Apple TV+'s Black Bird: 8 Things You Didn't Know About The Show

Apple TV+ original series Black Bird, Ray Liotta’s last filmed project before his death, will have fans hooked from the opening scene as they learn of football star turned criminal Jimmy Keene. The real thrills come when Jimmy is presented with an opportunity of a lifetime that could get him out of prison but also get him killed.

For those who have begun to watch already, plan to watch, or want to wait and binge all six episodes once they are released, there are some interesting tidbits of information worth knowing before diving in.

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8 It’s Inspired By A True Story

Larry Hill and Jimmy Keene sitting across from one another in prison on Black Bird.

The story for Black Bird is inspired by real events and the true story of James Keene. It is based on his book In with the Devil: A Fallen Hero, a Serial Killer, and a Dangerous Bargain for Redemption.

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Keene’s story was previously featured on news programs like CNN and Dateline. Like the character, he was once a rising football star and his father was a police officer. The offer he was given in prison did happen. Without revealing the outcome, fans must watch to see the character’s story and learn the truth about what happened in the real Keene’s life and if the two plotlines jive.

7 The Show Was Written By The Writer Of Shutter Island

Leonardo DiCaprio in Shutter Island

Dennis Lehane is the man behind Black Bird, credited as both writer and producer. Lehane is arguably best known for also being behind such successful movies as Shutter Island and Mystic River. He was also a writer on the show The Wire.

Lehane is an author who has published more than a dozen novels that also include Gone Baby Gone and Live By Night. He told Screen Rant that the Black Bird story is a “believe-it-or-not” one that fans won’t believe happened. He also notes that some creative license was taken, of course, such as the fact that the investigation into Hall going on outside of the prison walls was far more complex than the fictionalized version depicted on the show.

6 The Show Already Has An Almost Perfect Rotten Tomatoes Rating

Larry and Jimmy sitting together in prison, both looking to the side in a scene from Black Bird.

When shows receive the coveted 100% critic rating on review aggregator website Rotten Tomatoes, it’s typically referred to as being “Certified Fresh,” a must-watch show. Already, Black Bird almost has that designation with a 97% rating at the time of this writing.

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Thus far, 33 critics have watched screeners of the show and the reviews are overwhelmingly positive. The reviews praise Lehane’s “penchant for authentic grit” and call the show an “absorbing prison drama distinguished by its moral complexity and elevated by an outstanding ensemble.”

5 It Was Ray Liotta’s Final TV Role

Ray Liotta sitting in prison talking to his son in a scene from Black Bird.

The role of Jimmy Keene’s father Big Jim Keene marks veteran actor Roy Liotta’s final on-screen performance. He passed away on May 26 at the age of 67 in his sleep while shooting another project in the Dominican Republic. This was shortly after filming for Black Bird had wrapped up. According to his IMDb page, the show was known as The Falcon’s Tale before it was renamed Black Bird. Liotta had also completed a few other projects that were in various stages of post-production.

In a tribute to the late actor, Lehane says he wrote the part of Big Jim Keene with Liotta specifically in mind and called it a “lifelong dream” to work with him, reports Deadline. He continued to call Liotta “the most electric American actor of his generation.”

4 James Keene Was A Football Player

Jimmy Keene in his home without a shirt on, looking suspicious in a scene from Black Bird.

On the show, Jimmy Keene is first seen watching football with friends as they talk about memories of when they played. But he is also a criminal who deals with illicit drugs and weapons, and these are the charges that land him in jail. In real life, James Keene had a similar story: he was a talented football player who took wrong turns in life that led him to become a drug dealer.

Just like Jimmy in the show, James was also the son of a respected former police officer and received the sentence of a decade in prison with no chance of parole. The unbelievable storyline about a young man going down the wrong path is exciting in and of itself, but the fact that the real Keene is similar in many ways to the fictional one makes Black Bird qualify to be one of the best Apple TV+ exclusive shows and movies available in 2022.

3 Larry Hall Is Suspected To Have Killed As Many As 40 Women

Larry Hall sitting in court in a scene from Black Bird.

Larry Hall remains a suspected and alleged serial killer. And while he was initially convicted for the kidnapping and rape of one young woman, it was believed that he killed her and others as well. The initial number of suspected victims was about 14, according to Oxygen. But it later came to light that the factual number could have been upwards of 40.

RELATED: 13 Best Serial Killer Shows On Netflix, Ranked (According To IMDb) 

According to Grunge.com, Hall might have been hunting and killing women for decades, not just years, long before he met Keene in prison. Some of the bodies of the women he is suspected of the killing remain hidden to this day.

2 There’s A Cobra Kai Connection

Split image of Paul Walter Hauser as Larry Hall in Black Bird and Stingray in Cobra Kai.

Fans might not recognize Paul Walter Hauser, who plays alleged serial killer Larry Hall, given how different his character is from another one in another popular show: Cobra Kai. Hauser also plays Raymond, a.k.a. Stingray, in the hit Netflix martial arts comedy-drama. Stingray is one of the best characters introduced after season 1 of Cobra Kai.

Stingray is the retail store employee who finds a group where he feels he can belong with the kids of Cobra Kai, even though he’s much older than them. He’s similarly eccentric and a bit of a loner like the character of Hall in Black Bird. But Stingray desires to be far more sociable, which is why fans might not notice that it’s the same actor.

1 Paul Walter Hauser Lost 40 Pounds For The Role

Paul Walter Hauser who plays the role of real alleged serial killer Larry Hall, lost 40 pounds for the role, according to E! Online. Along with the weight loss, the hair and make-up team also worked to transform him into the character, complete with the sideburns he refers to as “burnsides.” He also had to alter his voice, trying his best to emulate the real Hall’s voice.

While Hauser admits he was freaked out by the heavy subject matter, what drew him to the role was being able to explore the dynamic between Hall and Keene. “It’s really an undercover kind of crime story,” he says. Black Bird should rank among the most exciting new TV shows on Apple TV+ in 2022.

NEXT: The 10 Best Fictional Serial Killers 

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About The Author Christine Persaud (1201 Articles Published)

A professional writer and editor with 20 years of experience, Christine, who shifted to working freelance in 2014, is a self-professed TV fanatic with tastes that vary considerably from comedies to dramas, sci-fi, and more. She can usually be found binging a new show at night, a glass of red in hand. With a long history writing in the field of consumer tech, she now also writes on topics from entertainment to parenting, lifestyle, marketing, and business. She resides in Toronto, Ontario in Canada with her husband and son.

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2022-07-10T18:39:10.000Z

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