Taika Waititi, His Costars, and the Creators of Our Flag Means Death Offer 8 Things to Know About the Pirate Comedy

The cast and creators offer insights on Blackbeard's accent, haphazard rope work, a Pam Grier–inspired pirate, and more secrets behind the HBO Max comedy.

by | March 3, 2022 | Comments

The Pirates of the Caribbean movies brought pirates back. Starz had the pirate drama Black Sails, and John Malkovich starred on Crossbones. New HBO Max series Our Flag Means Death, created by David Jenkins and executive produced by and starring Taika Waititi, takes a comedic look at pirates.

Rhys Darby stars as Captain Stede Bonnet, a wealthy aristocrat who decided to take to the seas. His crew is beginning to question his qualifications when Our Flag Means Death. Rotten Tomatoes’ Jacqueline Coley spoke with Darby, Waititi, Jenkins and the cast of Our Flag Means Death. Here are 8 things we learned from the cast and creators.


Taika Waititi in Our Flag Means Death

(Photo by Aaron Epstein/HBO Max)

Waititi said he watched docudrama The Lost Pirate Kingdom on Netflix, but knew he couldn’t perform Blackbeard with the British accent like James Oliver Wheatley on that show.

“I said to David, I was like, ‘I don’t want to do an accent,’” Waititi said. “And he’s like, ‘Just do your own accent.’ It makes you feel crazy, as well, dressed like that, because you got this big beard that’s super uncomfortable, and long hair that’s getting in your mouth all the time, and you’re dressed in these hot Mad Max leather outfits, and no one really talks to you.”

Jenkins added that Waititi’s natural New Zealand accent made his Blackbeard more mellow than the typical pirate caricature.

“Automatically, you know where to go with that character, because Taika has cat energy, and Rhys has dog energy,” Jenkins said. “They sound like they sound, and it just kind of works and you don’t have to worry about coming up with ye olde stuff.”


Rhys Darby and Nathan Foad in Our Flag Means Death

(Photo by Aaron Epstein/HBO Max)

Darby and Waititi have worked together since Flight of the Conchords. Waititi also cast Darby in his movies What We Do in the Shadows and Hunt for the Wilderpeople and in the show Wellington Paranormal. So when they offered Darby the role of Stede Bonnet, he felt like he had no choice but to do it.

“I was forced to do it once they said, ‘We want you,’” Darby said. “And I had an inkling that it was going to happen when I knew Taika was involved and it was a comedy series, so I just was sort of sitting next to the computer, and eventually the email did pop up. And so here I am, and it was the best decision I ever made, was to say yes to David. He decided I was the right guy.”


Leslie Jones, Nathan Foad, and Rhys Darby in Our Flag Means Death

(Photo by Aaron Epstein/HBO Max)

Leslie Jones said she wanted to play a sexy role like Pam Grier played in her action movies, and here Jones plays Jackie, a pirate with a wooden hand and lots of men on the side.

“She’s a badass,” Jones said. “She’s obviously been through something if she has a wooden hand. So you know what I mean? So she’s a badass, she’s taken command, but she’s still sexy because she got 20 husbands. She’s charming and she knows she about that life, maybe meet me on my port. She’d be like, ‘I’ll be over on the port. Meet me down there by the fish shop.’ She plays it as hard as the men do. To me, I feel like she’s the female Blackbeard.”


Nathan Foad and Matt Maher play pirates on Bonnet’s crew. They admitted that when they are in the background, they aren’t really doing anything.

“If you’re looking at the background of some of the scenes and stuff, they’ve obviously told us, ‘Just do like general pirate stuff in the background,’” Foad said. “We were approximating bundling up rope. It’s so bad what we’re doing.”

Maher added, “We literally just look like avatars in video games who don’t have anything to do, who are inactive.”


Vico Ortiz and Samson Kayo in Our Flag Means Death

(Photo by Aaron Epstein/HBO Max)

Samba Schutte, Samson Kayo, and Vico Ortiz play additional members of Bonnet’s crew. Even though Our Flag Means Death is a comedy, they trained at pirate duties.

“We were on a ship in Long Beach, and we had to learn how to tie knots and hoist anchors and God knows what,” Schutte said. “I can tell you right now, it was a disaster from all of us. No one knew how to tie knots. No one knew how to hold a sword. I think someone got injured. I think Samson threw a sword in someone’s face.”

Kayo said there was enough time between training and filming for them to forget everything.

“Next week, when we got onto the ship, we were like, ‘What was that thing called again? Belaying?’” Kayo said. “Then the whole crew just went to the ropes. Because that was the only thing we all knew how to do. So everyone would be like, ‘I’ve got the rope! Give me the rope!’”

Ortiz was the only one who took to the sword training, because they had prior experience.

“I have been sword fighting most of my life before the show,” Ortiz said. “So there was already this sense of understanding what it means to have a weapon in your hand, and how to fight and defend yourself. And I am Caribbean and Latina, so maybe there’s like pirate bloodline in there somehow.”


Samson Kayo in Our Flag Means

(Photo by Aaron Epstein/HBO MAX)

Kayo previously played a pirate in Dolittle. He said his character, Oluwande, is trying to hold the ship together under Bonnet’s leadership and a less than competent crew.

“I’m usually playing the Black Petes and the Swedes and the Roaches,” Kayo said. “For me, it was a completely different contrast. And it excited me because I felt like it was more of a challenge to be able to still hold such a serious mentality, as such a calm mentality, and keep it fresh and funny. We all just bounced off of each other. And I think that’s why Oluwande works as the only sane person amongst this crew.”


The cast said they frequently broke during funny scenes. Ortiz, who wears a shaggy beard as Bonafacia and wears a hat, said they could hide under the beard when they laughed.

“I would have the hat to hide,” Ortiz said. “So I would always just tilt the hat down, and then go back up, like nothing happened. So the take did not get ruined.”



(Photo by ©20thCentFox/Courtesy Everett C)

Our Flag Means Death got a stellar cast for the first season. But, they’re hoping to land another A-list cameo if they do a second.

“The person that I would really like to get is Russell Crowe, because I think he’d actually be terrifying,” Jenkins said. “So Russell Crowe, if you’re watching this, I dare you. I dare you to do this show.”

Crowe played a captain in Master and Commander: The Far Side of the World, and Waititi just directed him in Thor: Love and Thunder.

“I’ll text him,” Waititi said, picking up his phone. “He’ll do it.”

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