Is Mayor of Kingstown Based on a True Story?

Image Credit: Emerson Miller/ViacomCBS

‘Mayor of Kingstown’ is an action-packed crime show that revolves around the McLusky family that controls the prison town of Kingstown, Michigan. In particular, the show focuses on Mike McLusky and his brother, Mitch, who are power brokers in a town that runs on its for-profit prisons. As the McLusky family tackles various challenges — from violent mobsters to desperate prisoners — the gray area between what’s right and what’s wrong takes center stage. Created by Taylor Sheridan and Hugh Dillon, the prison drama sees Jeremy Renner, Dianne Wiest, and Kyle Chandler in central roles.

Stories about non-elected individuals wielding immense power over those in office, as well as tales of diverse persons involved with prisons, are quite popular in mainstream media. After all, art imitates life. Additionally, it is an unfortunate truth that the prison system is plagued by corruption and often hands out injustice rather than justice. So, does this prison-themed show borrow from real-life individuals and circumstances? Or is it just a fantastically creative story? Let’s go ahead and find out whether ‘Mayor of Kingstown’ has any basis in reality.

Is Mayor of Kingstown a True Story?

No, ‘Mayor of Kingstown’ is not based on a true story. However, it does borrow its central theme from reality. “There’s real places like it [Kingstown] but it’s a fictitious town. It’s based on the truth and realities that there are towns built around prisons,” stated Renner (Mike) on Jimmy Kimmel Live. In fact, the town of Kingstown, Michigan, is loosely based on the Canadian city of Kingston. The hometown of showrunner Dillon, Kingston is known for having the largest concentration of prisons in Canada. Thus, the show’s prison town is actually based on a real-life prison city.

Plus, the famous Kingston Penitentiary — a former maximum-security prison turned into a modern-day tourist attraction and historical monument — serves as the filming site for the massive prison in the show. However, the stories of the McLuskys are fictitious and are simply a means of exploring the harrowing truths about the incarceration business. “This [Mike] is a guy that sort of greases the wheels of the inner workings of the prison itself [and deals with] the people that work for the prison, the people in the prison, and people waiting for people to get out of prison,” Renner explained.

The show borrows from Dillon’s actual experiences in Kingston to build the narrative of the McLuskys and everyone they interact with. The show’s co-creator, who also plays the role of a detective named Ian, grew up around people who either worked for the prison or were in prison. His mother was a teacher, similar to Wiest’s Miriam McLusky, a history professor who teaches at the women’s prison. Interestingly, Dillon, along with Sheridan, had the script for the show ready in 2011. However, due to various other projects, ‘Mayor of Kingstown’ got delayed.

The McLusky brothers — Mitch, Mike, and Kyle — all have their own perspectives towards their family business which handles seven prisons, located within a 10-mile radius in Kingston. Mike and Mitch act as power brokers, maintaining peace between those working for the prison and those locked within it. The crime drama primarily revolves around Mike, who is deemed the unofficial Mayor of Kingstown due to his powerful influence. However, he is acutely aware that, in a town that depends solely on the industry of incarceration, fighting against corruption, inequality, and systemic racism is a bleak task.

The realism of the show primarily comes from its close examination of the prison system and ambiguous take on morality. Mike tries to do the right thing, but he ultimately resorts to illegal methods to get the job done. Is it really justice if it’s achieved through unjust means? Additionally, the show also addresses the rampant corruption in jails and explores the inevitable interconnectedness between politicians, mobsters, civilians, and government officials. At the same time, the crime drama explores the mentally exhausting atmosphere of prisons.

Taking the aforementioned factors into consideration, we reiterate that ‘Mayor of Kingstown’ is not based on a true story but attempts to take elements from real life to weave a thrilling tale addressing grim truths about the contemporary prison system. Through the moral dilemmas that the characters go through, the show highlights the uneasy and continuous intersection of justice and injustice.

Read More: Where Is Mayor of Kingstown Filmed?