Back on Dec. 19, Hillary Clinton closed out the third Democratic debate with a potent message to the people of Goffstown, New Hampshire, “Thank you, goodnight, and may the Force be with you.”
The Star Wars nod came one day after Star Wars: The Force Awakens obliterated box office records, grossing a mammoth $119.1 million in its first day of release. It was also, perhaps, Hillary’s way of paying respect to two of her biggest donors: The Force Awakens director J.J. Abrams and his wife, Katie McGrath, who each donated $500,000 to the Hillary super PAC Priorities USA back in June.Abrams is one of Hollywood’s bigger Democratic supporters. Back in October, he hosted an intimate $33,400/ticket roundtable with President Obama in the living room of his Pacific Palisades home to raise money for the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee. And now that Hillary’s presidential campaign is in full swing, Abrams opened up about why he thinks she’s the best candidate in the field.
“I will say we are supporting Hillary,” Abrams told The Daily Beast. “We believe in her as the strongest candidate. She does have the experience and the politics. She is compassionate, and right. When I look at the people who need the support that aren’t necessarily getting it, I believe that she would provide that. That is really the way that we have to approach how we vote: Look around and ask yourself, who needs to be brought up? Who needs to be emphasized? Who needs compassion? And I find that that’s something that she’s got.”
The Daily Beast sat down with Abrams a the Sundance Film Festival to discuss his upcoming Hulu series 11.22.63, a political thriller produced by Abrams and Stephen King—and based on King’s novel of the same name—about an English teacher (James Franco) who is tasked with traveling back in time to stop the assassination of President John F. Kennedy, thereby altering the course of world history.
“Stories are being told on television that aren’t being told anywhere else,” said Abrams of the current TV climate. “One of the reasons why you hear it’s a golden age of TV is that features are—and I’m as guilty as anyone in this—being made when they’re often based on preexisting IP, when they’re reboots, and when they’re sequels, and some of the amazing work on TV is original material that my guess is would not have seen the light of day as a feature. So storytellers go where the story can be heard.”
In addition to political fundraising, Abrams has partnered with The Mission Continues, a nonprofit organization founded by former Navy SEAL Eric Greitens that helps veterans transition back to civilian life. Though politicians—most recently noted draft-dodger Donald Trump—constantly appeal to helping our veterans to score political points, much of this is mere posturing, as more and more of our military vets face inadequate care and support when they return home from service.
“There is nothing that is more appreciated and sacred than those who sacrifice their time, the times of their families, and in some cases their lives, for our freedom,” said Abrams. “And sometimes, the talk is louder than the actions to display that gratitude. There are a number of organizations, some of which are questionable in the way that they actually execute what they say they might in support of veterans.” “One of the reasons why my wife Katie and I got involved in The Mission Continues is because Eric Greitens found a way that works—not just to see veterans as leaders and as assets, but to find a way to answer problems that communities have that are looking for help, and leaders,” he added. “It elevates veterans who in some cases return from service and feel adrift—that they don’t have a purpose or a place. It provides them with that purpose. Mission Continues remains a bright light in how veterans are treated when they are finished doing God’s work for us.”
Our talk eventually turned to The Force Awakens, and the film’s hidden references to seminal New York City rap group the Beastie Boys. According to Abrams, the character of Ello Asty, an alien X-wing fighter pilot for the Resistance who participates in the big aerial assault on Starkiller Base, is a nod to the Beastie Boys’ album Hello Nasty. What’s more, he has the phrase “born to ill” inscribed on the side of his helmet—in reference to the Beasties’ debut album Licensed to Ill.
“Ello Asty!” says Abrams when I mention The Force Awakens’ Beasties connection. “The alien’s name, Ello Asty, could either be a reference to the Beastie Boys or to Lost. That was a name that was pitched to me by the creature department, too. ‘Born to Ill’ is, though. That’s true. I put [the Beastie Boys’] music in Trek and stuff. I’m a big fan of theirs.”
When asked whether BB-8 was another reference to the Beastie Boys—the group has released eight studio albums, after all—Abrams chuckled and replied, “No, that’s not true.”
As far as reboots go, since we are in the throes of the TV reboot craze, from Fuller House to even Coach, I asked Abrams if there is/was ever talk of revisiting one of his most celebrated TV series’, Felicity.
“Not for me,” he said. “I’ve never had that discussion. But you’re right, there’s a lot that’s being reborn these days.”