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‘Our Flag Means Death’ explores insanely true story of “The Gentleman Pirate” Stede Bonnet

The premise of the new pirate comedy Our Flag Means Death is so crazy, it just has to be true — and it is. The HBO Max series is based on the real life of Stede Bonnet, an 18th century wealthy English landowner turned pirate.

Show creator David Jenkins first learned about Bonnet from his wife and then ran to Wikipedia for more information. He tells ABC Audio that Bonnet “had a health crisis and left his family and became a pirate. And then, he very quickly got stabbed and then he met Blackbeard, the greatest pirate.”

“And then there’s wonderful holes in the narrative,” he adds. “Why did he leave his family? He says he was being nagged, but you’re like, dude, what did you do? How did you mess this up? I want to know. And then are you with Blackbeard? What’s up with that?”

While Jenkins couldn’t help but research about the Barbadian pirate, Rhys Darby, who plays Bonnet on the show, jokingly tells ABC Audio he didn’t do any research to play the role.

“You don’t have to do any. I mean, all these people are raving on about research. I mean, the audience aren’t doing research. They’re not ticking off a box. ‘Oh, he didn’t do that!’ And if they are, you know, shut up and just watch the entertainment,” he quips.

Even without doing research, Darby says that pirate life is often romanticized, but in practice doesn’t seem that great.

“There’s an element of everyone imagining what that might be like,” he explains. “Imagine being James Bond, having those mad skills. But you’d only ever want to do it for five minutes because, you know, it’s a horrendous life.” 

Our Flag Means Death is streaming now.

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