I'll Fly Away (TV series)

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I'll Fly Away
I'll Fly Away title card.png
Original cast
Genre Drama
Created by Joshua Brand
John Falsey
Starring Sam Waterston
Regina Taylor
Jeremy London
Jason London
Ashlee Levitch
John Aaron Bennett
Kathryn Harrold
Peter Simmons
Bill Cobbs
Rae'Ven Larrymore Kelly
Narrated by Regina Taylor
Theme music composer W.G. Snuffy Walden
Country of originUnited States
Original languageEnglish
No. of seasons2
No. of episodes38 + TV movie
Running time60 minutes
Production companiesBrand-Falsey Productions
Lorimar Television
Distributor Warner Bros. Television Distribution
Original network NBC (1991–1993)
PBS (1993 TV movie)
Original releaseOctober 7, 1991 (1991-10-07) 
February 5, 1993 (1993-02-05)
(TV movie: Oct. 11, 1993)

I'll Fly Away is an American television drama series that aired on NBC from October 7, 1991, to February 5, 1993. Set during the late 1950s and early 1960s, [1] [2] [3] in an unspecified Southern U.S. state, it starred Regina Taylor as Lilly Harper, a Black housekeeper for the family of district attorney Forrest Bedford, played by Sam Waterston. (The character's name is a peculiar twist on the name of Confederate Army General Nathan Bedford Forrest, an early leader of the Ku Klux Klan.) As the show progressed, Lilly became increasingly involved in the Civil Rights Movement, which eventually pulled in her employer, as well.



I'll Fly Away won two 1992 Emmy Awards (Eric Laneuville for Outstanding Individual Achievement in Directing in a Drama Series for the episode "All God's Children", and for series creators Joshua Brand and John Falsey for Outstanding Individual Achievement in Writing in a Miniseries or a Special), and 23 nominations in total. It won three Humanitas Prizes, two Golden Globe Awards, two NAACP Image Awards for Outstanding Drama Series, and a Peabody Award. However, the series was never a ratings blockbuster, and it was cancelled by NBC in 1993, despite widespread protests by critics and viewer organizations. [4]

After the program's cancellation, a two-hour movie, I'll Fly Away: Then and Now, was produced, to resolve dangling storylines from season two, and provide the series with a true finale. The movie aired on October 11, 1993, on PBS. Its major storyline closely paralleled the true story of the 1955 murder of Emmett Till in Money, Mississippi. Thereafter, PBS began airing repeats of the original episodes, ceasing after one complete showing of the entire series. The series also aired on PAX. [5]

The series takes its name from a Christian hymn written in 1929 by Albert E. Brumley.

In 1999, TV Guide ranked Lilly Harper number 15 on its list of 50 Greatest TV Characters of All Time. [6] In 2013 it ranked the series #9 on their list of 60 shows that were "Cancelled Too Soon". [7]


Original cast I'll Fly Away cast.jpg
Original cast

Regular cast

12Then and Now
Sam Waterston Forrest BedfordMain
Regina Taylor Lilly HarperMain
Jeremy London Nathaniel "Nathan" BedfordMain
Jason London Nathaniel "Nathan" BedfordMain
Ashlee LevitchFrancie BedfordMain
John Aaron BennettJohn Morgan BedfordMain
Kathryn Harrold Christina LeKatzisMain
Peter SimmonsPaul SlocumRecurringMain
Bill Cobbs Lewis ColemanRecurringMain
Rae'Ven Larrymore Kelly Adlaine HarperRecurring
Brad Sullivan Coach Zollicofer WeedRecurring

Recurring cast


The events of the series take place in the fictional town of Bryland, located in Bryland County.

The exact state in which Bryland is located remains unspecified throughout the series. [8] However, at various points, these Southern states were referred to in such a manner as to eliminate them from possibly being the setting: Alabama, Arkansas, Florida, Maryland, Mississippi, North Carolina, Tennessee, Texas, Virginia, and the District of Columbia. Additionally, references to "counties" within the state eliminate Louisiana, where counties are called "parishes".

