BAKERSFIELD, Calif. (OPINION) — Actors who take on a role that’s been done many times before usually choose not to watch other people’s work. There is the fear that they will be influenced by what they see.
Graham Sibley faced such a dilemma while portraying Abraham Lincoln in the History Channel’s new three-night documentary event “Abraham Lincoln” which debuted at 8pm on February 20. Lincoln’s role is one of the most performed in stage, television and film history.
One of the most notable performances was by Daniel Day-Lewis in the 2012 film “Lincoln”. His portrayal of the 16and president won him the Oscar for best actor.
Instead of avoiding a performance with such great potential to influence his work, Sibley embraced it because he was so terrified of the quality of Day-Lewis’ work.
“I’m also a painter, and I felt like, in a way, there’s a world where people paint to figure out how to paint like a master,” Sibley says. “I wanted to understand how he did it. And then I wanted to throw it all away and cross it with my own research and my own connection.
His work can be seen in the production that aired for three consecutive nights on the cable channel. It is based on the book Leadership: In Turbulent Times by presidential historian and Pulitzer Prize-winning bestselling author Doris Kearns Goodwin. It is combined with expert interviews, archival photos and news reports, letters, writings and speeches from Lincoln.
The series looks at Lincoln from his impoverished childhood to his days as a young prairie lawyer and aspiring politician. Alongside well-known parts of his life, the production delves deeper into lesser-known aspects of Lincoln’s life and leadership through scenes where his humility, empathy, resilience, ambition, political acumen and humor are fully exposed.
Goodwin says, “I think what the show is going to be able to do is take Lincoln when he was just Abe – and Graham plays him from the age of 21. And you see a man that’s contradictory about whether he’s going to go for emancipation or if he’s just going to go for union.
“He’s suffered from all kinds of depression his whole life, but humor is how he finds his resilience again.”
The production includes interviews with President Barack Obama and General Stan McCrystal as well as historians Christy Coleman, Dr. Allen Guelzo, Dr. Edna Greene Medford, Harold Holzer, Dr. Caroline Janney and Dr. Catherine Clinton.
“Augmented,” 9 p.m. Feb. 23, PBS
The next edition of the PBS science series “NOVA” will feature the premiere of the feature film “Augmented.” It’s the story of a climber who lost both his legs and pursued a career as a scientist and engineer in order to design better prostheses.
At 17, Hugh Herr’s legs were amputated below the knee due to frostbite after he and a friend got lost in a snowstorm on an ice climbing trip and nearly died. Frustrated with the limitations of prosthetic legs available at the time, Herr set out to reinvent them. While still a teenager, he made oversized prosthetics that not only allowed him to pursue his passion for climbing, but made him an even more adept climber than before.
“NOVA” co-executive producer Chris Schmidt says that while the film doesn’t fit exactly into the traditional “NOVA” format, the story was so compelling it had to be told.
“From a ‘NOVA’ perspective, this film is so remarkable. First of all, the story, the drama of the story and the personal strength of Hugh is so inspiring,” says Schmidt. “When Julia Cort (Co-Executive Producer of “NOVA”) and I first learned about the film, we were really determined to pitch it as a feature documentary because it does the kind of thing we want “NOVA “.to do, which is to inspire people about the power of science and rational thinking and how to approach the world with a positive, problem-solving approach.
“We really recognize that powerful and compelling science stories don’t all come in the same package. This is the third feature film we have scheduled since becoming executive producers of “NOVA”. We are really looking forward to doing more.
Schmidt sees “Augmented” as a way to reach an audience that loves science but perhaps wants different kinds of science stories.
“Augmented” will be available to stream concurrently with the broadcast on all station-branded PBS platforms, including pbs.org/nova and the PBS Video App, available on iOS, Android, Roku streaming devices, Apple TV, Android TV, Amazon Fire TV, Samsung Smart TV, Chromecast and VIZIO.
Immediately after “Augmented”, the short film “Predicting My MS”.