‘11.22.63’ Star Daniel Webber on Playing Lee Harvey Oswald

“I truly believe Lee is a man very capable of having taken the shot and been the man to have murdered Kennedy,” actor tells TheWrap of his Hulu miniseries character

Hulu’s “11.22.63” isn’t just an adaptation of a best-selling Stephen King novel, it also tackles one of US history’s biggest events: The assassination of John F. Kennedy.

The man playing Lee Harvy Oswald, the assassin who took the fatal shot, doesn’t think there’s much to speculate about in terms of all the conspiracy theories that still haunt the event.

“From the research that I’ve done, I truly believe Lee is a man very capable of having taken the shot and been the man to have murdered Kennedy,” actor Daniel Webber told TheWrap. “There’s so much evidence out there supporting this.”

Webber’s role in the miniseries opposite James Franco as a time-traveling high school teacher is his first in the United States. Below, he talked about how one self-made audition tape from his native Australia got him the role and how he prepared to play one of history’s most fascinating characters.

TheWrap: How did you get involved with the project and what was the audition process like?
Daniel Webber: It was just an audition that came through, as they all do, and it was a self-tape. I remember seeing JJ [Abrams] and James Franco‘s names, and when I saw it was for the character of Lee, I just went to work on that. I watched some newsreels and had a quick look at his bio, and instantly knew this would be an exceptional kind of role. I had two days of prep for the audition, then put a tape down with a friend, and sent it in. Then I didn’t hear anything for a good month, and I just assumed it didn’t work out, like so many different projects. But I got a call randomly one day saying they were offering me the part.

This is your first show in the U.S. What has that been like for you?
It’s pretty cool, it’s pretty exciting. I couldn’t have asked for a better project to begin a career in America. Playing these very iconic American roles and telling these very iconic parable American stories from America. It’s something I’ve thought about for a very long time, and it’s a great honor to be a part of that. I’m looking forward to being able to play more roles like this down the line.

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The JFK assassination is such a big part of American history but growing up in Australia, how much did you know about it?
It’s not really taught. It’s part of the general consciousness but it’s not something that’s taught at school, we don’t go into American history. But I knew who Lee was and I knew who Kennedy was and I knew about the assassination. As for the specifics on Kennedy and on the war and Lee and that period, coming into this project, there was a huge amount of work in researching and understanding that period. Kennedy and Khrushchev, Fidel Castro and all that stuff.

How did you approach Lee as a character from this novel versus the real person?
I had two months of prep. I got to read and study and interpret away for a long period of time, which is great. I came into the project, after all this that I had done for numerous hours, every day, so by the time I got there, I was very sure of who I was being, who I was playing, who Lee was to me. One of the tricky things is that you learn so much about a person and you come to a narrative, essentially. We use historical moments but there’s also a lot of movement throughout that, so you have to assimilate what you know and put as much history into these narratives as possible.

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There are so many conspiracy theories about the assassination. Where do you fall on that?
From the research that I’ve done, I truly believe Lee is a man very capable of having taken the shot and been the man to have murdered Kennedy. There’s so much evidence out there supporting this. If it was anybody else but Kennedy, he would have been convicted. But of course, history … He gets shot and we’ll never fully know. The real question for me is if there was somebody else involved, and that honestly, I can not say. We’ll never know. Well, maybe someday there will be an error in time and someone can scope it out for us. Elon Musk, maybe that will be his next thing! [laughs]

How much is the adaptation like the book or different from it?
It’s very much like the book. It’s like the condensed version of the book. There are some phenomenal moments in the book which I absolutely adore that aren’t in the show because they’d take up all the episodes, with all these moments in these characters’ journey. But all the elements are still there. I think Bridget Carpenter did an exceptional job on a very, very dense book. I think the biggest shift from the book is that in the book the protagonist, Jake, has a lot of internal dialogue and you see everything from his point of view and hear his thoughts and you can’t do that on a TV show. Bridget had this brilliant idea of bolstering up an existing character to become an ally for James’ character, who is in some ways that sounding board, that questioning force on morality issues and stuff like that. That’s the biggest shift from the book but one of the most necessary creative shifts.

“11/22/63” will stream on Hulu starting Monday, Feb. 15.

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