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Apple TV+ is releasing a historical thriller about the founder of the Black Panther Party

Published Apr 25th, 2024 6:08PM EDT
The Big Cigar on Apple TV+
Image: Apple

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Remember all the dismissiveness and whispers that were prevalent back in the early days of Apple TV+? There was a time, for example, when the rumor mill was pretty much in stitches over chatter that Apple executives were meddling in series to water them down, to the point of essentially trying to position the nascent streamer as NBC Lite. Obviously, most of that turned out to be off the mark, and it certainly stands in contrast to one of the newest TV series Apple has in the works — a historical thriller about Huey P. Newton, the founder of the Black Panther Party.

Not, I dare say, the kind of figure NBC is likely to profile anytime soon.

The Big Cigar, which Apple describes tongue-in-cheek as “mostly true,” is based on a Playboy magazine article of the same name, written by Joshuah Bearman (who also executive-produces here). The story essentially unfolds like a caper, detailing how Newton escaped to Cuba from the FBI with help from famed Hollywood producer Bert Schneider. That help came in the form of an elaborate plan involving a fake movie production, which all goes wrong in every way it possibly can.

By the way, speaking of that magazine article, Bearman also wrote another (“The Great Escape: How the CIA Used a Fake Sci-Fi Flick to Rescue Americans from Tehran,” published by Wired), which inspired the 2012 Ben Affleck movie Argo. Bearman, in other words, is connected to both stories, and while both stories are entirely different from each other, they do share that one unusual and wild commonality: Both of them involve “disappearance” missions carried out under the cover of a fake movie production.

NAACP Image Award winner Janine Sherman Barrois is the showrunner for The Big Cigar, which debuts on Apple TV+ on May 17 with its first two episodes. The cast includes Andre Holland as Newton, and he stars alongside Alessandro Nivola, Tiffany Boone, P. J. Byrne, Marc Menchaca, Moses Ingram, Rebecca Dalton, Olli Haaskivi, Jordane Christie and Glynn Turman.

New episodes will debut every Friday through June 14. Add this one to your watchlist if you’re a fan of other Apple TV+ series like Bad Sisters, The Big Conn, and Hijack.

Andy Meek Trending News Editor

Andy Meek is a reporter based in Memphis who has covered media, entertainment, and culture for over 20 years. His work has appeared in outlets including The Guardian, Forbes, and The Financial Times, and he’s written for BGR since 2015. Andy's coverage includes technology and entertainment, and he has a particular interest in all things streaming.

Over the years, he’s interviewed legendary figures in entertainment and tech that range from Stan Lee to John McAfee, Peter Thiel, and Reed Hastings.