For Mississauga native John White, shooting The Kennedys was as much a homecoming as a learning experience.
‘I moved back with the parents during filming,” says the L.A.-based actor, 29, who plays the young John Kennedy in the miniseries, which was shot in and around Toronto last year.
“On days off, I hung around set and watched Greg Kinnear (who plays the older John) and others. Which is somewhat unusual. Usually on a film it’s all about showing up, doing your job, and getting the hell out of the way. But the director (Jon Cassar) encouraged it.”
The four-part, eight-hour The Kennedys follows the famous family’s tragedy-strewn personal lives from the 1930s through John Kennedy’s shortened presidency.
Besides Kinnear, the behind-the-scenes drama stars Barry Pepper (as Bobby), Katie Holmes (Jackie) and Tom Wilkinson as family patriarch, Joe Kennedy Sr..
It was Joe Sr. who first envisioned a presidency for his son, though not the son you’d expect.
“Joe favoured older son, Joe Jr.,” says White. “But after he was killed in the war, Jack sort of became the favourite son by default. And so he had to take the reins.”
White – who is probably best known as Erik Stiffler from the American Pie movie series – says the Kennedys’ familiar Boston-Harvard accent could get a little tricky at times. White says he honed it by watching old presidential speeches.
“You’d go a little too far with it sometimes. But we had a great dialect coach. He’d help tweak the accent and tell you when it just wasn’t good.”
Though the Kennedy story is well-chronicled, White says there are a few things about John Kennedy that might shock people.
“I was surprised by how many health problems he had. But he dealt with it with a real wicked sense of humour. I read some of his personal letters, which are real funny. Can’t repeat them here, though.”
Part one of The Kennedys, featuring John White, airs April 10th on History Television.