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James Franco really, really wanted to adapt Stephen King's 11.22.63 himself—but found out when he asked the famous author about getting the rights to the project that it had already been snapped up by a producer you might've heard of—J.J. Abrams.

Bummer, right? But it all worked out OK for the star of Hulu's new limited series, which follows a man who travels back in time and tries to stop the assassination of JFK. After writing a review of the book for Vice, Abrams approached Franco to star in the project. His one caveat? He wanted to direct an episode as well. And the rest, as they say, is history.

"I was actually preparing for my orals for my PhD, and so I had to read 150 books and a lot of them were really academic…That took me a year and a half. As soon as I was done with that, I was like, 'I don't have to read to prepare for this anymore! I can just read whatever I want,'" Franco told E! News.

11.22.63, 11/22/63, James Franco

Sven Frenzel/Hulu

He'd seen 11.22.63 at the airport, and decided that would be the first book he'd read for pleasure after his PhD orals. He read, loved, was denied the rights, rand eviewed before getting the aforementioned call from Abrams, who hired him to direct an episode, too.

Star T.R. Knight had nothing but good things to say about the actor—who plays his romantic rival—and his directing skills. "I just can't speak highly enough of him, just as an actor and also as a director and how generous and cool [he was]," he told us.

Click play on the video up top for more.

11.22.63 premieres Monday, Feb. 15 on Hulu, and will debut new episodes weekly.