“This is kind of special,” admits “All the Way” screenwriter and executive producer Robert Schenkkan as we chat via webcam (watch above) about the telefilm’s eight Emmy nominations, including Best TV Movie. He adapted his 2014 Tony-winning play about President Lyndon B. Johnson’s (Bryan Cranston) struggle to pass the Civil Rights Act during his first year in office. Cranston, who claimed the Best Actor prize at the Tony Awards, is nominated at the Emmys are as his co-star Melissa Leo and director Jay Roach.
Schenkkan won a Pulitzer Prize winner in 1992 for his play “The Kentucky Cycle” (1992) and was a two-time Emmy nominee for writing “The Pacific” (2010). As he explains, he chose to focus on the first year of Johnson’s presidency because “it really has such a beautiful, dramatic arc to it.” Coming to office after John F. Kennedy’s assassination, “he’s achieved his lifetime goal, but in a way that nobody would ever want, and has to turn around and run for President himself barely eight months later. At the same time, he is facing, and the country is facing, this real moment of moral crisis and reckoning, which is civil rights.”
The author finds a great deal of relevancy in the film’s subject matter. “Here we are in this extraordinary political season,” he explains, “and everything that we are fighting over, every subject you can name, actually has its origins in 1964 and this Presidential campaign. It’s really kind of shocking.”
Schenkkan scripted Mel Gibson’s WWII epic “Hacksaw Ridge,” coming to theaters on November 4. Check out our full interview to find out more about his personal connection to LBJ, adapting the play to television, and collaborating with Roach, Cranston, and executive producer Steven Spielberg.
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