Ethan Hawke and James McBride on ‘The Good Lord Bird’

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Ethan Hawke (left) and Joshua Caleb Johnson (right) star in Showtime’s “The Good Lord Bird,” about the life of the abolitionist John Brown. Photo by William Gray/SHOWTIME.

Ethan Hawke's new series, “The Good Lord Bird,” tells the tale of abolitionist John Brown through the eyes of a fictional young enslaved person who Brown liberates, killing the child’s father in the process. Mistaking the boy for a girl, Brown, played by Ethan Hawke, dubs his young protege Little Onion, played by newcomer Joshua Caleb Johnson.

Adapted from the National Book Award-winning novel by James McBride, the series is a comedy set in America’s dark past, when Brown sets out on a doomed mission to eradicate slavery. McBride and Hawke talk about how hard it was to toe that line in print and on screen. 

In real life, Brown fought for freedom alongside some of the great heroes of the era, including Frederick Douglass and Harriet Tubman. In the novel and the series, Brown's young protege, an escaped young slave named Onion, follows Brown as he encounters these historical figures.

Hawke and McBride talk about how they walked the tightrope to get the tone right in the series, and the handshake deal they made that started the project.



Kim Masters


Kaitlin Parker