In the Apple TV+ series Truth Be Told, Aaron Paul plays Warren Cave, a man found guilty of killing the fictional, famous author Chuck Buhrman in 1999 (the younger Warren is portrayed by Hunter Doohan in flashbacks). But Warren Cave’s case in Truth Be Told gets complicated when new information about Buhrman comes out and journalist Poppy Parnell (Octavia Spencer) who originally reported on the case, begins to wonder if Warren is innocent after all. Poppy hosts a podcast to examine this two-decade-old case and while Warren is not based on anyone, a notable true crime podcast did influence the book the series is based on.
Truth Be Told was created by Nichelle Tramble Spellman and is adapted from the book Are You Sleeping by Kathleen Barber. Spellman explained to Variety that she took liberties with the book and drew from other sources. But it’s still worth noting that a big inspiration for Barber, as she explained in a Q&A, was the first season of the podcast Serial that focused on the case of Adnan Syed. Sarah Koenig’s podcast brought massive attention to how Syed had been convicted for the murder of his ex-girlfriend Hae Min Lee and whether or not he was really guilty.
Although the podcast inspired the story, Warren is not a stand-in for Syed by any means. For instance, Warren has become a member of the Aryan Brotherhood in jail. But both the real-life person and the fictional character were found guilty of murder in 1999 when they were teenagers and have spent the remaining years in prison proclaiming their innocence.
In an interview with the blog Writers Tell All in 2018, Barber noted how she thinks the Serial podcast is a notable example of how true crime podcasts can be used for good due to the attention it brought to Syed’s case. “Adnan Syed has been granted a new trial (whether he gets one is another question, as the State has appealed) on the grounds his original attorney failed to pursue an alibi witness,” Barber said. “While that alibi witness had contacted Syed’s attorneys over the years, it wasn’t until the popularity of Serial that she realized how important her testimony might be and renewed her efforts to be heard.”Syed has yet to get another trial and, as is often the case in real life, there has been no real clarity on what happened to Lee back in 1999.
Despite some of the similarities, it’s important to remember that Truth Be Told is fiction and isn’t representing any actual victims or convicted persons. In the book, Warren receives a rather straightforward ending and Barber noted on her website that Paul portraying Warren is “basically dream casting.” But with Spellman’s changes from the source material, Warren may not have such a clear-cut fate perhaps further displaying how the truth is rarely simple in the real world.
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