(Spoiler alert: Do not read this story if you have yet to watch Netflix’s “True Story” in its entirety.)
We hope readers are sitting down, but Netflix’s “True Story,” which is stylized with open- and closed quotation marks for its first and last letters, is actually jam-packed with lies.
Among the first fibs — or at least, the hugely consequential ones — is Carlton (Wesley Snipes) telling The Kid (Kevin Hart) that the woman he just had a one-night stand with is dead after overdosing on Vicodin. The Kid (yes, that’s what he’s actually referred to throughout the series) doesn’t question why his big brother is in his private bedroom in their shared presidential suite at the Philadelphia Four Seasons, nor does he make any attempt to verify the woman’s “dead”-ness before agreeing to pay a fixer to take care of the body.
Huge mistake, because the perpetually in debt Carlton’s shocking news was all a ruse to financially extort his comedy superstar — and currently hungover — brother. We emailed the following question to “True Story” creator Eric Newman.
TheWrap: I can understand Kid not checking Daphne/Simone’s pulse in a panic, but did any version of the script have Kid wondering why Carlton would have been in his bedroom checking her pulse? I can also see making a panicked decision there to not call the cops, but was the Vicodin HIS? Because I’m not sure where any sort of culpability would lie for Kid.
Newman: There is a likely apocryphal story in Hollywood about a star who refused to work on Saturdays. It was even in his contract. When a desperate producer went to his management team and begged them to make an exception on the film they were shooting, once they had secured the right quid pro quo, they said, “No problem. We’ll just tell him it’s Friday.”
We had originally written a version of the scene wherein Carlton gets Kid away from the body as quickly as possible to keep him from seeing the ruse. But Kevin felt that his character wouldn’t need the extra convincing. Stars who surround themselves with entourage are often protected from the truth, or better yet, distanced from it, and Kevin’s point is that when you are constantly fed information, you stop actively seeking it. We see Kid being “managed” all the time. The conversations with Kid’s team are about control, about getting him to do what they want him to do. In the perceived narrative (when we don’t know the twist) Kid is becoming his own man, standing up to his team, but also learning to trust his brother. Additionally, once Kid’s thoughts turn to his own predicament (immediately) we see him completely overtaken with his own preservation. And that makes him subject to a rationale that might not make sense to you and me. Yes, legally he could survive it, to your point on culpability, but he’s thinking about his career. A dead woman in the bed of a family-friendly film star is game over. It’s really the cover-up that gets him in trouble. Which is usually what happens. The thing that I’m surprised didn’t register for audiences is how little he cared for the dead woman. He asks if she had kids, but never mentions her again. We did have a beat where Carlton offers an explanation for why he checked on his brother and discovered the body which felt even more suspicious. We assumed that some people would see it coming, but for them the twist comes at the end of the episode in the scene with Ari.
From the show’s first big lie, to its final one. At the end of the series, Kid kills the Greek brothers Carlton was in debt to (after they killed super fan Gene in a case of mistaken avenging the murder of their third brother Ari), he also pops big bro. We’re not questioning that Cain and Abel move given the incredible fallout from Carlton’s lie, but Kid cops to having committed the first murder, choking out fixer Ari, to his bodyguard Herschel (William Catlett) and manager Todd (Paul Adelstein). He lied to them about killing Carlton, however.
The half-confession came just ahead of Kid telling Don Lemon in his big TV interview a totally different story that would fully exonerate him. (The Greeks had also killed Daphne/Simone by then, so there were really no more loose ends to tie up. You know, so long as no one was looking too hard.)
We went straight to Newman for that one too.
TheWrap: Why did you have Kid tell Hersch and his manager some of the potentially damaging truth, like killing Ari, but not all of it (like killing Carlton)? Surprised Kid wouldn’t have told them the same story he told Don Lemon.
Newman: Though we contemplated a couple different endings to our story, all of them had in common not only Kid feeling justified in doing what he had done, but also his willingness to commoditize it to help his career. It’s an incredibly cynical conclusion but it’s true to the character. He is a man after all who felt that he should get away with murder because his talent brings joy to people. This is his deeply narcissistic worldview, not mine, but there it is.
The other idea that came out of conversations between me; fellow EP Charles Murray; and Cameron Litvack, who penned the last episode, was that his coming “clean” here was a power move. It is not a confession, nor is it unburdening, it’s more of a test of his team – one to which he already knows the answer. “Yeah, I did it. What are you going to do about it?” And he is right. They won’t do anything. At least they won’t do anything Kid can’t handle. Even Herschel who uses it to feather his nest isn’t asking for something that Kid can’t easily get the studio to pay for. I felt like getting away with an obvious crime is the pinnacle of celebrity accomplishment, and what good is that if you can’t tell anyone. But nobody truly gets away with it. His inability to own the Carlton part of it, to own the fact that he killed his own brother, speaks to the fact that he is not as comfortable with it as he may project. Not to mention we all appreciated the ironic unreliability of a guy who tells stories for a living – he’s always going to leave something out.