Ethan Hawke’s new miniseries is one of America’s most controversial stories
“The Good Lord Bird” is now available on HBO. Critics say the actor’s interpretation is simply magnificent.
We are in 2020 and racism remains a daily issue in the United States. The main reason is the past of slavery that led to a civil war that, even centuries later, still divides the country. Slavery is precisely the central theme of the new miniseries “The Good Lord Bird”, which arrived on HBO on Sunday, October 4. But don’t think that you’ve seen something like this.
Over the years, fiction has introduced us to the most sordid and violent figures from the time of slavery. Some were invented, others very real. Perhaps none were like John Brown. One of those cases that, being real, seems invented.
Brown was not an advocate of slavery, quite the contrary. A religious man, accustomed to including quotations from the Bible in his head, he felt that he had a divine mission on earth: to end slavery. For this, he argued, the time was no longer for speeches. Only violence would end slavery.
It was in 1861 that the US Civil War began, but for John Brown, the entire previous decade was a prophecy of what was on the way. Let’s avoid some details of John Brown’s life, to spare the spoilers for “The Good Lord Bird” – not least because we still don’t know everything the series is going to show us. But we can say that there was violence, revenge, blood and tragedy in the life of a man who took up arms to launch the slave revolt.
The writer Victor Hugo is among Brown’s contemporaries who praised this man who, before taking up arms, studied to be a reverend. Harriet Tubman, a former slave who became an activist against slavery, also admired Brown. In the middle of the war, there was even a song about him that soldiers from the northern states sang on their way to the battlefield.
For many years, the figure of John Brown passed over the side of history books. Part of the reason is that even today this person is debating. For those who defended the southern states, which fought to maintain slavery, he is nothing more than a terrorist. But even among the abolitionists and who fought for the rights of African Americans, it is not a consensus. Malcolm X, for example, praised him, Martin Luther King, always an advocate of a more pacifist path, chose to ignore him.
Crazy, violent, convinced, controversial, hero, fanatic, martyr. Perhaps John Brown was all of these things. Now, it’s one more: a perfect role for Ethan Hawke to shine. Critics even name him as one of the strongest contenders for next year’s Emmy.
Created by Hawke himself, “The Good Lord Bird” is a Showtime project. The miniseries has a total of seven episodes and is inspired by the novel of the same name by James McBride. The story is told from the perspective of Onion (Joshua Caleb Johnson), a fictional, enslaved boy who joins Brown’s group.
The rest of the cast consists of Ellar Coltrane – the boy from “Boyhood”, Richard Linklater’s ambitious project filmed in spaces over 12 years -, .Beau Knapp, Steve Zahn, Daveed Diggs, Adam Shapiro, Wyatt Russell, Mo Brings Plenty, among others.
The highlight, however, is even for Ethan Hawke, who in the trailer is almost unrecognizable. Choleric, intense and provocative in his role, the actor promises to be one of the interpretations of the year. After nominations for the Oscars and a Tony, perhaps he just needs to add that nomination to the Emmy for his long career to be complete.
Since you are here, take the time to discover what series premieres and returns you can watch on television throughout this month of October.