I'll Fly Away (TV series)
|I'll Fly Away|
|Created by||Joshua Brand
John Aaron Bennett
|Narrated by||Regina Taylor|
|Theme music composer||W.G. Snuffy Walden|
|Country of origin||United States|
|No. of seasons||2|
|No. of episodes||38 + TV movie|
|Running time||60 minutes|
|Original channel||NBC (1991–1993)
PBS (1993 TV movie)
|Original run||October 7, 1991 – February 5, 1993
(TV movie: Oct. 11, 1993)
I'll Fly Away is an American drama television series set during the late 1950s and early 1960s, in an unspecified Southern U.S. state. It aired on NBC from 1991 to 1993 and starred Regina Taylor as Lilly Harper, a black housekeeper for the family of district attorney Forrest Bedford (Sam Waterston), whose name is an ironic reference to Nathan Bedford Forrest (1821-1877), the founder of the Ku Klux Klan. As the show progressed, Lilly became increasingly involved in the Civil Rights Movement, with events eventually drawing in Forrest as well.
I'll Fly Away won two 1992 Emmy Awards (Eric Laneuville for Outstanding Individual Achievement in Directing in a Drama Series for the episode All God's Children, and for series creators Joshua Brand and John Falsey for Outstanding Individual Achievement in Writing in a Miniseries or a Special), and 23 nominations in total. It won three Humanitas Prizes, two Golden Globe Awards, two NAACP Image Awards for Outstanding Drama Series, and a Peabody Award. However, the series was never a ratings blockbuster, and it was canceled by NBC in 1993, despite widespread protests by critics and viewer organizations.
After the program's cancellation, a two-hour movie, I'll Fly Away: Then and Now, was produced, in order to resolve dangling storylines from Season 2, and provide the series with a true finale. The movie aired on October 11, 1993 on PBS. Its major storyline closely paralleled the true story of the 1955 murder of Emmett Till in Money, Mississippi. Thereafter, PBS began airing repeats of the original episodes, ceasing after one complete showing of the entire series.
The series takes its name from a Christian hymn written in 1929 by Albert E. Brumley.
Regular cast 
- Sam Waterston: Forrest Bedford
- Regina Taylor: Lilly Harper
- Jeremy London: Nathaniel "Nathan" Bedford (except I'll Fly Away: Then and Now)
- Ashlee Levitch: Francie Bedford
- John Aaron Bennett: John Morgan Bedford
- Kathryn Harrold: Christina LeKatzis (except I'll Fly Away: Then and Now)
- Peter Simmons: Paul Slocum (recurring in Season 1, principal cast thereafter)
- Jason London: Nathaniel "Nathan" Bedford (I'll Fly Away: Then and Now only)
Recurring cast 
- Rae'ven Kelly: Adlaine Harper
- Bill Cobbs: Lewis Coleman
- Brad Sullivan: Coach Zollicofer Weed
- Mary Alice: Marguerite Peck
- Wayne Brady: Damon Rollins
- Roger Aaron Brown: Reverend Henry
- Cara Buono: Diane Lowe
- Vondie Curtis-Hall: Joe Clay and Howard Yearwood
- Michael Dolan: Francis Vawter
- Ed Grady: Judge Lake Stevens
- Dorian Harewood: Clarence "Cool Papa" Charleston
- Deborah Hedwall: Gwen Bedford
- Tommy Hollis: Oscar Wilson
- Rebecca Koon: Eileen Slocum
- Elizabeth Omilami: Joelyn
- Scott Paulin: Tucker Anderson
- Harold Perrineau, Jr.: Robert Evans
- Amy Ryan: Parky Sasser
- Sonny Shroyer: Bobby Slocum
- N'Bushe Wright: Claudia Bishop
The events of the series take place in the fictional town of Bryland, located in Bryland County.
The exact state in which Bryland is located remains unspecified throughout the series. However, at various points the following Southern states were referred to in such a manner as to eliminate them from possibly being the setting: Alabama, Arkansas, Florida, Maryland, Mississippi, North Carolina, Tennessee, Texas, Virginia, and the District of Columbia. Additionally, references to "counties" within the state eliminates Louisiana, where counties are called "parishes".
In "Freedom Bus" (Season 2, Episode 6), Forrest Bedford is referred to as a new U.S. Attorney "in the Fifth District," presumably a reference to the Fifth Judicial Circuit of the federal court system. In the late 1950s and early 1960s, the Fifth Circuit included Alabama, Florida, Louisiana, Mississippi, Texas, and Georgia (along with the Panama Canal Zone). Since the first five states can each be eliminated based upon statements made by characters throughout the series, the most likely setting for the series is Georgia.
