Americans never lose their fascination with Abraham Lincoln, but now is an especially good time to be plunging into the 16th president's story, as the producers of "Killing Lincoln" are finding out.
National Geographic Channel's new docudrama -- based on the bestseller co-written by Fox News host Bill O'Reilly -- is coming on the heels of Steven Spielberg's "Lincoln," which has already gathered plenty of Oscar buzz and sparked viewer interest in the Civil War period.
Billy Campbell, who plays Lincoln in the NatGeo movie, has the unenviable task of following Daniel Day-Lewis in the Spielberg film. Friday morning at the TV media tour in Pasadena, Campbell said that starting out he had few specific notions about how to portray Lincoln's voice and mannerisms, although he did reveal a deep personal interest in the period, as a lifelong Civil War buff and battle reenactor.
As a native Virginian, Campbell played -- gulp -- Confederates. But "we had uniforms for the other side as well," the actor noted wryly. "A lot of us flip-flopped."
The NatGeo project is adapted from the O'Reilly book about the plot to kill Lincoln in 1865. "It was probably the most pivotal moment in American history, and we needed to get it right," Jesse Johnson, who plays Lincoln's assassin, the actor John Wilkes Booth, told reporters.
Neither O'Reilly nor his coauthor, Martin Dugard, showed up for the panel.
But executive producer Erik Jendresen said Booth's crime led to an early example of popular attacks on the entertainment industry.
"The day after the assassination there were reports of a lynch mob seeking out actors," Jendresen said.