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How ‘Outer Banks’ Creators Mirrored Actor Jonathan Daviss’ Family Struggles

Plus, the real-life inspiration behind Denmark Tanny

(Warning: This post contains spoilers for Season 2 of “Outer Banks.”)

“Outer Banks” creators mirrored Jonathan Daviss’ real-life family struggle in his character, Pope — right down to his grandmother protecting the identity of a family member.

In the second season of OBX, Pope discovers that he is related to Denmark Tanny, a formerly enslaved man who was the sole survivor of the Royal Merchant — meaning that he claimed all the riches of the ship. While the Pogues were familiar with Tanny’s story since Season 1, Pope’s grandmother reveals their ancestry in Season 2, explaining she wanted to protect Pope from the secret.

“It was a natural outgrowth of the story we had started before,” Josh Pate, who co-created the series with brother Jonas Pate and Shannon Burke, told TheWrap. “We talked to JD about our ideas, and he actually told us a story from his family, the scene with the grandmother, where she says she didn’t tell him to protect him and his father, that they were related.”

Pope is first clued into his hidden ancestry when a suspiciously well-connected Carla Limbrey summons him to Charleston, South Carolina — a city embroiled in the legacy of enslavement. While visiting Limbrey’s estate, the Pogues notice the tall spearlike gates, designed to keep enslaved laborers in.

Although the series had previously discussed Tanny’s journey of buying his freedom with his newly claimed gold, this moment marked one of the more significant times the show has addressed the South’s history of enslavement — a topic with which the Southern-born creators are extremely familiar.

“There’s such a legacy of that institution in Charleston,” Jonas said. “It’s the city that started the Civil War, there was just a million reasons where it felt like it was a natural evolution for the story.”

The creators also tapped into their Southern history for the fictional character of Denmark Tanny, who was based on Denmark Vesey, an enslaved laborer from South Carolina who bought his freedom after winning a street lottery. Like Tanny, Vesey was murdered in 1822 after planning an extensive uprising for enslaved laborers.

“We really like to have just a little bit of real history… this history that’s embedded in this specific part of the country,” Burke said. “It just makes it a little more satisfying to have some basic truth.”

The new season of OBX brings adventure in the Bahamas, new characters and mystery as the Pogues reclaim their stolen treasure from Sarah’s dad, Ward. Although Season 3 has not been officially confirmed by Netflix, the creators hope to expand the mythology of the gold even further back.

OBX Season 2 is streaming on Netflix.