shows are coming our way, including Ultimate Survival: Alaska, where eight top outdoorsmen make their way through the brutal frontier, and Are You Tougher Than a Boy Scout?, which has adults go head-to-head with Scouts in various challenges, like using a commando line to cross a gorge.

The major features being promoted in addition to documentary series Alpha Dogs were factual drama Killing Lincoln and documentary miniseries The 80s. Look for an article on The 80s at a later date, but here’s the scoop on Killing Lincoln, which will premiere in March in 171 countries and 38 languages. National Geographic Channel’s first-ever docudrama “combines dramatic re-creations with historical insight in a thrilling chronicle of the final days of President Lincoln and the treasonous plot by one of the most notorious, yet complex villains of all time.” 
National Geographic Channel
Killing Lincoln, narrated by Tom Hanks and starring Billy Campbell as our assassinated President, brought a panel of actors Bill Campbell, Jesse Johnson, Geraldine Hughes, and Graham Beckel, as well as writer and executive producer Erik Jenderssen. Here are some highlights from the Q&A as well as the literature provided by the network:

When asked to describe Lincoln in his own words, Campbell said, “He was arguably our greatest President. He was self-taught, well-rounded, a complex and profound human being who did great things for our country. I can’t think of any American historical figure who is as justifiably revered, or who was as tragically fated.”

When asked if he had any hesitations on playing such a “reviled, historic villain,” Johnson replied that “Quite the contrary, I leapt at the opportunity. Playing villains can often be the most rewarding experience as an actor because you get to examine deep dark places of yourself that might otherwise remain unexplored. Booth is a particularly rewarding villain to play because there is so little of his personal life and stage career that is known by the general public. Being able to lace all of the action that takes place in the film with his potent history and to ignite the contest of the story with his theatrical upbringing and magnanimous demeanor could very well shine a brighter light on a mysterious and misunderstood pivotal figure of history.”

Campbell didn’t feel a lot of weight on his shoulders because the script was so brilliant and people were so passionate about doing this in the right way. 

On filming the assassination scene, Johnson noted that “everyone knew what they were doing and there was a solemn work ethic that took over that night.” There was also excruciating attention to detail. 

And, a fact that I found fascinating and was surprised I did not previously know: Before Lincoln’s assassination, the White House doors were never locked. You could come in and wait and talk to the President!
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