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Katie Holmes steps back into the role of Jackie Kennedy six years after she portrayed the iconic former first lady in the Reelz miniseries The Kennedys.
This time around, however, she has some competition in the form of Natalie Portman’s acclaimed portrayal in the awards contender Jackie.
Thankfully, Holmes says, there’s plenty of room for both.
“I think its really exciting. It’s just is a testament to how amazing Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis was and how much she meant to our country,” Holmes told reporters Friday at the Television Critics Association winter press tour.
“I think Natalie did an incredible job, and I’m glad that we both have the opportunity to interpret this character and bring her to life. Although these projects are coming out close to the same time, ours is a different time period in Jackie’s life. You can see both and get something different.”
Bases on the New York Times best-seller After Camelot: Personal History of the Kennedy Family 1968 to the Present, the four-part mini picks up immediately following the assassination of Robert Kennedy and spans decades, ending with John Kennedy Jr. getting on the plane that would eventually crash into the Atlantic in 1999, killing him, his wife and a close friend also on board.
“It was a bigger challenge because in this series she’s going through so many different things,” Holmes said of the longer time frame.
Matthew Perry, who stars opposite Holmes as Ted Kennedy, said it was the ambitious timeline depicted in the follow-up mini that appealed to him. Perry pointed particularly to Kennedy’s ability to “transform” over this time from playboy to celebrated senator.
“I took this job because it scared me. I read the first four scripts and the portrayal scared me. There was a lot of emotion and tragedy to be played, just the age range of stuff,” he said. “It’s by far the most challenging role I’ve ever played.”
Jon Cassar (24), who exec produced and directed all eight parts of the original mini, returns, with Holmes also directing the third chapter.
“I really feel so honored to play Jackie for the second time. Particularly this part of her life because it was the ‘70s and Jon and I talked about how that was going to affect the look of this miniseries, we got to work in a different way than we worked together before,” Holmes said. “It was like another step from the first time we did it”
The project returns to Reelz after a long road from script to screen the first time around. After being ordered to air on History Channel back in 2010, the cabler announced that it would not air the mini before its premiere, saying at the time that “this dramatic interpretation is not a fit for the History brand.” Reelz swept in and acquired the domestic rights to the project, airing it in the spring of 2011 as originally intended. Cassar admits there was some hesitation about revisiting Camelot.
“We were so proud of it the first time there,” Cassar said. “We weren’t going to get into a production that was going to be lesser…all the production values are the same if not better.”
Cassar praised Reelz CEO Stan E. Hubbard and the rest of the team involved for maintaining the integrity of the original project.
“Having him involved right at the very beginning was perfect for us because he was such a champion of the show the first time. Times get rough when you’re doing a production and the scope of our production was so huge,” Cassar said. “You need good support and you need good support financially.… I couldn’t have a better partner.”
The Kennedys: After Camelot premieres Sunday, April 2, at 9 p.m. ET/ 6 p.m. PT on Reelz.
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