Black Bird — release date, cast, trailer, plot, first looks, interview, and all about the prison thriller

Taron Egerton takes the lead role of Jimmy Keene in Black Bird.
Taron Egerton takes the lead role of Jimmy Keene in Black Bird. (Image credit: Apple TV+)

Black Bird is an intense American prison thriller starring British actor Taron Egerton that tells the real-life story of convicted drug dealer Jimmy Keene who is forced to get a confession out of suspected serial murderer Larry Hall (Paul Walter Hauser) while in a maximum-security prison. 

Based on the true-crime memoir In With The Devil: A Fallen Hero, A Serial Killer, and a Dangerous Bargain for Redemption by Jimmy himself and Hillel Levin, the series shows how he made a deal with the devil to reduce his own prison sentence. His task? To discover the truth about Hall. But is Hall just telling Jimmy what he wants to hear? 

Here’s everything you need to know about the nail-biting drama Black Bird… 

Serial killer Larry Hall in Black Bird.

Serial killer Larry Hall in Black Bird. (Image credit: Apple TV+)

Black Bird release date

Black Bird gets its worldwide premiere on Apple TV Plus on Friday July 8 2022. The six-episode psychological thriller begins globally with the first two episodes on  July 8, followed by one new episode weekly every Friday until August 5 2022.

Is there a trailer?

Yes an official Black Bird trailer has arrived from Apple TV Plus. 'You want me to check into hell and befriend the demon? Not for all the money in the world' says Taron Egerton's Jimmy Keene! Take a look at the cracking new trailer below...

Black Bird plot 

In Black Bird, Jimmy Keene (Taron Egerton) is a former high school football hero and the son of a decorated police officer. But his life implodes when he’s found guilty of drug dealing and and possessing illegal firearms, and he is sentenced to 10 years in a minimum-security prison. 

Jimmy’s natural charisma serves him well on the inside, and he quickly becomes adept at fitting in with the prison’s various cliques. 

When this catches the FBI’s attention, Agent Lauren McCauley (Sepideh Moafi) offers Jimmy a highly unusual deal: she wants him to befriend Larry Hall, who has already been convicted of killing one young woman and is believed to be responsible for the deaths of around 13 others. If Jimmy can elicit further confessions out of Larry before the latter’s appeal goes through – in particular, the locations of the bodies – Jimmy gets to walk free.

"When Jimmy agrees to do this, he goes from a medium security prison to a maximum security prison specialising in the criminally insane," reveals writer and executive producer Dennis Lehane. "If Larry turns out to just be a serial confessor, then Jimmy’s stuck doing his time in there. If Jimmy makes a mistake and gets into a fight with someone, he’s stuck doing his time there. This is one of the worst prisons in America – it’s a hideous place."

At first, Jimmy turns down the FBI’s offer, seeing the potential risks as simply not worth the slim chance of success. But the situation changes when he learns that his beloved father (played by the late Ray Liotta, see panel below) is seriously ill, and unlikely to survive to the end of Jimmy’s current sentence.

"‘Jimmy never would have taken the deal if his father hadn’t gotten sick," says Lehane. "His father was his best friend, his everything, the most stable relationship in Jimmy’s life at the time. That’s why he took the job."

Black Bird.

Taron Egerton's Jimmy Keene meeting with serial killer Larry Hall (Paul Walter Hauser) in Black Bird. (Image credit: Apple TV+)

Black Bird cast — Taron Egerton on playing Jimmy Keene

Taron Egerton who plays the lead role of prisoner Jimmy Keene is no stranger to playing real life characters, having previously taken on the roles of Elton John in Rocketman and Eddie The Eagle in the 2015 movie about the skier. Taron also stars in the Kingsman films and played Robin of Loxley in the 2018 adaptation of Robin Hood. He also voices Johnny in the movies Sing and Sing 2. He also provided the voice of Moomintroll in Sky's animated series Moominvalley.

On taking the role in Black Bird, Taron says: “It was a year after Rocketman came out that I was presented with this, and it was the thing I’d been waiting for. It’s a cast of great roles and I had the feeling it was going to be something special, and I do believe it is actually if I do say so myself.”

On working with the late Ray Liotta, Taron adds: “He was really special to me and it was quite a profound experience for me working with him for reasons that are actually quite difficult to quantify. He was amazing.”

Black Bird's Taron Egerton as prisoner Jimmy Keene.

Black Bird's Taron Egerton as prisoner Jimmy Keene. (Image credit: Apple TV+)

Taron Egerton as Elton John moment in Rocketman.

