‘Kennedys’ miniseries producer Joel Surnow rips Democrats for blocking History network airing
America next month will finally see "The Kennedys," the controversial miniseries about the family story behind President Kennedy. But producer Joel Surnow is still sore at Democratic VIPs who he believes blocked the project from airing on the History cable network.
"I truly believe that this project would have seen the light of day on History Channel if the exact same film had been produced by Tom Hanks and Steven Spielberg," said Surnow, a co-creator of the spy caper "24" who is well-known in Hollywood for his conservative views.
Members of the Kennedy family -- including the president's daughter, Caroline Kennedy Schlossberg, and former California First Lady Maria Shriver, the president's niece -- are believed to have lodged private protests against the show, though neither has talked publicly about doing so. But Surnow said that "The Kennedys" fell victim to the same forces that pressed ABC over its 2006 miniseries "The Path to 9/11." That miniseries roused the ire of such Democratic notables as President Clinton and his secretary of State, Madeleine Albright.
"Some of those same people who were involved in that were involved with this," the producer said in an interview Thursday, breaking months of silence about the controversy.
"The Kennedys" stars Greg Kinnear as President Kennedy, Katie Holmes as First Lady Jacqueline Kennedy and Tom Wilkinson as Joe Kennedy, the clan's hyper-ambitious patriarch. ReelzChannel will broadcast the miniseries in the U.S. April 3.
"It always felt from the very, very beginning of the project that at one point my known politics as a conservative might be a problem," Surnow said. "I'd always assumed the Kennedy family might have an objection to their family story being told by somebody that they perceive to be not friendly to them."
But when it comes to storytelling, he added, "I've never had any political agenda." Surnow said he believed that Kennedy was a "good president" who matured while in office, a journey he says the miniseries depicts. "The premise of the Kennedys miniseries was to take the iconic figures and turn them into flesh and blood people," he said.
Surnow said he started getting the idea that "The Kennedys" was in trouble on History when a movie trailer planned for December failed to materialize, and then the network backed out of presenting a session on the show at the January TV press tour in Pasadena. "All of a sudden, it felt like the marketing started getting stalled," he said. "There was pressure above History Channel from the board."
Above all, Surnow wants to dispel the notion that the miniseries is fact-challenged in any way. Two historians signed off on the scripts, he said, and the network never gave the producers a chance to correct any errors that may have been found.
"The show is not historically inaccurate," Surnow said.
--Scott Collins (Twitter: @scottcollinsLAT)
Photo: Joel Surnow is the writer-producer behind ReelzChannel's "The Kennedys."
Credit: Al Seib /Los Angeles Times