11.22.63 star George Mackay: ‘My first scene with James Franco was to rough him up!’
Young British actor George Mackay is starring in his first big US series 11.22.63, as a Kentucky barman who gets involved in a time-travelling mission to stop the assassination of JFK.
Pride and Outcast star George told What's On TV how he felt daunted starring opposite James Franco in Fox’s new eight-part adaptation of Stephen King’s bestseller, and how he mastered the Kentucky accent through listening to music…
Are you excited to be part of such a big US series like this?
“Yes, it’s been great being part of something that’s such a massive story! It’s been really exciting.
Everybody knows about the Kennedy assassination and whether or not Lee Harvey Oswald was the culprit, so will viewers be able to relate to the series?
“Definitely. It’s one of the few mysteries that we’ve got nowadays. Pretty much almost everything that was ever questioned is known now, but we still don’t know for sure who killed JFK and that’s fascinating.”
In the drama, James Franco’s character Jake finds a way to journey back in time to the early 1960s to try to stop the Kennedy assassination...
“Yes and that idea of trying to change the past to change the future is really rich. It bleeds into so many different emotional things that people can relate to, like things always seeming easier with hindsight or going, ‘Actually, would I do anything different? Would I undo that mistake? Because I’d eventually make that mistake in another circumstance…”
You play Bill Turcotte in the 1960s, who becomes Jake’s partner on the mission. Bill seems to be the only one who has found out he’s a time-traveller…
“Bill is the person who asks all those questions that the audience is asking. In the Stephen King book there’s a great stream of consciousness that helps the reader to work out the mystery. But that’s quite difficult to show on screen so they’ve developed a whole new character for Bill – and they’ve made him younger! But he’s a wonderful three-dimensional character, there’s so much to him.”
What was it like working with James Franco? Were you intimidated at first?
“By the last day I wasn’t intimidated, but I’m sure at the beginning I was a bit daunted, as you would be with anyone when you respect their work. But when you meet him he’s such a nice guy and it was lovely to work with him. We filmed the episodes chronologically, though, so my introduction to him was accosting him in a field at night-time, jumping on his back and roughing him up a bit!”
You’ve perfected the Kentucky accent. Was that a challenge?
“It was, to be honest! It’s an accent unlike any I’ve ever done before, but it’s such an important part of who Bill is. Obviously where you’re from affects you and accent is such a huge part of your identity. It was also great to learn about Kentucky and about the whole North/South thing – I guess it’s like playing a Geordie as opposed to a Londoner. But most of the documentaries I found during my research were about Bluegrass music from Kentucky, so it was cool to get into that.”
Was the series partly filmed in Kentucky?
“No, we actually filmed in and around Toronto! There are all these old fashioned streets around there, so it could be the US South in the 1960s."
The 2014 British film Pride was a big hit in America. Do you think it was your role as Joe ‘Bromley’ Cooper in the film that helped you get the part of Bill?
“I really don’t know. You send so many audition tapes for American projects, but it means a lot of no's. I like to think I got this purely on my audition tape, but whatever it was I’m just glad to be involved!"
*11.22.63 premieres this Sunday, April 10 at 9pm on Fox
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I'm a huge fan of television so I really have found the perfect job, as I've been writing about TV shows, films and interviewing major television, film and sports stars for over 25 years. I'm currently TV Content Director on What's On TV, TV Times, TV and Satellite Week magazines plus Whattowatch.com. I previously worked on Woman and Woman's Own in the 1990s. Outside of work I swim every morning, support Charlton Athletic football club and get nostalgic about TV shows Cagney & Lacey, I Claudius, Dallas and Tenko. I'm totally on top of everything good coming up too.