Bryan Cranston, Jay Roach on 'All the Way's' Move From Broadway to HBO

Among Steven Spielberg's notes: "Commit to the quiet moments."
Bryan Cranston

When All the Way makes its leap from Broadway to HBO in May, it will do so with the opportunity for more intimacy and a considerably broader audience. 

Though Bryan Cranston continues in the Lyndon B. Johnson role that earned him a Tony, writer Robert Schenkkan goes so far as to call it a “complete cinematic reinvention." In that process, Schenkkan, whose father knew LBJ, says he cut scenes and added material with characters coming and going. Doing it for television, he added, "gives us the opportunity to get a little deeper.” 

Among the other key additions to the TV adaptation: Steven Spielberg and Jay Roach (Recount, Game Change) signed on to executive produce and direct, respectively. The former's advice to the latter was to take advantage of the medium, and use the camera to "be in the most desperate places with Johnson," recalls Roach. "Steven said, ‘Commit to the quiet moments.' " 

For Cranston, the shift to TV required considerably more physical preparation. During his six-month Broadway run, the actor would do his own makeup; for the TV production, he sat in the makeup chair for two hours and 15 minutes daily. (He also added lifts to his shoes and plugs to push out his ears as well.) In both dressing rooms, Cranston said he adorned his walls with pictures of LBJ: “It’s almost as if I was checking in with him, seeking [his] approval,” he explained. “Like, 'Am I doing you justice?’”

As for other research, Cranston had done the bulk of it prior to his stage run, talking to people, reading LBJ biographies and making multiple trips to the Johnson library. At the latter, he said he’d spend six or seven hours just learning. One of the most revealing findings during his second trip was a letter he uncovered from Jackie Kennedy to LBJ just four days after John F. Kennedy’s assassination, in which she thanked him for the kind letter he'd written to her two sons who had just lost their father. That LBJ, who in those moments had the weight of the country on his shoulders, took the time to write to two children told Cranston a tremendous amount about LBJ’s compassion and character. The actor added, "That was one little nugget that you could take in and hold on to."

 

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