Truth Be Told star David Lyons explains our fascination with true crime stories

·Lifestyle Editor
·4 min read

Crime drama Truth Be Told returned last Friday with the premiere of its second season on Apple TV+, with Octavia Spencer's true crime podcaster Poppy Parnell investigating the mysterious death of the husband of her childhood friend, media mogul Micah Keith.

With a new case comes new additions to the show's cast too. Micah is played by Kate Hudson, while David Lyons joined the cast as Inspector Aames. We spoke with David to find out how the San Francisco detective figures in the new season.

In episode one, Aames clashes with Poppy as the journalist accuses the cop of wrongly ruling out murder as the cause of death. However, with nine more episodes to go, David tells us that Aames will eventually establish a working relationship with Poppy – albeit a love-hate relationship – as they pursue the truth in different ways. Together with Poppy's longtime friend, former detective Markus Killebrew (Mekhi Phifer), the three work on the fringes of a formal law enforcement system that doesn't always function the way it's supposed to – in this case, to find the killer.

David Lyons and Octavia Spencer in Truth Be Told Season 2 on Apple TV+.
David Lyons and Octavia Spencer in Truth Be Told Season 2 on Apple TV+.

"I can understand how and why there'd be conflicts of interests," said David. "One side wants the story, and the other side wants to solve the crime, and they're not necessarily the same thing. With Inspector Aames and Poppy Parnell, they sort of reach an understanding whereby they can see each other's virtues and know that they are in pursuit of the same thing, and as the name suggests, it's the truth."

Asked how he put himself in the mind of a policeman solving a crime, David said he referred to multiple sources about true crime: books, documentaries and even interviews with "a couple of mates" who were real-life policemen. He cites Night Stalker, a docu-series about LA serial killer Richard Ramirez, and Baltimore journalist David Simon's book Homicide as important reference points in his research.  

What does he think about people's obsession with true crime, a subject which has spun a whole genre of documentaries and podcasts? "There is the old adage that truth is stranger than fiction," said David. "And truth well told is one of the greatest stories anyone can ever hear."

David Lyons and Octavia Spencer in Truth Be Told Season 2 on Apple TV+.
Cop and journalist work together to solve a crime that hits close to home for Poppy Parnell.

The actor credits Serial, a true crime podcast by journalist Sarah Koenig, as an example of what draws people to the genre. "That was an incredible foray into the whole world. It was long-form journalism that not only looks at the facts as to what happens with crime, but the motivations behind it. It allows us this incredible insight into a world of psychology that we wouldn't normally inhabit – why people do things, especially nefarious things. We're all fascinated by why someone would do something so horrible. I think that what this show (Truth Be Told) taps into is that fascination. We all have that sense of fascination with other people's motivations."

I bring the subject back to the contentious relationship between the media and law enforcement that is depicted in Truth Be Told. Do the police need journalists in order to keep them on their toes, to push them to do their job better, like Poppy Parnell does with her investigative work, which turns up things that the cops miss? 

"I think that any authority needs checks and balances," said David. "In any society, one of those elements is a media that is unrestricted in its ability to speak freely and hold power accountable. That's necessary, I believe, for society to operate at an elevated level. Do the police need the journalists in order to do their job? Probably not. But does journalism have a huge impact on the way we view the justice system, and where we put our attention, and the changes therefore that we can enact? Yes. So, one does not need the other, but if there can be a symbiotic relationship, I think we're probably all better off in some ways."

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