Big Bad John

Tomorrow the TV series “The Crown,” which chronicles the life of England’s Queen Elizabeth II, features JFK and Jackie in its new episode. But the British series will be presenting an image of the former president far less flattering than American audiences are accustomed to, according to media reports.

Here’s an excerpt from a Q&A between Entertainment Weekly and actor Michael C. Hall, who plays Kennedy:

You note the show took some risks. Kennedy seems like a jerk-y and abusive addict compared to how he’s normally portrayed. Did that give you any pause?

No. Not given what I know to have been true about him. His initial drug use was steroids to treat his autoimmune deficiency which resulted in a lot of bone deterioration, and then they put him on painkillers to manage that. But because of the sluggishness that [the painkillers] inevitably created, he turned to amphetamines to function. And obviously, you have to function at a pretty high level as a head of state. So, yeah, he was very much a functional addict — initially by necessity and then he was managing the side effects. I think he had his own Dr. Feelgood and that was part of the picture. And his relationship with women was certainly a well-kept secret back then but at this particular moment is an interesting thing to examine and reveal.

Below is a teaser clip about the Kennedys episode. “The Crown” airs on Netflix. — CC

18 Comments on "Big Bad John"

  1. Considering that Kennedy’s womanizing has been well-known and well-documented since the late ’70s, this is not exactly a report from the frontiers of knowledge,

  2. Mitchell S. | December 7, 2017 at 3:28 pm |

    Interesting choice in having an actor portray Kennedy who is best known for portraying Dexter, the blood splatter analyst and serial killer.

    Here in Massachusetts the Kennedys are poorly regarded by most people who were alive when he was in office.

  3. Max Jacobson, Secret Service code named “Dr. Feelgood”.

  4. whiskeydent | December 7, 2017 at 4:57 pm |

    I’d like to know what Trump is on. I’m guessing ritalin.

  5. caustic man | December 7, 2017 at 5:59 pm |

    The fact that the actor interviewed here equates addiction with “jerk-y” and “abusive” behavior is very telling. Certainly addicts can be abusive jerks but it’s not necessarily assumed that addiction MAKES you an abusive jerk. Indeed, I find it even more interesting that being an abusive jerk is an unqualified entree into the world of “having a relationship with women (plural).” All this to say that the actor seems to be taking a moral high ground with respect to his understanding of Kennedy. Not something that I would find terribly conducive to the empathy that I suspect is a part of the repertoire of very nuanced actors.

  6. I would like to know what Hillary is on.


  7. Richard Meyer | December 7, 2017 at 7:27 pm |

    As Reagan once said, “Here we go again”.

  8. The actor who played JFK in “Jackie” looked perfect, he needs more work as Kennedy. This actor looks nothing like him.

    Will, I don’t know what she’s on but she’s in denial. 😉

  9. They’ll present something that brings in ratings without doing total violence to known facts, and that’s all we can expect in the way of “honest portrayals”.

  10. His back pain required him to assume a supine position during intercourse. Regarding his approach, everything I have ever read chronicled him as a seducer rather than a predator (ala Slick Willy), more Lothario than lecher.

  11. Jojoandthecats | December 8, 2017 at 9:32 am |

    Though I’ve enjoyed watching ‘The Crown’ its representation of facts is clearly tendentious and they clearly have not always cast on the basis of physical resemblance.

    JFK was (arguably) quite good-looking as well as undeniably charismatic, rich and powerful at an early age. Whatever one thinks of JFK’s womanising I can only assume that for every one he bedded he must have turned down two dozen opportunities.

  12. Boston Bream | December 8, 2017 at 10:54 am |

    Some of us still worship JFK and will continue to do so. He gave meaning to our lives in the 60s, before and after his death.

  13. Somehere out there–there’s a photo of Jack, Bobby and Ted. Toothy smiles. Jack and Bobby are wearing tweed jackets–an oatmeal-and-cream herringbone and a light gray-and-cream herringbone respectively. Ted looks senatorial in his navy (I’d like to guess flannel) suit and repp tie. I think there are other pictures of JFK wearing that same (great looking) tweed jacket with a polo shirt.

    I’ve often wondered if a young Ralph Lauren was inspired by JFK’s sense of style. Lauren mentions a few style icons (mostly actors and performers), but I can’t help but think JFK”s rather creative (even playful) take on Ivy style influenced a young, necktie-designing Ralph.

  14. Certainly a touchy subject, as one never wants to admit that heroes sometimes have feet of clay. In the case of JFK a sober and dispassionate examination of his Presidency brings up that he bungled the Bay of Pigs and arguably emboldened both Castro and Russia. He had an opportunity to prevent escalation in Viet Nam, but did not. Congressional success including the Voting Rights Act, much of Civil Rights and the Great Society all came about because of Johnson’s influence on the hill. He had charisma, and a beautiful cultured wife. He came along at a time when the US was looking for a leader/idol who could rival European royalty. We know he was a womanizer and regardless of whether he was a seducer or pursuer there were undoubtedly women who were taken advantage of. Unfortunately times were different and what we are left with is a hagiographic history of JFK.

    • If you’re going to pin some of the blame for Vietnam on JFK, you have to give some credit to Ike for the Bay of Pigs fiasco. He authorized it, and a lot of the planning and training took place while he was still president. JFK had been President for only four months when it occurred.

      More importantly, the invasion was doomed to fail because the KGB knew it was coming and when. Worse, the CIA knew they knew, yet it failed to tell JFK (Washington Post, 1970). Given his demand for plausible deniability in the run-up, it’s easy to conclude he would have canceled the whole thing if he had been told.

      Finally, you did not give any credit to JFK for his adroit handling of the missile crisis. He forced Russia to remove the missiles without starting a shooting war. They were as humiliated on the world stage as we were by the Bay of Pigs.

      By no means am I saying JFK was a great President. He made several mistakes, and he was timid on some issues. Mostly, he was a very cagy, careful politician driven to get re-elected after winning by a very narrow margin. Still, dismissing any praise of him as hagiography is an unfair and flawed analysis.

  15. IKE planned the Bay of Pigs, and would have executed differently (for better or worse), as would have Nixon. Had JFK handled the Bay of Pigs differently, the Missle Crisis might not have happened. His complete failure emboldened Castro and Kruschev. His handling of the Missle Crisis is to be applauded, as he did avert a potential military confrontation. I am remiss for not including the point. But one can not judge the situation without acknowledging the influence of the former in the thinking of our opponents.

    It is difficult to find a biography of JKF that deviates from the Schlesinger model and that is the lasting view of JFK in the public mind. In this era of historic revisionism he has largely remained unscathed. The bright spotlight of Camelot obscures much contradictory information.

  16. It would not have mattered one bit what JFK (or Ike or LBJ or Nixon) did or didn’t do if the KGB knew all about it in advance. The CIA should have told him. They didn’t. End of story.

  17. Don Quixote | June 23, 2022 at 11:58 am |

    JFK suffered from very poor health throughout most his life. As a rich man’s son, he could have taken it easy and retire to palm beach, but instead he served admirably in WWII, served as senator and president.
    Yes, he had many faults, but his style, courage, intellect, and compassion all are exemplary of a life well lived.
    If you want insight into his character, I suggest you read “I Have a Rendezvous with Death” his favorite poem.

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