Under the banner of heaven is a haunting new FX series that depicts the true story of the 1984 Lafferty murders; a crime so shocking that it has shaken many core Mormons. The true crime drama, which premiered April 28 on Hulu, sees the Lafferty clan through the eyes of detectives Jeb Pyre (Andrew Garfield, Tick, tick… Boom!) and Bill Taba (Gil Birmingham, Yellowstone) as they attempt to unmask the killer while addressing the fears and conspiracies of the community around them.
The limited series, which consists of 7-hour episodes, spends a lot of time with various members of the Rafferty family. Sam Worthington (soon to feature in several Avatar sequels) takes on the role of Ron Lafferty, the eldest son of a tight-knit team who has made a name for himself outside of his father’s company. Although he has a successful construction career, he can’t help but feel pushed out of the family center – a growing feeling that later results in untold tragedy.
Worthington spoke to Screen Rant about what made Under the banner of heaven a different challenge from previous projects, and snapped some shots of her co-star Andrew Garfield’s knitting.
Screen rate: I love this show; I loved the book. How is this role different from anything you’ve done before?
Sam Worthington: Every role has its own challenges, and I think the challenge for this one was its longevity. Not only in the sense of the character’s episode count, but Ron Lafferty’s understanding of the timeline is very divided.
You kind of mark the time and mark the transition and the decline of that character, and you can be very specific about that. You don’t reveal the same thing every time, so it was difficult.
What responsibilities do you feel in the role of a real person?
Sam Worthington: I think the whole enterprise of this series has a responsibility to the memory of Brenda Lafferty and her family who are still alive. I think it was something, when I first read it, that was in the writing that was very delicately handled by Lance. That’s why I wanted to be involved, because in any true story, the responsibility you have is to tell the story with some grace.
I think you sort of touched on that, but when you read the script, what stood out to you the most? What did you find most intriguing?
Sam Worthington: That was it. That it wasn’t an exploitation of what happened, and that it was an examination of the radicalization of faith and how people can subvert their values to get their own ways. And then the terrible consequences that flow from it.
It’s a dark story. What’s the key to leaving it at work and not bringing it home at the end of the day?
Sam Worthington: The kids. I have children. [I] I can’t really take any luggage home, because I have a responsibility to them not to.
Did they come with you to Calgary?
Sam Worthington: No, they didn’t. I also had a 10 hour decompression on the flight home, every time I get home. And then they don’t want to hear what’s going on in dad’s life. They just want to watch The Octonauts and play tag.
When they see you on screen – I don’t know how old they are – are they like “Daddy?”
Sam Worthington: They don’t care. They go back to Barney.
Andrew [Garfield] told me that he was trying to find things to do in his free time on set. He ended up taking up knitting. Did you end up doing something…
Sam Worthington: [Laughs] He does not have! He does not have. He lies. He hasn’t started knitting!
He looked quite serious.
Sam Worthington: He did? OK, I want to see some of that knitting he did. A sweater, is that what he did? Or mittens? Slippers ? I don’t know about that.
Have you taken up any new hobbies?
Sam Worthington: [Laughs] Do not knit.
Are you a real criminal? Are you finding documentaries, dramas, podcasts that interest you?
Sam Worthington: I like The First 48. That’s what I like. I really like this show.
We are about to embark on this new stage of Avatar after almost a decade later. How do you describe this feeling?
Sam Worthington: Relief?
Was there a time when you thought, “I don’t know if this is going to happen?”
Sam Worthington: No, because I trust [James Cameron]. I trust Jim’s passion for this project and the story he wants to tell. I’m very aware of where he’s taking him and what this family journey is like. It’s interesting, and I’m honored to be involved.
How does this next step compare to its predecessor?
Sam Worthington: I can’t tell you. I don’t think I have the right.
I don’t think so, too, I want to. I like his surprise. We’ve been very secretive for the past 15 years, and only a select group of us know about it. Then when it comes out, once it’s ready and done, you hand it over to an audience – just like with that TV series. And that’s where he lives. But you try to hold on to it as best you can before you have to give it to the world.
What are you most looking forward to seeing audiences in Under the Banner of Heaven?
Sam Worthington: It’s definitely a mysterious and exciting series. But I hope we’ve been honest and respectful with Brenda Lafferty. And I think that’s why I got involved in the first place, because I thought she was a woman who, in a weird way, was ahead of her time with her opinions – and unfortunately, may have paid the ultimate price for it.
Under the banner of heaven Synopsis
FX’s Under the Banner of Heaven, the original limited series inspired by Jon Krakauer’s true bestseller, follows the events leading up to the 1984 murder of Brenda Wright Lafferty (Daisy Edgar-Jones) and her infant daughter in a suburb of Salt Lake Valley, Utah.
As Detective Jeb Pyre (Andrew Garfield) investigates events within the Lafferty family, he uncovers buried truths about the origins of the LDS religion and the violent consequences of an unyielding faith. What Pyre, a devout Mormon, discovers leads him to question his own faith.
Check out our interviews with stars Andrew Garfield and Gil Birmingham, as well as screenwriter Dustin Lance Black.
More: 10 Best Shows Like Under The Heaven Banner
The first two episodes of Under the banner of heaven are available to stream on Hulu, with new episodes dropping every Thursday.
Thor: Love & Thunder’s trailer bucked 2 annoying modern trends
About the Author