In "Freedom Bus", Forrest Bedford is referred to as a new U.S. Attorney "in the Fifth District", presumably a reference to the Fifth Judicial Circuit of the federal court system. In the late 1950s and early 1960s, the Fifth Circuit included Alabama, Florida, Louisiana, Mississippi, Texas, and Georgia (along with the Panama Canal Zone). Since the first five states can each be eliminated based upon statements made by characters throughout the series, the most likely setting for the series is Georgia. [9] [ citation needed ]


Season 1 (1991–1992)

No. in
No. in
TitleDirected byWritten byOriginal air date
11"Pilot"Joshua BrandJoshua Brand & John FalseyOctober 7, 1991 (1991-10-07)
Lilly is hired as the Bedfords' housekeeper as Forrest prosecutes a white man for a bus accident that killed three black people and John Morgan deals with his mother being in the hospital.
22"The Hat" John David Coles David Chase October 8, 1991 (1991-10-08)
John Morgan's lost cowboy hat is found by Adlaine, while Forrest deals with verbal assault in a beating case arising from the demonstration.
33"Rules of the Game" Jack Bender Barbara Hall October 15, 1991 (1991-10-15)
Francie faces womanhood while Forrest is on a hunting trip and John Morgan grows worried over an errant arrow.
44"Amazing Grace" Kevin Rodney Sullivan Henry Bromell October 22, 1991 (1991-10-22)
Forrest joins the race for attorney general while Lilly considers going to a voting-rights meeting and Francie has writer's block.
55"All God's Children" Eric Laneuville Judi Ann Mason October 29, 1991 (1991-10-29)
John Morgan is disappointed at not being invited to Lilly's party, while Forrest comes to realize that running for office will not be so easy.
66"Beyond Here Dar Be Dragons" Eugene Corr Josef AndersonNovember 5, 1991 (1991-11-05)
Christina and John Morgan are each haunted by the memories of the Ku Klux Klan.
77"Parallel Lives" Michael Fresco Stuart Stevens November 19, 1991 (1991-11-19)
Slocum and Evans clash over the brick-throwing incident, while Lewis wishes to relive his time in the Negro leagues.
88"Coming Home" Mark Sobel Kevin Arkadie November 26, 1991 (1991-11-26)
The Bedfords are propelled into conflict at Thanksgiving when Gwen visits and Lilly's brother returns from the North.
99"Some Desperate Glory" Ian Sander Barbara Hall December 10, 1991 (1991-12-10)
Nathan and Slocum compete in a game of chicken, while Francie turns to Lilly for help in singing at the church benefit.
1010"Desire" Aaron Lipstadt Henry Bromell and Judi Ann Mason December 17, 1991 (1991-12-17)
As Lilly plans to divorce her husband, Nathan comes into conflict with a carnival worker and Forrest makes things for him worse when he arrests an upstanding citizen in the McDaniel murder case.
1111"Alice Oakley Doesn't Live Here Anymore"Jack BenderJosef AndersonJanuary 7, 1992 (1992-01-07)
John Morgan makes up a story about his mother joining the rodeo, while Forrest finds a witness and Slocum's father kicks him out of the house.
1212"On the Road"Barbara AmatoFrank DandrolfFebruary 28, 1992 (1992-02-28)
Forrest lobbies for Francie's affections on his campaign trail, while Lilly tries registering to vote.
1313"Master Magician"Eric LaneuvilleDavid ChaseMarch 6, 1992 (1992-03-06)
John Morgan plans a postvictory magic show for Forrest, while Lilly considers the possibility that the gains earned by casting a vote could just be an illusion.
1414"Hard Lessons"Jack BenderBarbara HallMarch 13, 1992 (1992-03-13)
The townspeople decide to teach Forrest a lesson, while Nathan wants to know the reason behind Forrest and Lake's falling-out.
1515"Cool Winter Blues"Joe NapolitanoJudi Ann MasonMarch 20, 1992 (1992-03-20)
As the demonstration gets serious due to an impromptu protest, Lilly betrays John Morgan and Nathan discovers a stunning truth about his girlfriend.
1616"The Way Things Are"Roy Campanella IIHenry BromellMarch 27, 1992 (1992-03-27)
As Lilly takes action due to Rev. Henry's latest protest, Nathan and Diane's status as a couple creates rather harsh comments and John Morgan fiddles with electricity.
1717"Slow Dark Coming"Michael FrescoKaren HallApril 3, 1992 (1992-04-03)
Diane's parents try to end her relationship with Nathan, while racial tensions rise with the department store boycott.
1818"Toy Soldiers"Michael KatlemanMarc RubinApril 10, 1992 (1992-04-10)
As Lilly and Forrest witness police officers assaulting black children, Tucker sets his sights on a campaign worker.
1919"The Kindness of Strangers"Bruce Seth GreenBarbara Hall and Henry BromellApril 24, 1992 (1992-04-24)
Forrest wants someone to pay for his incompetent opponent in a murder trial, while Lilly falls for a saxophone player and is glad to see Zollicofer.
2020"Not Buried"David ChaseDavid ChaseMay 1, 1992 (1992-05-01)
As John Morgan tries to ease his guilt over the passing of an elderly neighbor, Forrest asks Christina to defend a black man accused of murder.
2121"A Dangerous Comfort"Michael FrescoBarbara Hall and Henry BromellMay 15, 1992 (1992-05-15)
A triangle develops between Lilly, Clarence and Lewis, while Christina faces her demons in helping Tucker face his.
2222"The Slightest Distance"Ian SanderPaul MargolisMay 15, 1992 (1992-05-15)
As Lilly attempts to make peace between her father and Clarence, Nathan sees something he soon regrets.

