Accessibility links

Rousing  'John Adams' Gives Life to the American Revolution

John Adams, the second president of the United States, comes to life on American cable television. The 'John Adams' miniseries, based on David McCullough's Pulitzer Prize-winning book, offers a revealing account of John Adams's profound influence on the American Revolution and the formation of the American nation. VOA's Penelope Poulou has more.

John Adams was fiery; A born orator. He was the man who persuaded the Continental Congress to rise against the British army in 1776. He was a driving force of the American Revolution. And yet, he is an obscure figure in American history. That is, up until now, says Tom Hanks, the producer of the series.

"Well, starting with David McCullough's book, which was really quite an enlightening experience to read, John Adams has not been anything more than a guy who is on the money," says Hanks. "He was viewed as a loser, a guy who was not re-elected president. And it became sort of like an asterisk to the much bigger personalities of the day."

Yet he is portrayed in the series as the man who coaxed Thomas Jefferson to write the Declaration of Independence. And it was he who convinced his fellow patriots to form a revolutionary army and he who hand-picked the leader of that army -- General George Washington.

Like the book, the miniseries, throws light on the rich emotional and spiritual relationship between John Adams and his wife, Abigail Adams -- played by actress Laura Linney. Abigail was not only John's wife and mother of his four children. She was his sounding board, his indispensable advisor.

It took a crew of 670 people and 5,700 extras, and more than $100 million to produce this series: An ambitious and risky endeavor considering how obscure the subject is to the average American, says executive producer Tom Hanks.

"We truly realize this is a dangerous, scary business venture to see if people will tune in and out in order to watch this story about these people in funny hats and funny wigs and what they did 200 years ago. That's really walking the tightrope," he says.

The series -- filmed mainly in historic Williamsburg in Virginia -- presents an unsparing look at life in 18th-century America. Lead actor Paul Giamatti says the bare-knuckle politics of those times are not very different from today.

"I think they got even a little bit more personal and vicious then, in some ways than they do now," he says. "I don't know, you know all the kind of political lines were drawn then and it's not that different ultimately in terms of two philosophies at war against each other. It's the same thing."

With crackling dialogues, powerful acting and stunning cinematography, the miniseries "John Adams" draws its viewers into the political whirlwind of the American Revolution. It also seeks to resonate with Americans who are closely following today's presidential election campaign.