The John Adams Miniseries was a dramatic biographical miniseries on HBO about John Adams' life, his fight for independence from the British and the first half century of the United States of America. It begins with John as a young lawyer and follows him as a member of the continental Congress, Ambassador to England, Vice-President and President of the United States and into his retirement. His abrasive personality especially flares up when the slow-moving nature of politics gets under his skin and he repeatedly alienates people but eventually gains respect through his actions. This miniseries is another wonderful example of how history can be made entertaining!
John Adams Miniseries Cast
Paul Giamatti .... John Adams (7 Episodes)
Laura Linney .... Abigail Adams (7 Episodes)
Stephen Dillane .... Thomas Jefferson (6 Episodes)
John Dossett .... Benjamin Rush (6 Episodes)
David Morse .... George Washington (4 Episodes)
Sarah Polley .... Nabby Adams (4 Episodes)
Samuel Barnett .... Thomas Adams (4 Episodes)
Andrew Scott .... Colonel William Smith (4 Episodes)
Danny Huston .... Samuel Adams (3 Episodes)
Steven Hinkle .... Young John Quincy Adams (3 Episodes)
Ebon Moss-Bachrach .... John Quincy Adams (3 Episodes)
Tom Wilkinson .... Benjamin Franklin (3 Episodes)
Madeline Taylor .... Young Nabby Adams (3 Episodes)
Mamie Gummer .... Sally Smith Adams (3 Episodes)
Kevin Trainor .... Charles Adams (3 Episodes)
Michael Hall D'Addario .... Young Charles Adams (3 Episodes)
Landon Ashworth .... The Senator (3 Episodes)
Dan Taylour .... Merchant (3 Episodes)
Rufus Sewell .... Alexander Hamilton (2 Episodes)
Justin Theroux .... John Hancock (2 Episodes)
Lex van Delden .... First Dutch Banker (2 Episodes)
Zeljko Ivanek .... John Dickinson (2 Episodes)
Sieger Sloot .... Dutch Man (2 Episodes)
Guy Henry .... Jonathan Sewall (2 Episodes)
Judith Magre .... Madame Helvetius (2 Episodes)
Brennan Brown .... Robert Treat Paine (2 Episodes)
Tom Beckett .... Elbridge Gerry (2 Episodes)
Jules Croiset .... Second Dutch Banker (2 Episodes)
Thomas Langston .... Young Thomas Adams (2 Episodes)
John Keating .... Timothy Pickering (2 Episodes)
Timmy Sherrill .... Attorney General Charles Lee (2 Episodes)
John Adams Miniseries Trivia
Filming of the John Adams Miniseries was halted for a short amount of time when the Studios where they were filming in Hungary caught on fire!
If you watch closely, there is an occasional view of the letters "BBC" inside of the trousers that they actors who played common city dwellers. Those costume pieces were apparently rented or purchased by HBO from the masters of British historical drama production, the BBC!
HBO's wardrobe people went to extremes in order to ensure that the John Adams Miniseries costumes would be historically accurate. Extensive research was done to determine the styles worn at different times during this epic that covered more than a half century. Men's jacket lapels and the amount of lace under the ladies' dresses changed during that period just like bell bottom jeans have more recently come in and out of style.
In order to get a feel for his role as George Washington on the John Adams Miniseries, David Morse ("St. Elsewhere") visited Washington's home, Mount Vernon, Virginia. As of the time this miniseries aired, Morse is the only actor who had ever portrayed both Abraham Lincoln and George Washington.
In a perfect example of how history is often rewritten in order to glorify our founding fathers, it's often said that John Adams last words were "Jefferson Survives". In actually though, Adams' last words were a plea for help to one of his grandchildren. Ironically, Thomas Jefferson actually died just a few hours before John Adams and Adams was not told of his death. Even more ironically, they both died on the 50th anniversary of the Declaration of Independence, July 4, 1826!
During the revolutionary war British soldiers were called "limeys" by the American colonists. It's typical of wartime that each side finds some derogatory name for the other to "dehumanize" them. Eventually the term was used to describe any British citizen. The term came from the fact that the soldiers on their ocean voyage to America sucked on limes to prevent scurvy which is a disease caused by insufficient vitamin C in the diet.
In the scene featuring George Washington's inauguration many of the people in the cheering crowd are drinking mugs of beer. The beer was actually just water with a bit of cola added to make it look like a dark brew. If you looked closely you may have seen the same actor more than once in that scene! That's because instead of hiring hundreds of extras they used a green screen with just somewhere around 80 extras. They took numerous shots with the extras changing clothing, hairstyles, and the items they might be holding for each successive shot. Then they "merged" all of those shots together to look like there was a huge crowd.
Justin Theroux ("The District") who played John Hancock once said, "If I was roped into a seven-year TV contract I'd probably hang myself. It's a TV show - selling cars, cereal, soda pop. TV is like that. The shows are incidental to the commercials". That's an interesting statement from a guy who as of this date has appeared on 50 TV show episodes. Where does he think his paycheck came from? And what about the $15 to get into a movie theater, the $7 boxes of popcorn, and the $3 candy bars?
The costume co-ordinator on the John Adams Miniseries ran out of bustles to go under the ladies' dresses so pillows were used to fill them out.
In order to make John Adams' aging over 50 years appear more realistic, Paul Giamatti's teeth were stained further and further throughout the progression. This might seem like an obvious thing to do but it's typically either overlooked or the actor refuses to "tarnish" their appearance, even in order to promote realism! Obviously, there was no teeth-whitening at the dental office in those days. The extras also got their teeth stained for authenticity with the poorest characters being made to look worse than the wealthy.
The scenes at the harbor were actually filmed on dry land so they had a crew member hose down the sides of the ships periodically to appear as if they had been sloshing around in the water.
As was true with the real-life clothing during the period, Paul Giamatti's costume was extremely uncomfortable and he hated wearing it. Everyone else felt pretty much the same way but poor Paul had the most time on camera by far so he suffered the most. During the six months that the John Adams Miniseries was filmed, Paul got a measley two days off!
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