How ‘11.22.63’ Star James Franco Nearly Stole Project From JJ Abrams

TCA 2016: Star who plays Jake Epping tried to option Stephen King novel himself

Last Updated: January 9, 2016 @ 10:26 AM

James Franco is the star of Hulu’s “11.22.63,” but he was nearly the executive producer instead.

The multi-hyphenate read the Stephen King novel well-before it was ever a TV miniseries, and he attempted to option it directly from the author.

Unfortunately — or maybe, fortunately — J.J. Abrams had beat him to the punch, which the two detailed Saturday at the Television Critics Association press junket. It wasn’t even fair competition, either: Abrams became friends with his literary hero King during “Lost,” even catching some horror flicks with the legendary author during the era.

King had actually reached out to Abrams via email, asking the “Star Wars: The Force Awakens” if he wanted to be involved, Abrams detailed for a scrum of reporters following the show’s official press tour panel. The courtship began about a year earlier, when the author sent his famous fan a signed copy of the book.

Hope wasn’t lost for Franco, however. After he penned his own piece about the material for Vice, Abrams courted the actor to be his leading man.

Franco plays high school teacher Jake Epping, who travels back in time to prevent the assassination of President John F. Kennedy. However, Epping’s mission is threatened by Lee Harvey Oswald (Daniel Webber), falling in love, and the past itself, which doesn’t want to be changed.

Never one to just settle for acting, Franco did direct one of the nine episodes as well.

“11.22.63” debuts Feb. 15 on Hulu.