Rhys Darby and Taika Waititi set sail in Our Flag Means Death first look
Admit it: You (like most people) have fantasized about quitting your job and seeking adventure on the distant horizon. In the early 18th century, an aristocrat named Stede Bonnet did just that, ditching his privileged life (and his wife and kids) to pursue a career in piracy — despite a complete lack of prior swashbuckling experience. Now Bonnet's real-life escapades are serving as the inspiration for Our Flag Means Death, HBO Max's upcoming comedy about misadventure on the high seas, and EW has your exclusive first look.
"This guy had one of the world's great, colorful midlife crises," showrunner David Jenkins says. "That's a great way into a show in any genre, but to mix that with pirates, I was like, Oh, this is fantastic."
Rhys Darby stars as the landlubber Bonnet, and the show (premiering in March) follows his naïve first forays into piracy. As he takes to the sea, he eventually teams up with the notorious Blackbeard (Taika Waititi, who also directed the first episode). Off screen, the two New Zealanders have been friends for more than a decade, with the Thor: Ragnarok filmmaker directing Darby in projects including Flight of the Conchords and What We Do in the Shadows. "I hadn't really acted alongside him at all," Darby says. "So when he came aboard as [Blackbeard], all hell broke loose because no one's telling him what to do. Now [we're costars] and he's not capable of telling me what to do!"
"They are like an old married couple in certain ways," Jenkins adds with a laugh. "If a scene isn't quite working, Taika will be able to grumble about Rhys, and vice versa, in the way that only friends can. And then when it is popping, they know how to get the best out of each other. There's a generosity and a real sweetness between them that you wouldn't get if you weren't using those two friends."
While the series is based in history — Bonnet and Blackbeard really did sail together in the early 1700s — Jenkins describes Our Flag Means Death as less of a pirate show and more of a "workplace show in a strange environment," adding, "The idea of blowing your life up is so universal."
For the 47-year-old Darby, Our Flag Means Death also marked a first: He's best known for his comedic supporting characters, but Bonnet is his first time captaining the ship. (The cast also includes Leslie Jones, Fred Armisen, Kristian Nairn, and Nathan Foad.)
"I really felt like Stede the whole way through," Darby admits. "I could really feel that [experience of] putting your foot on the board, taking a massive risk, and going, 'I'm going to lead this band of idiots into the unknown — and I think it's going to work.'"
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