'Manhunt', about the hunt for John Wilkes Booth, may make you wish you'd pay attention in history class

A new series turns the assassination of President Abraham Lincoln into a thrilling true crime story that goes deeper into the story than most textbooks.

Most people who studied Lincoln in school know that he was assassinated by a man named John Wilkes Booth. Lincoln was watching a play with his wife, Mary Todd Lincoln, at Ford's Theater when Booth He came from behind and shot him.

What many don't remember is that Booth killed the president just five days after he surrendered Confederate General Robert E. Lee It's actually over Civil war. It was a coordinated and pre-planned attack on the President, Vice President Andrew Johnson, and the Secretary of State. Only Booth was successful.

Booth was a Confederate sympathizer, and relied on a network of supporters to help him hide. Edwin Stanton, Secretary of War, led the Army's search to track down Lincoln's killer. He was found 12 days later hiding in a barn where he was shot to death.

Chase“,” It debuts Friday on Apple TV+, depicts Booth's manhunt and the trial that followed. It is based on the book “Hunt: The 12 Day Hunt for the Lincoln Killer” by James L. Swanson. Tobias Menzies plays Stanton, who also helped convict Booth's co-conspirators.

“Almost no one knows the details of this story unless they have a Ph.D. or it's a special interest of theirs,” show creator Monica Beletsky said in a recent interview.

Bringing Stanton back to life is exciting, Menzies said, because he had a close and respectful relationship with Lincoln.

“A big part of Stanton's journey is political loss and personal loss as well. He loses a friend. I've studied very little American history, and certainly not this period of history,” Menzies said. “As an actor, I've done a lot of period-related stuff and I find it interesting To get a chance to learn about a new part of these stories and this is a really good example of that.

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“Truth is stranger than fiction.”

Anthony Boyle plays Booth, and his awareness of the man began with an episode of “The Simpsons” in which Bart cast him in a school play. He knew his research needed to go deeper to understand Booth's psychology and read the letters he wrote between the age of 15 until his death at the age of 26. Boyle describes it as a “descent into madness.”

Belitsky hopes that “The Manhunt” will highlight how particularly shocking Lincoln's murder was at the time.

“This type of killing was very uncommon,” she said. “Lincoln famously left the White House door open during the Civil War, despite receiving heaps of death threats. It was not even conceivable that this kind of crime could happen in our culture. My costume designer told me that Booth, who was wearing The all-black color that night is the origin of the all-black-wearing villains in our story.

There was audacity and arrogance in the way Booth decided to publicly kill Lincoln in front of an audience that suited his desire for attention.

“The theater was absolutely packed,” said Menzies, the British actor who played the title role. “the crown” And “Outlander.” “Then you run away and disappear into the night and then it takes you 12 days to find this guy. You can't make up for that.”

Booth was an actor in a family of actors, but he lived in the shadow of his older brother Edwin, who greatly respected his talent. “I'm going to be the most famous man in the whole world,” Booth said on the program before the assassination. While on the run, he reads newspaper articles about himself and loves the attention.

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“It was as if Leonardo DiCaprio's brother killed the president,” said Hamish Linklater, who plays Lincoln. “I mean, (Edwin) was one of the biggest celebrities of his time,” he said.

“This was before the Internet, before television, and this was word of mouth,” Boyle added. “People were hearing about it (asking), 'Actor John Wilkes Booth, killed the president?' Was this some kind of farce? “

Along with telling Stanton's story, Beletsky introduces viewers to Mary Simms, a slave subordinate to a doctor named Dr. Samuel Mudd (played by Matt Walsh), who treated Booth while he was on the run. She was freed under the Emancipation Proclamation. The series depicts Sims – played by Lovie Simone – interacting with Booth when he shows up at Maud's house to hide out, but in reality, she has never met him.

Sims went on to testify at the trial of Booth's co-conspirators—among them Mudd—and asserted his loyalty to the Confederacy. Since not much information is available about Sims, he is written up as a composite of a number of people who helped convict Booth's co-conspirators.

“It was a real opportunity to highlight some of these heroes, like Stanton and Sims, and also to set the record straight in some ways about what happened in our past and how that still affects us,” Beletsky said. .

“Seems like a good time to tell this story. You know, There's a big election coming up in November. “Our story is partly a story about the fragility of democracy to some extent,” Menzies said. “I think this is as true now as it was then. It is relevant and resonant which makes it rich to say it now.”

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This story has been updated to correct the book title, “The Manhunt: The 12-Day Hunt for Lincoln's Killer.”

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