Season 2 (1992–1993)

No. in
No. in
TitleDirected byWritten byOriginal air date
231"Hello and Goodbye"Jack BenderBarbara HallSeptember 25, 1992 (1992-09-25)
As Lilly tries to respond to Clarence's proposal, Forrest decides to accept the job of U.S. attorney, despite Nathan confronting him about his affair with Christina.
242"Ruler of My Heart"Michael FrescoKevin ArkadieOctober 2, 1992 (1992-10-02)
The FBI questions Lilly, while Forrest receives news that Gwen may be coming home and Francie throws a party.
253"All in the Life"Ian SanderHenry BromellOctober 9, 1992 (1992-10-09)
As Forrest is forced to tell his children the bad news about Gwen on his first day as U.S. attorney, Slocum learns that Parkie could be pregnant.
264"Until Tomorrow"Eric LaneuvilleHenry BromellOctober 16, 1992 (1992-10-16)
The Bedfords mourn a friend's death, while Lewis takes Adlaine to a meeting.
275"Desperate Measures"Allan ArkushBarbara HallOctober 30, 1992 (1992-10-30)
Rev. Henry convinces Forrest to get involved in the trial of the men accused of killing Col. Launders.
286"Freedom Bus"Michael KatlemanRogers TurrentineNovember 6, 1992 (1992-11-06)
One of a group of visiting Freedom Riders stays with Lilly, while Nathan takes his driving test.
297"Eighteen"David ChaseDavid ChaseNovember 13, 1992 (1992-11-13)
Slocum takes a trip to a brothel with Nathan before proposing to Parkie, while Lily asks Forrest for a raise.
308"Fragile Truths"Jack BenderKaren HallNovember 20, 1992 (1992-11-20)
Slocum seeks legal advice from Forrest when the police interrogate him and Lilly clashes with her cousin.
319"Since Walter"Sam WaterstonLynn SiefertNovember 27, 1992 (1992-11-27)
Just as Frankie discovers there was a third man in Col. Landers' murder, Slocum's trial begins and Lilly's ex-husband arrives in town.
3210"The Third Man"Kevin HooksLonne ElderDecember 11, 1992 (1992-12-11)
As Slocum's trial comes to an end, Lilly falls for a porter and Forrest faces the third man involved in the murder of Col. Landers.
3311"Comfort and Joy"Scott PaulinBarbara HallDecember 11, 1992 (1992-12-11)
At Christmastime, Lilly is beaten by an opponent of the Freedom Riders, the Bedfords attend a Christmas party at Christina's and Slocum finds holiday cheer in a most unlikely place
3412"Realpolitik"Allan ArkushHenry Bromell and Kevin ArkadieJanuary 8, 1993 (1993-01-08)
While Lilly becomes the leader of a boycott, Forrest debates dropping the Landers case as his relationship with Christina gets worse.
3513"Small Wishes"Félix Enríquez AlcaláDee JohnsonJanuary 15, 1993 (1993-01-15)
Nathan gets arrested for possessing drugs, while the Landers trial comes to a close and John Morgan grows jealous of Lilly and Joe's relationship.
3614"What's in a Name?"James A. ContnerMarjorie DavidJanuary 22, 1993 (1993-01-22)
As Forrest finds himself being followed, Nathan starts to feel pressure over his relationship with Claudia and Lilly tries to get an old woman registered to vote.
3715"Commencement"Jack BenderRogers TurrentineJanuary 29, 1993 (1993-01-29)
Lilly tries to study for her high-school finals, while Forrest informs Christina he's being followed and a group of students set up a sit-in.
3816"State"Ian SanderJosef AndersonFebruary 5, 1993 (1993-02-05)
Joe considers becoming a teacher for the new school, while Nathan unwillingly goes to a college interview arranged by Forrest.


TitleDirected byWritten byOriginal air date
"Then and Now"Ian SanderJohn FalseyOctober 11, 1993 (1993-10-11)
In 1993, Lilly tells her 12-year-old grandson about a terrible incident that occurred during her last days as the Bedfords' housekeeper.

