By Lynette Rice
April 03, 2011 at 04:32 PM EDT
Kennedys Productions (Ontario) Inc. and Zak Cassar

EW talked to Greg Kinnear, who plays John F. Kennedy, in preparation for tonight’s premiere of The Kennedys on Reelz. The project from Joel Surnow (24) and director Jon Cassar also stars Katie Holmes as Jackie.

ENTERTAINMENT WEEKLY: Was it intimidating, the idea of playing John F. Kennedy?

GREG KINNEAR: I find fear is a great motivator to work hard. I had a bit of anxiousness taking on the role. I have always had the same as anybody, this incredible awe of him as both a mythical figure and an incredible president. It was a little overwhelming but it came down to doing it or not doing and I didn’t like the sound of the latter.

What did you think about the idea of doing a miniseries for History?

It was a big part of the equation for me. Though I wasn’t that familiar with History’s programming at the time, it certainly sounded right. It sounded like the type of place that would make a show like this. That really became secondary other than it inherently gave it some credibility that I thought would be important to the show. And I did think it seemed like a good home for it. The bigger task at was less about its distribution and more about trying to lend some level of authenticity to the character.

Do you think the project took liberties?

Katie Holmes played Jackie and Tom played Joe. So I know we took liberties. Whenever Hollywood gets involved with real life events, certain liberties have to be taken. This wasn’t a three-year movie capturing Jack’s time in office, and it wasn’t a 46-year long movie capturing his life, or a 66-year movie capturing thelife of his father. These are specific moments and places and things that unfold in a narrative that I think is well told and told truthfully. That was at least the mandate. The idea was to give people a dramatic, interesting telling of one of the most powerful political families of the 1960s and I like the way it balanced Jack’s handling of policy with the family dynamic as well.

Is it truthful?

So much has been written about Jack and the family over the years. I’m hesitant to say it because it doesn’t sound like a great sales pitch for the show but I don’t think there’s anything in there that you can’t read in my daughter’s school library. One of the good things about the script is that the characters are not played like cardboard cutouts. They are flawed, three-dimensional people.

Do you know why History dropped the project?

I was surprised of course but over time I read the same stuff everybody else had. I had confidence it would find a home. Honestly, not to sound glib, I’m not sure that I cared. At this point, it’s after the fact. Even if someone tells me, that would be one’s person’s version and I’m sure there are many versions. It happened. Life moves on.