‘The Big Cigar’ Is So Outlandish It Could Only Be A True Story

By Louie Fecou
Published: May 18, 2024 (Last updated: last month)
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Is 'The Big Cigar' Based On A True Story?
The Big Cigar | Image via Apple TV+

Sometimes a story can be so entertaining, so mesmerizing, so out there, that you can’t help but wonder where the idea came from in the first place. Every now and then you discover the story you found so intriguing is actually true, and that’s the case with The Big Cigar.

The Apple TV+ series chronicles the efforts of Black Panther Party co-founder Huey P. Newton to escape America for Cuba under the cover of a fake film production. And yes, it actually happened. Let me tell you how.

True Story Explanation

The Big Cigar is firmly based on the real-life story of Huey P. Newton, the charismatic and popular co-founder of the Black Panther Party in 1974. The series sees Huey being hunted by the authorities and trying to escape to Cuba.

To achieve this, Huey seeks the aid of a Hollywood producer, and they use the cover of a film location shoot to try and get Huey to safety. The film they use to cover the escape is called, you guessed it, The Big Cigar. Despite numerous setbacks, the plan works, and Huey, under the cover of a Hollywood filming smokescreen, makes his way to Cuba undetected by the branch of the FBI hunting him down. He claimed asylum when he got there.

The series recreates the plan and shows how they got away with it.

Who was Huey P. Newton?

Is 'The Big Cigar' Based On A True Story?

Huey P. Newton | Image via Biography.com

Huey Percy Newton was born in 1942, in Louisiana, and would move with his family to California to escape the violence and prejudice leveled at black inhabitants in the area where he was born.

Huey would graduate from high school and continue his education, becoming a student at Merritt College in Oakland, where he would join in with the local politics of the area. He would find himself involved in making the first African-American history course part of the curriculum and would join the Afro-American Association, known as the AAA.

After meeting with the like-minded Bobby Seale and being influenced by Malcolm X, they would form the Black Panther Party for Self-Defence in 1966.

Controversy would follow Huey, culminating in various charges being leveled against him, including him being convicted of assault and embezzling funds. The fatal shooting of a police officer in 1967 also led to Huey being jailed for the crime, but an appeal would lead to a new trial, and eventually, Huey was released in 1970, with the Alameda County Superior Court dismissing the charges.

In 1989 Huey would plead no contest to a single allegation of cashing a cheque for $15,000 for personal use, after being accused of embezzling $600,000 of state aid. He was sentenced to six months in prison.

Controversy followed Huey, with allegations of assault and rape being made against him. Huey would be assassinated in 1989, and Tyrone Robinson would be held as a suspect. Robinson would admit to the killing, and receive a sentence of 32 years to life. Robinson stated that his motive was to advance in the Black Guerrilla Family, a Marxist–Leninist narcotics prison gang, to get a drug franchise.

Who Plays Huey P. Newton?

Huey is played by Andre Holland in The Big Cigar.

The talented actor is a familiar face, and you will no doubt recognize him from productions such as 2009’s Bride Wars, 2014’s Selma, 2016’s American Horror Story, 2018’s Castle Rock, and 2024’s Shirley. He was born in 1979 in Alabama.


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