Episodic TV direction for McCormick came at a time when the so called golden age was just beginning. And after shooting just one episode of "Third Watch" for John Wells, he was on board to direct a raft of his shows, from "ER" to "The West Wing" to "Southland." That led to work on shows like "NYPD Blue," "24," "Alias," and "The Good Wife."

"Soon I found this comfort zone, this home where great work was being done, and great writing was happening," he says.

Even so, the occasional feature film job came open, from the 2008 version of "Prom Night" with Brittany Snow to the 2009 thriller "The Stepfather" with Penn Badgley, Dylan Walsh and Sela Ward.

"To do a thriller in the Hitchcockian mode is a filmmakers dream," he says. But he found an even more fulfilling role as producer director of a series, a job that involves setting the tone for a series, hiring all the other directors and prepping them and getting behind the camera for three of the 12 episodes in a season.

It happened on "Over There" for FX, the Kiefer Sutherland vehicle "Touch" and a forthcoming midseason drama for Fox called "Gang Related."

Getting the job for "Killing Kennedy" was a dream, he said. "As soon as I read the book [by Bill O'Reilly], I fell in love with the idea that we were about to tell the story that no one knows, and that's the Oswald story. And that to me is the reason to make the movie: To learn something that we don't know.

"We're not going to get enough of Kennedy and his story," McCormick says. "We're always going to feel there's more to that story; a murder mystery that's never been solved. There are secrets that we're never going to hear and that's why we keep coming back to it. "

It's important to study, he says. "After so many years after John Hinckley, Timothy McVeigh, the shooters in Aurora, the Sandy Hook shooter and the bombers in Boston, we have this understanding that our country has the potential to create these radicalized, disenfranchised souls that set out to do violent acts," McCormick says. "Our movie encapsulates the fact that our country can provide the opportunity for greatness in the case of Kennedy, and for tragic acts in the case of Oswald."

Casting for such a film is key, he says. And in the case of its four leads, "We found people who were just at the right time in their lives to bring something very instinctual to it."

Despite scenes set in Dallas, Washington, Cuba, Russia and Mexico City, location scouts found some remarkable recreations where they shot the film in 18 breakneck days in Richmond, Va.

Early reviews from the cast are winning, as Lowe, in Washington for a press premiere, noted McCormick "knocked it out of the park."

For his part, the director says, "it was an honor to tell this story. It didn't feel like work for one second."

"KILLING KENNEDY" premieres on the National Geographic Channel Nov. 10 at 8 p.m.