February 8, 2016 / 2:12 PM / 2 years ago

Hulu's time-travel drama '11.22.63' examines America's ugly scars

Actor James Franco poses during a photo call to promote the in-panorama film "I Am Michael" at the 65th Berlinale International Film Festival in Berlin February 9, 2015.Stefanie Loos

LOS ANGELES (Reuters) - Few events have ever garnered as much discussion as the assassination of President John F. Kennedy at Dealey Plaza in Dallas on a Friday afternoon in November 1963, which changed the nation forever.

What if it had never happened?

"11.22.63," based on Stephen King's best-selling book of the same name and premiering Feb. 15 on online streaming platform Hulu, poses that very question of how different America would be had President John F. Kennedy avoided an early death.

"The Kennedy assassination is a specter over this country that is a constantly argued, divisive conspiracy theorist obsession. It feels like it is as unanswered now as ever," executive producer J.J. Abrams told Reuters.

The story follows Jake Epping (James Franco), a recently divorced schoolteacher from the present day, whose friend Al Templeton discovers a time-travel portal to 1960.

A frail Templeton tells Epping to go back in time to prevent the assassination of Kennedy in hopes of ensuring his successor Lyndon B. Johnson would not ascend to the top office and escalate U.S. involvement in the Vietnam War.

"You save Kennedy's life, you make a better world," Templeton says.

Epping time-travels to Dallas in 1960, where he follows key people and events in an effort to stop the assassination.

The eight-episode series from one of America's most popular authors is the most ambitious effort yet from Hulu which has so far struggled to get the critical and audience recognition enjoyed by Netflix and Amazon for its original programming.

Abrams, fresh off the directorial success of "Star Wars: The Force Awakens," said the show touches on the nostalgia of the 1960s when both men and women were immaculately dressed and meals cost just a few cents.

But it also showcases the darker side, such as racial segregation.

"That idea of where we have been and where we are in race relations, I think in a lot of ways, it's heartbreaking and unfortunate that it's still an issue and how little progress in many ways has been made," he said.

While dealing with the past, producers hope the show resonates with audiences today because "history is reflective," executive producer Bridget Carpenter said.

"This is piece of history, a historical truth and historical scar on our country, and it is not something that we shy away from," she said.

Reporting by Piya Sinha-Roy, editing by Jill Serjeant and David Gregorio

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