Why The Last Days of JFK Jr. on ABC could make you sad all over again
4th January 2019

In anticipation of the 20th anniversary of the death of John F. Kennedy Jr., ABC tonight will air The Last Days of JFK Jr.  — a documentary featuring interviews and previously unseen video about Kennedy and his wife, Carolyn Bessette-Kennedy, both of whom died in a plane crash on July 16, 1999.

We talked to executive producer Terri Lichstein about what to expect from the special, and whether the images will make us sad all over again.

ENTERTAINMENT WEEKLY: Was this a difficult project? When did you begin?
TERRI LICHSTEIN: We actually have been looking at this for a while, over the last year or two, collecting these special interviews. What the documentary really does is take a look at his life. At every stage of his life, there are these voices that pull us into who he was and then eventually what happens to him at the end of his life. I love how in the beginning of his story, we talk to his nanny and the Secret Service man who was around him and into high school. We talk to high school friends, two of his college friends, his past girlfriends. Then there was the George period, before we get to the day that he died and the whole flight. This is a very intimate look at his life. We made a very unique arrangement with a photographer we found. When I first sat down and I talked to the producing team, I looked at the material and was like, “I don’t remember that shot.” We really had an opportunity to spend a lot of time with this material and really incorporate it into this entire story.

Was it a mistake for him to fly that night?
Oh boy, I can’t really be the one to answer that question. I think in the documentary, you get a feeling from two pilots who we interviewed, one of whom decided not to fly on that night and another who did decide to fly that night. They both realized the conditions were really bad. I think in the film, you get the feeling that, boy, wouldn’t it have been great if they had decided to go the next day?

Is this going to make viewers sad?
There’s a combination of emotions when you watch this film. There’s a sense of fulfillment and happiness and the incredible man that he turned out to be. Also there’s the loss that everybody feels that he never got to fulfill his life. At the end of the film, there is this great quote that he gives us when he’s talking about his father. I love it: “One of the reasons why he remains a figure that captures our imagination is that his life was uncompleted, and his work was uncompleted. There is that sense of promises that were left by circumstances undone.” Here we have this man telling us about a life cut short, which is his father, and he ended up in exactly the same position.

The Last Days of JFK Jr. airs at 9 p.m. ET tonight on ABC.

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