- 1992: Emmy Award – Director, Drama Series – Eric Laneuville
- 1992: Emmy Award – Writing, Miniseries or Special – John Falsey & Joshua Brand
- 1992: Emmy Award – Drama Series (nominated)
- 1992: Emmy Award – Made for Television Movie (nominated)
- 1992: Emmy Award – Actor, Drama Series – Sam Waterston (nominated)
- 1992: Emmy Award – Actress, Drama Series – Regina Taylor (nominated)
- 1992: Emmy Award – Supporting Actress, Drama Series – Mary Alice (nominated)
- 1992: Emmy Award - Main Title Theme Music - W. G. Snuffy Walden (nominated)
- 1993: Emmy Award – Supporting Actress, Drama Series – Mary Alice
- 1993: Emmy Award – Drama Series (nominated)
- 1993: Emmy Award – Director, Drama Series – Eric Laneuville (nominated)
- 1993: Emmy Award – Actor, Drama Series – Sam Waterston (nominated)
- 1993: Emmy Award – Guest Actress, Drama Series – Rosanna Carter (nominated)
- 1992: Golden Globe Award – TV Series, Drama (nominated)
- 1992: Golden Globe Award – Actor, TV Series, Drama – Sam Waterston (nominated)
- 1993: Golden Globe Award – Actor, TV Series, Drama – Sam Waterston
- 1993: Golden Globe Award – Actress, TV Series, Drama – Regina Taylor
- 1993: Golden Globe Award – TV Series, Drama (nominated)
- 1994: NAACP Image Award – Drama Series, Miniseries or Television Movie
- 1994: NAACP Image Award – Actor, Drama Series, Miniseries or Television Movie – Dorian Harewood
- 1995: NAACP Image Award – Drama Series
- 1995: NAACP Image Award – Actress, Drama Series – Regina Taylor
See also 
- The episode "Some Desperate Glory" (Season 1, Episode 9) depicts the marquee of a local movie theater, listing Auntie Mame as the main feature. This film was first released in the United States in December 1958, implying that the first season of I'll Fly Away takes place in 1958 and 1959. However, in "The Slightest Distance" (Season 1, Episode 22), a U.S. Justice Department official remarks that a "new administration" about to take office. Clearly a reference to President John F. Kennedy, this would place the first season's latter episodes between the November 8, 1960 election and the January 20, 1961 inauguration.
- In "Freedom Bus" (Season 2, Episode 6), Robert F. Kennedy is referred to as the United States Attorney General, an office he assumed in 1961. Subsequently, in "State" (Season 2, Episode 16), Joe Clay is seen browsing through a 1962 Chevrolet catalog.
- The bulk of the series finale I'll Fly Away: Then and Now is a flashback to events occurring in the summer of 1962.
- John J. O'Connor (October 11, 1993). "Review/Television; PBS Revives a Series On Race and America". The New York Times.
- TV Guide Guide to TV. Barnes and Noble. 2004. p. 651. ISBN 0-7607-5634-1.
- The episode "Slow Coming Dark" (Season 1, Episode 17) depicts an automobile with a license plate registered in "Bryland", as opposed to one of the 50 states. A subsequent episode, "Freedom Bus" (Season 2, Episode 6), depicts a motorcycle with a similar license plate.
- The notion that Georgia is the setting for the series finds credence in several episodes. In "The Third Man" (Season 2, Episode 10), Forrest Bedford coerces a Klan infiltrator into maintaining his cover by threatening to have him imprisoned in the Atlanta Federal Penitentiary. In "State" (Season 2, Episode 16), Lilly Harper – while discussing a freedom school to be opened in Bryland – mentions the possibility of using students from Morehouse College (a historically Black college in Atlanta) as teachers. Moreover, in the final scene of "State", two African-American students (one male, one female) are shown integrating the local state university, with federal troops protecting them from a mob of jeering White students. The scene is reminiscent of the 1961 integration of the University of Georgia by Hamilton E. Holmes and Charlayne Hunter. Finally, in the series finale I'll Fly Away: Then and Now, Lilly reads from a novel she has written, one which is clearly based upon her own life. The protagonist of the novel states that she was born in "a small Southern town located on a parched southwestern plot of Georgian soil."