The Kennedys and The Pillars of the Earth Win Coveted Emmys


On September 18, 2011, Montreal’s Muse Entertainment was honored with quintuplets – that is, quintuplets in Emmy Awards. Muse was the recipient of not one, not two, but five of these prestigious awards for The Kennedys and The Pillars of the Earth.

On the heels of these exciting wins, I had the privilege to speak with Executive Producer Michael Prupas about both projects and Muse Entertainment’s involvement in each.

Controversy Surrounding The Kennedys MiniseriesI was most curious about how Muse became involved with The Kennedys. I had heard rumors of inaccuracies and discontent surrounding the project and its subject matter. Prupas told me he became involved with the project when he was approached by Asylum Entertainment and writer Stephen Kronish to develop the miniseries for the History Channel. He went on to say, “No one [from the Kennedy family] ever contacted us directly and asked us not to do the project.”

He further explained to me that his objective in telling the Kennedy story was to portray this very iconic, well-remembered family in such a way as to maintain their fierce family pride and identity. Prupas said, “How did they get into the position they did from working class Irish Boston? Their great grandparents were potato farmers.”

Brilliant Portrayal by Well-Respected Actor

Actor Barry Pepper (Saving Private Ryan, True Grit) had a large part in depicting the Kennedys in this light. And Prupas had nothing but praise for Pepper in his portrayal of Bobby Kennedy, describing him as “a dedicated student of Bobby Kennedy and his life.”

He went on to say that “Barry spent an enormous amount of time researching, reading, listening to Bobby Kennedy’s speeches, looking at photos, and working with the prosthetics department artist to make his nose and other features resemble Bobby’s. He basically had to ‘become’ Bobby Kennedy for the miniseries.”

Prupas told me that “Pepper also worked with a voice coach in Toronto and, when on set, would not talk except in Bobby Kennedy’s voice, to get the distinct dialect down pat. He [Bobby Kennedy] had a very particular Boston accent.”

The Kennedys a Goldmine for Muse

In the end, all the training and hard work paid off for Muse when Pepper walked away with the Primetime Emmy for Outstanding Lead Actor in a Miniseries or a Movie. The Kennedys also won Creative Arts Emmys for Outstanding Sound Mixing in a TV Miniseries or Movie, Outstanding Makeup in a TV Miniseries or Movie, and Outstanding Hairstyling in a TV Miniseries or Movie.

The Kennedys miniseries aired on ReelzChannel in April 2011 and was released on DVD and Blue-ray on July 18 (in the UK) and September 20 (in the U.S. and Canada). It also stars Greg Kinnear (as John Kennedy) and Katie Holmes (as Jackie Kennedy).

Muse and Yet Another Emmy Winner

But the story for Muse doesn’t end here. The production company has yet another award-winning project, The Pillars of the Earth.

Challenges Appearing Larger Than Life

Every film set has its challenges, but perhaps this one’s was bigger than most. And by big, I mean in size. Prupas informed me that castles and churches for the project had to be built from scratch. And, though filming took place mostly in Budapest, Hungary, there was not much evidence of a 12th century English Medieval life. Oh, there were some castles, but most of the buildings, clothing, and evidence of the time had to be created by production designers, costume designers, and set decorators. This was quite a challenge and quite an undertaking.

This wasn’t the biggest challenge for Prupas and crew, however. His challenge was in finding enough financiers, in the beginning anyway, to bring the miniseries together. Though Muse had been asked to co-produce the project by the German company, Tandem Communications, who owned the rights to the project, Propas confirmed, “there were no firm broadcast commitments in advance. Deals were made after the fact.”

Insurmountable Challenges and Ultimate Victory

The winning of the Emmy for Outstanding Sound Editing in a TV Miniseries or Movie is ultimately a testament to the savvy financiers of the project. The Pillars of the Earth aired in the US and Canada on Starz and the Movie Network, respectively, in July, 2010 and in the UK on Channel 4 in October, 2010. It was released to DVD and Blu-ray on November 23, 2010. The Pillars of the Earth stars Ian McShane (Pirates of the Caribbean: On Stranger Tides).

Cheryl has been a freelance TV/film writer for more than 10 years. Simultaneously, she has worked in PR for Bon Jovi Productions in NYC, PolyGram Records (also in NYC), and Rogers & Cowan Public Relations. Cheryl has published articles at, “Sci-Fi Entertainment” magazine, and “Soap Opera Weekly.” She was also a credited researcher for English author Denis Meikle’s JOHNNY DEPP: A KIND OF ILLUSION. Cheryl enjoys writing for the entertainment industry and meeting new people. She is also an animal lover. 

Article originally posted at Suite101.