The new Amazon series Sneaky Pete kicks off when Marius, a criminal recently released from prison, adopts his deceased cellmate's identity. The premise feels like such a great, clear hook for a series that its inspiration is instantly fascinating — especially if, actually, Sneaky Pete is based on a true story. The truth is that it's not, but the origins of the new series are actually even more compelling than if Marius/Pete was a real person — because the show comes from one of TV's biggest stars, co-creator of Sneaky Pete, Bryan Cranston. That's right, the actor formerly known as Walter White is behind this new series, and in addition to guest starring in a small role and directing one of the episodes, he helped to craft the show's storylines.
As one of the executive producers and minds behind the show, Cranston explained to Deadline in advance of the Sneaky Pete Season 1 premiere that he actually took inspiration from his own life when crafting the central character, starting with the show's name. "My own family dubbed me Sneaky Pete," Cranston said, referencing an apparently crafty upbringing. "There are many example of things that I was circumventing accountability in and finding my way through." While he said that he never fell into a life of crime the way Marius does in the show, the actor did describe his young life as "trying to find your way in and out of situations and it’s all trial and error. And that’s how you become a Sneaky Pete."
Clearly, the character's problem-solving, quick thinking, and even selfishness seem inspired by Cranston's real life. And in the same way the star found a passion and direction in his life through acting, so too will Marius, albeit by living as Pete and adopting Pete's life. So in a way, the character also finds his way by performing.
Yet while the themes may be inspired by Cranston, the show's high-concept premise is all original — albeit similar to some crazy real life stories. In 2006, Tuscon.com reported on a local man who was able to escape prison by pretending to be his cellmate. And if you've ever seen the documentary The Imposter, a French man posed as a missing child from Texas, and while his deception was obviously revealed after some time, I think that story shows that a family might overlook quite a few warning signs in order to replace a missing or absent child.
Sneaky Pete has an original story, but it's underpinned by one of its creator's personal experiences, and an emotionally realistic coping mechanism from Pete's family. That's usually a recipe for a strong show, so I'm looking forward to Sneaky Pete Season 1.