“All of this is true. Most of it happened,” is the key tagline for Showtime’s The Good Lord Bird, an adaptation of author James McBride’s acclaimed novel of the same name, which recounts key events that lead to the Civil War through a fictional lens. As McBride and miniseries star/Executive Producer Ethan Hawke put it, the story’s quite a “whopper,” one with an irreverent take on an especially fraught period of American history that gives it a larger-than-life feel. At the center of the yarn is Onion (played by Joshua Caleb Johnson), a fictional enslaved young man who crosses paths with the infamous abolitionist John Brown (a scraggly, bearded Ethan Hawke), and goes on to change the course of history.
Way back in January at the Television Critics Association’s winter press tour, we had the opportunity to sit down with Hawke, McBride, and Johnson to preview the limited series and—though it felt like we were living in a different world all those months ago—their belief in the story’s urgency rings even more true today. During our conversation, Hawke shared why he felt so passionate about adapting the book, Johnson explained what it felt like to “grow up” on set, and the trio revealed why a mini-Reality Bites reunion between Hawke and Steve Zahn was too good to pass up.
The eight-part series The Good Lord Bird premieres on Sunday, October 4 on Showtime.