Awards and nominations

1992 American Cinema Editors' Eddie Award Best Edited Episode from a Television SeriesDavid Rosenbloom and Karen I. Stern (For the pilot episode)Nominated
American Society of Cinematographers Award Outstanding Achievement in Cinematography in Movies of the Week/PilotsWilliam WagesNominated
1993American Television Awards [10] [11] Best Dramatic SeriesWon
Best Actor, Dramatic Series Sam Waterston Won
Best Actress, Dramatic Series Regina Taylor Won
Casting Society of America's Artios Award Best Casting for TV, Dramatic EpisodicTheodore S. Hann and Jay BinderNominated
1992 Directors Guild of America Award Outstanding Directing – Drama Series Eric Laneuville (For episode "All God's Children")Won
1993 Roy Campanella II (For episode "The Way Things Are")Nominated
1992 Golden Globe Award Best Television Series – Drama Nominated
Best Actor – Television Series Drama Sam Waterston Nominated
1993Best Television Series – DramaNominated
Best Actor – Television Series Drama Sam Waterston Won
Best Actress – Television Series Drama Regina Taylor Won
1992 Humanitas Prize 60 Minute Category Henry Bromell Won
Kevin Arkadie (For episode "Coming Home")Nominated
90 Minute Category Joshua Brand and John Falsey (For the pilot episode)Won
1993 Motion Picture Sound Editors' Golden Reel Award Best Sound Editing – Television Episodic – Effects & FoleyMace MatiosianWon
1994 NAACP Image Award Outstanding Drama Series, Miniseries or Television Movie Won
Outstanding Actor in a Drama Series, Miniseries or Television Movie Dorian Harewood Won
1995 Outstanding Drama Series Won
Outstanding Actress in a Drama Series Regina Taylor Won
1991 Peabody Award Brand-Falsey ProductionsWon
1992 Primetime Emmy Award Outstanding Drama Series Joshua Brand, David Chase, John Falsey, Barbara Hall, John Forrest Niss and Ian Sander Nominated
Outstanding Made for Television Movie Joshua Brand, John Falsey, John Forrest Niss and Ian Sander (For the pilot episode)Nominated
Outstanding Lead Actor in a Drama Series Sam Waterston Nominated
Outstanding Lead Actress in a Drama Series Regina Taylor Nominated
Outstanding Supporting Actress in a Drama Series Mary Alice Nominated
Outstanding Writing for a Drama Series David Chase (For episode "Master Magician")Nominated
Outstanding Writing for a Miniseries, Movie or a Dramatic Special Joshua Brand and John Falsey (For the pilot episode)Won
Outstanding Directing for a Drama Series Eric Laneuville (For episode "All God's Children")Won
Outstanding Directing for a Miniseries, Movie or a Dramatic Special Joshua Brand (For the pilot episode)Nominated
Outstanding Main Title Theme Music W.G. Snuffy Walden Nominated
Outstanding Editing for a Miniseries or a Special – Single-Camera ProductionDavid Rosenbloom and Karen I. Stern (For the pilot episode)Nominated
Outstanding Costumes for a Series Tom McKinley (For episode "The Slightest Distance")Nominated
Outstanding Costumes for a Miniseries, Movie or a Special Mina Mittelman (For the pilot episode)Nominated
Outstanding Art Direction for a Miniseries or a SpecialJames Hulsey and Joseph Litsch (For the pilot episode)Nominated
Outstanding Sound Editing for a Miniseries, Movie or a SpecialPeter Austin, Peter Bergren, John Bonds, Joe Earle, Frank Fuller, Gary Gelfand, Michael Gutierrez, Jim Hebenstreit, H. Jay Levine, Albert Lord, Bruce Michaels, Brian Thomas Nist, Ralph Osborn, Allan K. Rosen, Matthew Sawelson, Adam Sawelson, Richard Taylor, Randal S. Thomas, Patty Von Arx and Dave Weathers (For the pilot episode)Nominated
1993Outstanding Drama Series Joshua Brand, Henry Bromell, David Chase, John Falsey, Barbara Hall, John Forrest Niss and Ian Sander Nominated
Outstanding Lead Actor in a Drama Series Sam Waterston Nominated
Outstanding Lead Actress in a Drama Series Regina Taylor Nominated
Outstanding Supporting Actress in a Drama Series Mary Alice Won
Outstanding Directing for a Drama Series Eric Laneuville (For episode "Until Tomorrow")Nominated
Outstanding Guest Actress in a Drama Series Rosanna Carter Nominated
Outstanding Original Music and Lyrics Stephen James Taylor (For song "State Until You Come Home")Nominated
Outstanding Costumes for a SeriesTom McKinley (For episode "The Third Man")Nominated
1994 Outstanding Lead Actor in a Miniseries or a Movie Sam Waterston (For special "I'll Fly Away: Then and Now")Nominated
Outstanding Costumes for a Miniseries, Movie or a SpecialTom McKinley (For special "I'll Fly Away: Then and Now")Nominated
1993 Producers Guild of America Award Outstanding Producer of Television David Chase and Ian Sander Won
1992 Television Critics Association Award Program of the Year Nominated
Outstanding Achievement in Drama Won
1992 Viewers for Quality Television Award Best Quality Drama SeriesWon
Best Actor in a Quality Drama Series Sam Waterston Nominated
Best Actress in a Quality Drama Series Regina Taylor Won
1993Best Quality Drama SeriesWon
Best Actor in a Quality Drama Series Sam Waterston Nominated
Best Actress in a Quality Drama Series Regina Taylor Won
Writers Guild of America Award Episodic Drama Henry Bromell (For episode "Amazing Grace")Won
Kevin Arkadie (For episode "Coming Home")Nominated
1994 Barbara Hall (For episode "Comfort and Joy")Nominated
1992 Young Artist Award Best Young Actress Starring in a New Television Series Ashlee LevitchNominated
Exceptional Performance by a Young Actor Under 10John Aaron BennettNominated
1993 Best Young Actor Starring in a Television Series Jeremy London Won
Best Young Actress Starring in a Television SeriesAshlee LevitchWon
Outstanding Actor Under 10 in a Television SeriesJohn Aaron BennettWon
Outstanding Actress Under 10 in a Television Series Rae'Ven Larrymore Kelly Won
1994 Best Youth Actress Leading Role in a Television Series Won

