AppleTV+ has been cranking out a steady amount of dramas on its newly launched streaming platform and up next is limited series Truth Be Told, premiering on December 6. The series, about a true crime podcast, hopes to capitalize on the wave of true crime series that followed 2014's breakout hit Serial. But, Truth Be Told puts an unusual spin on the familiar true crime format with its plot: What happens if a viral investigative report doesn’t have all the facts straight and ruins someone’s life? That potential someone in Truth Be Told is Warren Cave, played by Aaron Paul (fresh off his return to the Breaking Bad world with El Camino), who is more intimidating and secretive than ever before.
The series, based on the novel Are You Sleeping? by Kathleen Barber, tells the mysterious story of true crime podcaster Poppy Parnell (Octavia Spencer) who questions if Warren (Paul), the man her show helped put behind bars, was truly guilty. Nineteen years after his conviction, the case begins to unravel, Poppy suddenly doubts herself, and adult Warren has found a troubling way to survive in prison. Compared to the book, Warren’s character in the show plays a much more pivotal role in the narrative because he is used to convey one of the main themes of the series: The truth is the most important part of the story.
In the trailer for Truth Be Told, which includes shots of young Warren when he is first accused and then 19 years later in prison, Poppy contemplates in a voiceover narration, “Eighteen years, 10 months, 24 days. That’s how long Warren Cave has sat in prison for the murder of Chuck Buhrman. But is there an innocent man in prison and did I lead that charge?”
This two-part question drives the series which fans of the source of the material might be surprised to learn because Are You Sleeping? predominantly focuses on how reopening the case affects Josie Buhrman (Lizzy Caplan, who also portrays Josie’s twin Lanie).
But despite the gravity of the story, in reality, none of these people actually exist. Are You Sleeping? is a work of fiction and the murder in the story isn’t based off a real case. Yet, Paul sees how Warren’s case connects to the way we cover true crime stories in the real world.
“Don’t just spit out information because you think you might have the right information without really fact checking and just grabbing a headline for clickbait,” Paul said explaining the show. “I think this is just about really discovering what is the truth.”
The audience learns early on in the series that Warren has joined the Aryan Brotherhood in prison. He's a young, seemingly innocent teenage boy when the show begins, but as an adult, he's covered in white supremacist tattoos. Truth Be Told explores how Warren’s family has also been changed by his imprisonment and support of racist ideologies to show the extreme effects of an inaccurate investigation. Creator and showrunner Nichelle Tramble Spellman told Entertainment Weekly that she intended for Truth Be Told to focus on these dire consequences:
“What about the people who are at the center of a tragedy when a journalist starts to pick at an old wound? ... What does journalism look like when there’s no one to police it? We live in this age where you can throw up a podcast or anyone can write a blog or send out a tweet, and it’s kind of this wild, wild West in both arenas. So, the show explores the messiness when all those things collide.”
Rather than obsess over true crime, Truth Be Told, shows what could happen if a story lands in unreliable hands. Warren Cave may not be real, but that doesn’t mean his story couldn’t become a reality.