The real Blackbeard was a notorious English-born pirate who was chased down and beheaded by a Colonial naval force off the coast of North Carolina in 1718, when he was believed to be in his 30s.
In "Crossbones," the nine-episode historical epic from NBC that premieres May 30, Blackbeard is played by screen and stage star John Malkovich, who recently turned 60. Under normal circumstances, this age disparity might pose a problem, but not in the magical world of television, where even the hardest historical facts can bend to the whims of fantasy and entertainment.
As Malkovich sees it, Blackbeard has always been a mythic figure anyway.
"There are books, and...