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  1. The episode "Some Desperate Glory" (Season 1, Episode 9) depicts the marquee of a local movie theater, listing Auntie Mame as the main feature. This film was first released in the United States in December 1958, implying that the first season of I'll Fly Away takes place in 1958 and 1959. However, in "The Slightest Distance" (Season 1, Episode 22), a U.S. Justice Department official remarks that a "new administration" about to take office. Clearly a reference to President John F. Kennedy, this would place the first season's latter episodes between the November 8, 1960 election and the January 20, 1961 inauguration.
  2. In "Freedom Bus" (Season 2, Episode 6), Robert F. Kennedy is referred to as the United States Attorney General, an office he assumed in 1961. Subsequently, in "State" (Season 2, Episode 16), Joe Clay is seen browsing through a 1962 Chevrolet catalog.
  3. The bulk of the series finale I'll Fly Away: Then and Now is a flashback to events occurring in the summer of 1962.
  4. John J. O'Connor (October 11, 1993). "Review/Television; PBS Revives a Series On Race and America". The New York Times .
  5. "Entertainment & the Arts – 'Er' Tops Nielsen's Weekly TV Ratings – Seattle Times Newspaper". community.seattletimes.nwsource.com. Retrieved December 1, 2017.
  6. TV Guide Guide to TV . Barnes and Noble. 2004. p.  651. ISBN   0-7607-5634-1.
  7. Roush, Matt (June 3, 2013). "Cancelled Too Soon". TV Guide. pp. 20 and 21
  8. The episode "Slow Coming Dark" (season one, episode 17) depicts an automobile with a license plate registered in "Bryland", as opposed to one of the 50 states. A subsequent episode, "Freedom Bus" (season two, episode six), depicts a motorcycle with a similar license plate.
  9. The notion that Georgia is the setting for the series finds credence in several episodes. In "The Third Man" (season two, episode 10), Forrest Bedford coerces a Klan infiltrator into maintaining his cover by threatening to have him imprisoned in the Atlanta Federal Penitentiary. In "State" (season two, episode 16), Lilly Harper – while discussing a freedom school to be opened in Bryland – mentions the possibility of using students from Morehouse College (a historically Black college in Atlanta) as teachers. Moreover, in the final scene of "State", two African-American students (one male, one female) are shown integrating the local state university, with federal troops protecting them from a mob of jeering White students. The scene is reminiscent of the 1961 integration of the University of Georgia by Hamilton E. Holmes and Charlayne Hunter. Finally, in the series finale I'll Fly Away: Then and Now, Lilly reads from a novel she has written, one which is clearly based upon her own life. The protagonist of the novel states that she was born in "a small Southern town located on a parched southwestern plot of Georgian soil."
  10. Lowry, Brian (April 16, 1993). "CBS leads noms for Emmy rival". variety.com. Retrieved October 29, 2013.
  11. "American TV Awards to 'Seinfeld,' 'Fly Away'". variety.com. May 24, 1993. Retrieved October 29, 2013.