Taron Egerton as Elton John moment in Rocketman. (Image credit: C4)

Paul Walter Hauser as Larry Hall 

Cobra Kai actor Paul Walter Hauser takes on the role of suspected serial killer Larry Hall. He played Horace in the Cruella movie and starred in I, Tonya. He’s also been in BlacKkKlansman, Songbird and Super Troopers 2

Paul Walter Hauser as Larry Hall in Black Bird.

Paul Walter Hauser as Larry Hall in Black Bird. (Image credit: Apple TV Plus)

The late Ray Liotta as 'Big Jim' Keene

The role of ‘Big Jim’ Keene ultimately turned out to be one of the final performances for Ray Liotta, who died in May at the age of 67, after a glittering career that included roles in Field of Dreams and Goodfellas. 

"I wrote the part with Ray in mind," says Dennis Lehane. "I’ve always loved his softer performances, particularly Blow, where he played Johnny Depp’s father – a sweet, working-class man whose dreams never worked out. I was thinking of that as I was writing, and I thought 'That’s the Ray Liotta I want to see.' He did not give that performance as he never gave the same one every time, but he gave a rich performance of a fundamentally decent man."

The late Ray Liotta, who sadly died earlier this year, in Black Bird.

The late Ray Liotta, who sadly died earlier this year, in Black Bird. (Image credit: Apple TV+)

Who else is starring in Black Bird

Also starring in Black Bird is Greg Kinnear (House of Cards) as Brian Miller, nd Sepideh Moafi as legal eagle Lauren McCauley.

Greg Kinnear and Sepideh Moafi as Black Bird legal eagle Brian Miller and Lauren McCauley.

Greg Kinnear and Sepideh Moafi as Black Bird legal eagle Brian Miller and  Lauren McCauley.  (Image credit: Apple TV+)

Dennis Lehane on Black Bird and the casting of Taron Egerton and Paul Walter Hauser

Black Bird is developed, written and executive produced by bestselling author Dennis Lehane. The series is based on the memoir written by the real James Keene. Like Jimmy in the series, Lehane was far from convinced when he was first approached about adapting the book into a series – until he considered it from a different perspective.

"I was like, “I’m tired of psychos and darkness, I hate prisons, I don’t want to do this,”’ Lehane recalls. ‘But very late in the game, it hit me that I could tell a story about the spectrum of misogyny that I believe all men are on somewhere. I thought if I could tell that journey with Jimmy inconveniently discovering his humanity, then I had a story."

Finding the right actor to play the lead role was crucial, as Jimmy needed to be by turns charismatic, intimidating and vulnerable – and in the end, there was really only one star in contention for the part.

"We knew Taron Egerton had the magnetism from Kingsman, we knew he had the range from Rocketman, and from Eddie The Eagle he had the sweetness that I think is underneath all the hardness in Jimmy," says Lehane. "Somebody got the scripts to Taron extremely early, and the moment he expressed interest we couldn’t see anybody else."

Casting the role of Larry Hall was trickier, with the part ultimately going to Cruella star Paul Walter Hauser, who then had the difficult job of establishing what was going on in his character’s mind.

"Paul had to play somebody who is either a savant in what he does, or is 10 times craftier than anybody else around him – thinking so far ahead and never letting it show,’" says Lehane. "Paul had to work that out for himself – but we had lots of conversations about it. I spent two years studying Larry, and he is a massive enigma. In the history of serial killers and serial confessors, it’s a complete anomaly to find somebody who could be both – but it seems like Larry Hall was…"

More about Black Bird

The first three episodes of Black Bird are directed by Academy Award nominee Michaël R. Roskam, who also serves as executive producer. Lehane, Egerton and Roskam executive produce alongside Richard Plepler through his EDEN Productions; Bradley Thomas, Dan Friedkin and Ryan Friedkin executive produce through Imperative Entertainment; Alexandra Milchan and Scott Lambert executive produce through EMJAG Productions; and Kary Antholis also executive produces, along with the book’s author James Keene. Jim McKay and Joe Chappelle also direct. The limited series is produced for Apple TV+ by Apple Studios.

Nicholas Cannon
TV Content Director on TV Times, What's On TV and TV & Satellite Week

I'm a huge fan of television so I really have found the perfect job, as I've been writing about TV shows, films and interviewing major television, film and sports stars for over 25 years. I'm currently TV Content Director on What's On TV, TV Times, TV and Satellite Week magazines plus I previously worked on Woman and Woman's Own in the 1990s. Outside of work I swim every morning, support Charlton Athletic football club and get nostalgic about TV shows Cagney & Lacey, I Claudius, Dallas and Tenko. I'm totally on top of everything good coming up too.