Some of Hollywood’s biggest stars were in Utah on Monday night for the red carpet screening of FX’s new show, “Under the Banner of Heaven.”
The series is based on the New York Times bestselling book by Jon Krakauer which surrounds the events of a notorious murder in American Fork in 1984.
Brenda Lafferty and her baby girl were killed by Brenda’s brothers-in-law, Ron and Dan Lafferty. The brothers claimed they had been commanded by God to do so. Dan is serving a life sentence; Ron died in 2019 of natural causes awaiting execution on death row.
The show covers crime, the origins of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, as well as some religious extremists and fundamentalist sects of the faith.
“This show is really a warning not to back down into fundamentalism,” said creator Dustin Lance Black. “It’s a cautionary tale about what happens when you follow outdated rules – it can lead to bloodshed and horror.”
Black told FOX 13 News that he grew up in the Church and said this show was all about honoring Brenda and her baby girl, Erica.
“[Brenda’s family] trusted me with his letters, with his journals, and so a lot of what you’re going to see on this show comes directly from his voice. Words she wrote,” Black said.
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Oscar-nominated Andrew Garfield stars as Detective Jeb Pyre who investigates the murders and questions his own faith.
“I think it’s vital,” Garfield said. “I think a life of faith is actually a life of doubt. I think a life of certainty is not a life of faith.
Garfield told FOX 13 News what it was like to read Krakauer’s book for the first time years ago.
“I thought it was so important that Krakauer was trying to draw a line and trying to connect now just the ‘how’ it happened but ‘why’ it happened,” he said.
Sam Worthington, who starred in the 2009 movie “Avatar,” stars as Ron Lafferty.
“Our job is to portray it as faithfully as possible, to allow the writing to foreshadow the terrible event that happened, and hopefully handle it with some grace,” he said.
Past and active LDS members joined the team as consultants, including Utahn Lindsay Hansen Park, executive director of the nonprofit Sunstone Education Foundation. Park studies polygamy and fundamentalist sects of the Church. As an active member of the Church, she said representation on the show was important to her.
“I really hope the show is an opportunity for Mormons to show us who they are. Show the world who they are, that they can handle tough talks, we can handle the hard truth and look at the dark side of our faith and face them head on,” Park said.
The first two episodes of Under the Banner of Heaven will premiere April 28 exclusively on Hulu. The remaining five episodes will be released weekly.