How Apple TV+'s Black Bird And Taron Egerton Used Its Most Disturbing Scenes To Cast The Killer, According To EP Dennis Lehane

Black Bird has officially debuted on Apple TV+ as the streamer’s newest high-profile drama series, which recruited some big names as stars with Taron Egerton as leading man Jimmy Keene and the late Ray Liotta as his on-screen father. Of course, with the series inspired by actual events and centered on the dynamic between Jimmy and suspected serial killer Larry in prison, the show had to find the right actor to play the killer opposite Egerton. Showrunner and executive producer Dennis Lehane spoke with CinemaBlend about how the team got disturbing to find the right star.

The new limited series cast Paul Walter Hauser of I, Tonya and Cobra Kai fame to play suspected serial killer Larry Hall, behind bars for one murder but suspected to be guilty of many more. With Egerton’s Jimmy tasked with getting a confession and the location of the bodies out of Larry while they were behind bars together, the characters had to be intriguing on their own and together. When I spoke with Dennis Lehane about casting Jimmy and Larry, he revealed that there was no chemistry read for them, then continued: 

We wanted Taron pretty early, because it's a sweet spot role. You have to have somebody who's, like in their early 30s, can play boyish because he's more boy than man when we first meet him, but also can play danger and can play calculating. We needed somebody who was charismatic. We needed an actor who was hungry to play the part, you know, really wanted it. And we found all those things in Taron.

Taron Egerton came to Black Bird with plenty of film experience in different genres, and even played a movie version of a real person when he portrayed Elton John for Rocketman. Still, the Apple TV+ series is a departure from what the actor tackled before. According to the executive producer, the team quickly realized that he had the right combination of qualities to fit this story, inspired by haunting true events. (Another star has already explained how the show avoided exploiting the victims behind the true story.) 

Black Bird Paul Walter Hauser as Larry and Taron Egerton as Jimmy

(Image credit: Apple TV+)

Egerton was one half of the Jimmy/Larry duo, but what about casting Paul Walter Hauser? Dennis Lehane continued, sharing that Egerton was actually a big proponent of Hauser getting the role… after the executive producer found the “disturbing” way for Hauser to prove that he had what it takes to play the character. Lehane said:

Once Taron was cast, he and I and one of the producers, Bradley Thomas – we started to zero in on Paul. And I was the one who stalled that a little bit because I said, 'I need to see that Paul can handle this.' I've seen he's a great actor, but Larry is a titanic part. So I had Paul read the three most disturbing Larry scenes for me, and he blew me away. And then Taron was like, 'This is the guy, this is the guy. Don't worry about chemistry, I'll have chemistry.' And they hung out early, so that they could establish some chemistry, but then it was just all there on the screen. They're just great actors.

It was clear from the trailer that the dynamic between Jimmy and Larry was going to be all-important to the series, with Jimmy having to try and befriend the convicted killer and elicit a confession in the hope of earning his freedom. All Paul Walter Hauser had to do to prove to Dennis Lehane that he was up for the challenge of playing Larry was read the character’s three most disturbing scenes. According to the producer, Taron Egerton was all-in on Hauser being cast. 

Viewers will have to keep checking out new episodes on Fridays to see just what kind of chemistry the two actors generated for their characters' extremely unconventional dynamic, and it should be an exciting ride. In addition to Taron Egerton, Paul Walter Hauser, and Ray Liotta, Black Bird stars Greg Kinnear and Sepideh Moafi. New episodes will release weekly, so make sure that your Apple TV+ subscription is active if you don’t want to miss a moment.

If you’re in the market for some viewing options between episodes of Black Bird, be sure to check out our 2022 TV premiere schedule for what’s on the way in the not-too-distant future.

Laura Hurley
Senior Content Producer

Laura turned a lifelong love of television into a valid reason to write and think about TV on a daily basis. She's not a doctor, lawyer, or detective, but watches a lot of them in primetime. Resident of One Chicago, the galaxy far, far away, and Northeast Ohio. Will not time travel and can cite multiple TV shows to explain why. She does, however, want to believe that she can sneak references to The X-Files into daily conversation (and author bios).