Here’s Why Everyone Is Talking About A Pirate Drama That Ended In 2017

By Olivia Emily

1 month ago

Black Sails has been described as Game of Thrones with pirates

If Black Sails kicked off in 2020 instead of 2014, it certainly would have thrown fuel on the raging fire that was TikTok’s sea shanty obsession. The reality is that this TV series aired on Starz from 2014 for four seasons, coming to a close in 2017. So why is everyone talking about it now, a decade after it began?

Black Sails is coming to Netflix very soon, triggering its fans to emerge from the woodwork and promote the show online. ‘I am SO excited for people who’ll be watching this show for the first time,’ one user wrote, with many others recommending the series to fans of Game of Thrones. With House of the Dragon still a few months away, here’s why you should tune into Black Sails this month.

Pirates fighting in Black Sails

© Starz

New To Netflix: Black Sails

What Is Black Sails About?

Black Sails transports us back to 1715 – aka the Golden Age of Piracy. Set in New Providence, an island in the Bahamas, we meet the feared Captain Flint (Toby Stephens) who brings a new younger crew member into the fold (‘Long’ John Silver, played by Luke Arnold) as his crew continues to fight for survival and negotiate their space on the island.

Is Black Sails Based On A Book?

Black Sails was written as a prequel to Robert Louis Stevenson’s classic novel, Treasure Island (1883).

A scene from Black Sails

© Starz

Is It Based On A True Story?

While Black Sails isn’t based on a true story, it does trace real events. The first season focuses on the hunt for the Spanish treasure galleon Urca de Lima, a real ship that sank in 1715 near Fort Pierce in Florida (where it still lies). Season two traces the fallout of Urca de Lima’s treasure being stranded in Florida, strictly guarded by Spanish soldiers while pirates prowl the shores. The subsequent third and fourth seasons then look at the war for the control of New Providence between the pirates and the British Empire – a la Pirates of the Caribbean.

Likewise, some of the characters are based on real people. Real pirates fictionalised in the show include:

  • Blackbeard (Ray Stevenson)
  • Anne Bonny (Clara Paget)
  • Benjamin Hornigold (Hakeem Kae-Kazim)
  • Jack Rackham (Toby Schmitz)
  • Charles Vane (Zach McGowan)
  • Ned Low (Tadhg Murphy)
  • Israel Hands (David Wilmot)

Meanwhile, Captain Woodes Rogers (Luke Roberts) – who represents the British Empire in seasons three and four – is based on a real English sea captain and slave trader, and subsequently the first Royal Governor of the Bahamas.

Two women in Black Sails

© Starz

Was Captain Flint A Real Pirate?

Captain Flint is a fictional character who was first created by Robert Louis Stevenson in Treasure Island. He has since appeared in multiple works of fiction, including A. D. Howden Smith’s Porto Bello Gold (1924), John Drake’s Flint and Silver (2008), Pieces of Eight (2009) and Skull and Bones (2010), and J. M. Barrie’s Peter and Wendy (1904).

Where Was Black Sails Filmed?

Black Sails was filmed in Cape Town, South Africa, mainly inside at Cape Town Film Studio. Because the real city is so different today than it was in the 1700s, Nassau – the capital of the Bahamas, located on New Providence island – was built from scratch in a studio over a period of four months, as were two large water tanks to house the series’ two ships. Some scenes were filmed outside in and around Cape Town when new terrain was required, but most of the series was filmed on set.

A scene from Black Sails

© Starz

The Cast

The cast of Black Sails is incredibly large, but key characters to know include:

  • Toby Stephens as James McGraw/Captain Flint
  • Hannah New as Eleanor Guthrie
  • Luke Arnold as ‘Long’ John Silver
  • Jessica Parker Kennedy as Max
  • Tom Hopper as William ‘Billy Bones’ Manderly
  • Zach McGowan as Charles Vane
  • Toby Schmitz as Jack Rackham
  • Clara Paget as Anne Bonny
  • Mark Ryan as Hal Gates
  • Hakeem Kae-Kazim as Mr. Scott
  • Sean Cameron Michael as Richard Guthrie
  • Louise Barnes as Miranda Hamilton/Barlow
  • Rupert Penry-Jones as Thomas Hamilton
  • Luke Roberts as Woodes Rogers
  • Ray Stevenson as Edward Teach
  • David Wilmot as Israel Hands
  • Harriet Walter as Marion Guthrie

The Trailer

Interested? Here’s the trailer for a taste of the action.


All episodes of Black Sails are streaming on Netflix from 17 April 2024.