When the Welsh actor Taron Egerton had a major career breakthrough, Friday’s true-crime tale “Black Bird” on AppleTV+ is the result.
“I had had an extraordinary episode in my professional life with the 2019 film ‘Rocket Man’ about Elton John’s life,” Egerton, 32, said. “It had slightly altered people’s perspective of me as an actor.
“So I was very, very, very sure that I needed to make sure that I followed it with the right thing. Something of equal if not greater complexity.
“But I was also very, very keen to find something that was just a completely different tone and a very different character.”
That’s certainly “Black Bird,” based on James Keene’s 2010 autobiographical novel “In with the Devil: A Fallen Hero, a Serial Killer and a Dangerous Bargain for Redemption” and adapted by Boston literary icon Dennis Lehane (“Mystic River,” “Shutter Island”).
Busted for drug dealing, Keene, a cop’s son, gets a 10-year sentence in a minimum security prison. The FBI offers a Get Out of Jail deal: He transfers to a maximum security facility to befriend serial killer Larry Hall (James Walter Hauser) to find out where the 14 young girls he’s raped and murdered are buried.
“I read the script and was absolutely floored,” Egerton allowed. “Not only by the bare bones of the story, which is truth, but I was floored by the interpretation, by the characters and how complex and nuanced they were.
“But what I also loved is this idea of toxic masculinity which, I would say, is the theme of the show.
“I loved,” he added, “how imperfect the characters were. I felt the subtext. I felt everything that was unsaid in the writing and I knew I had to do it.”
“Black Bird” becomes for Jimmy Keene a descent into darkness. Larry’s confessions to him are not only rightfully disturbing, they haunt him.
“What Jimmy learns is that although he’s repulsed by Larry,” Egerton said, “he begins to realize that there is a spectrum and they may be in very different places on that spectrum but they are both on that spectrum.
“Because Jimmy has to connect with Larry, he goes in with every intention of manipulating and charming. But he realizes when he looks into Larry’s eyes, listens to him speak, he sees something of himself.
“That breaks something in him and forces him to learn humility and a greater level of humanity. But it really costs him something as well.
“He’s danced with the devil and he doesn’t come back totally whole.”
Taron Egerton and Paul Walter Hauser in “Black Bird,” premiering on July 8, 2022 on Apple TV+. (Photo courtesy Apple TV)