How Black Bird Avoided 'Exploiting' The Haunting True Story Behind The Apple TV+ Series, According To One Star

Apple TV+ is bringing a haunting new crime drama to streaming with the upcoming debut of Black Bird. The limited series is inspired by actual events stemming from a series of murders, which is a sensitive subject for a television adaptation. According to actress Sepideh Moafi, fans don’t have to worry about the show exploiting the true story of the victims for the sake of entertainment. 

Sepideh Moafi of The Deuce fame plays Lauren McCauley for Black Bird, opposite Taron Egerton (who is already familiar with playing versions of real people thanks to Rocketman), Little Miss Sunshine’s Greg Kinnear, the late Ray Liotta (who passed away back in May), and Cobra Kai fan-favorite Paul Walter Hauser. The story is based on one maximum security prison inmate’s mission to elicit a confession from a serial killer after the bodies of several young girls are found. 

Speaking with CinemaBlend about the sensitive nature of telling a story inspired by real events and real people, Moafi said:  

It is delicate and difficult, and that's why I think it's important. What's so incredible about the script is that it doesn't in any way exploit the story or anything remotely similar to this story. If anything, it honors these girls and their legacy, and I think that was key for anyone to want to sign on to a show like this that is so disturbing, that is kind of triggering, I think, for many people. It's told beautifully, it's a psychological thriller that really just captivates the – if you're reading the script, to its reader – and as a viewer, it is captivating. I think Dennis [Lehane] artfully created this – sculpted, really – story that is really hard to tell. And yet you don't see any of the violence that's suggested. You only see the aftermath, and so it's done with taste. In a way, I feel like that's even more haunting than if you did see the violence on screen.

Sepideh Moafi credited writer/showrunner/executive producer Dennis Lehane (also known for Mr. Mercedes and The Outsider) with crafting a story that handles the delicate subject matter without exploiting it, and instead honors the victims. The series is inspired by the autobiography called In With The Devil: A Fallen Hero, A Serial Killer, and A Dangerous Bargain for Redemption, and author James Keene is an executive producer on the project, so the show also had the primary source as part of the team. 

While Jimmy Keene himself is a character on the show (played by Taron Egerton) and other characters are based on real people, still others are amalgamations based on multiple people. Moafi’s Lauren McCauley is one of those characters based on more than one person, and she elaborated on how that gave her some freedom as an actress:

As for the characters, my character is sort of a fusion of a few different real life characters, so I felt a considerable amount of freedom in interpreting her and I felt empowered by our cast and by our producers, and by Dennis, and sort of had free rein creatively to do what I wanted to do. And yet there's a huge sense of responsibility, I think, in telling the story.

While Black Bird is telling a story inspired by true events and featuring fictionalized versions of some real people, it was written and performed to feature the aftermath of violence against the victims rather than the violence itself, and Moafi acknowledged the sense of “responsibility” in what the show set out to do. The limited series will unfold over the course of six episodes, with weekly releases as opposed to the full season at once for binge-watching.

Be sure to subscribe to Apple TV+ in time for the series premiere of Black Bird on Friday, July 8. The show will subvert expectations of what viewers have seen time and time again with crime dramas, with the story unfolding in part behind bars, with an inmate playing the part of an investigator of sorts to try and get a confession. 

The story doesn’t fully take place in prison, however, and Sepideh Moafi will have a key part to play as the events unfold. For some viewing options between episodes of Black Bird, check out our 2022 TV premiere schedule.

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. CinemaBlend's resident expert and interviewer for One Chicago, the galaxy far, far away, and a variety of other primetime television. 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).