New Apple TV+ series details desperate hunt for assassin John Wilkes Booth

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“Manhunt” is created by writer/producer Monica Beletsky and stars Tobias Menzies.
“Manhunt” is created by writer/producer Monica Beletsky and stars Tobias Menzies.
Photo: Apple TV+

Many people know John Wilkes Booth shot President Abraham Lincoln at Ford’s Theatre in Washington, D.C., in 1865. But not everyone knows a desperate, 12-day chase ensued to capture the killer. Apple TV+ said Wednesday it ordered a limited series called Manhunt — part true crime, part historical fiction — to tell that tale.

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Manhunt: Based on a best-selling book

Emmy- and Golden Globe-nominated writer/producer Monica Beletsky (FargoFriday Night Lights) created the series based on James Swanson’s best-selling book, Manhunt: The 12-Day Chase for Lincoln’s Killer. She will serve as showrunner and executive producer. Emmy-nominated Carl Franklin (Devil in a Blue Dress, Mindhunter) will direct.

Emmy Award-winning English actor Tobias Menzies (The CrownOutlander) will star in the show. No stranger to period pieces, Menzies plays Edwin Stanton, Lincoln’s war secretary and friend.

The frantic effort to catch Booth and to carry out Lincoln’s legacy drove Stanton nearly to madness. That sounds like good fodder for drama.

Serious questions of history

Apple TV+ described this trip into the aftermath of the first American presidential assassination as “part historical fiction, part conspiracy thriller.” The series will examine the fight to preserve and protect the ideals that formed the foundation of Lincoln’s plans for Reconstruction after the Civil War — issues that reverberate to this day.

Manhunt features Black historical figures whose lives intertwined with the escape, manhunt and subsequent high-crimes investigation. They include Mary Simms, a former slave of the doctor who treated Booth’s injury and gave him safe harbor after his crime.

First series in Beletsky’s deal with Apple TV+

Manhunt marks the first series order from Beletsky’s recently renewed deal with the award-winning Apple TV+ streaming service.

Apple Studios will produce the series with co-production help from Lionsgate, in association with POV Entertainment, Walden Media and 3 Arts Entertainment. Layne Eskridge executive produces along with director Franklin and author Swanson.

Manhunt joins an expanding lineup of upcoming Apple Original series developed and produced by Apple Studios. They include WeCrashed, based on the hit podcast and starring Jared Leto and Anne Hathaway. Based on a Walter Mosley novel, The Last Days of Ptolemy Grey is a limited series starring Samuel L. Jackson and Dominique Fishback.

World War II drama Masters of the Air is incoming from Steven Spielberg’s Amblin Television and Tom Hanks and Gary Goetzman’s Playtone. And comedy series High Desert will star Patricia Arquette, who will also executive produce alongside director Ben Stiller.

Apple TV+ is available at tv.apple.com for $4.99 per month with a seven-day free trial. For a limited time, customers who purchase and activate a new iPhone, iPad, Apple TV, Mac or iPod touch can get three free months of Apple TV+.