Hennepin is based on the true story of Walter and Edith Liggett: two married journalists who sought a peaceful life in a sleepy city called Minneapolis, only to discover that their writing would awaken a powerful underworld, frozen alive beneath 10,000 lakes. When they refused to be silenced, they were offered a choice—one of two weapons: bullets or words.
Hennepin, a drama set in the 1930s, examines the state of Minneapolis during and immediately following prohibition; a gangster haven, where notorious criminals like John Dillinger and Al Capone were protected by the O’Connor system while citizens were protected by looking the other way, condemned to a life where corruption was the lone, commanding system.
In a city where every man stood alone, Walter and Edith Liggett stood together. And their fiery pursuit of justice—fraught with kidnapping, scandal, torment and grit—paled in comparison to something more, something true: they fucking loved each other.
100 years later, their story unfolds where it began. A place called Hennepin.
Project Type:Television Script
Number of Pages:68
Country of Origin:United States
Carly Samuelson is a Minnesota-born television writer, who moved out to LA in search of a city with more traffic. She was not disappointed. One year later she’s merging onto the 405 like it’s her God-given right, but try as she might to leave her humble beginnings where they lie… she still wound up writing a pilot about Minneapolis. Turns out the only thing she forgot to pack in the cross-country move was her frozen (solid) heart. And her super cheap apartment. Worth it? You betcha.
I began writing Hennepin six years ago and while I’d grown up learning about organized crime in Minnesota, it was always the kid-friendly version. I knew that my school bus had to navigate narrow, winding roadways because they were originally used as getaway routes for criminals on the run. I knew that Al's Bunker, the restaurant down the street, was actually a bunker. I knew that F. Scott Fitzgerald hung out the local Yacht Club. I knew that the Barker-Karpis gang had a cottage on the same lake where I spent most of my summer days as a child.
None of this fascinated me at the time. I could barely pass my high school history class, let alone take an interest in the story of my very quaint, boring hometown. But as fate would have it, a decade later I stumbled upon the long-forgotten story of Walter and Edith Liggett: journalists, muckrackers and in the end, victims of cold-blooded murder. On that day, my dreadful hometown became the center of my universe for the second time around.
Soon after beginning my journey into the rabbit hole of Minnesota history, it occurred to me that most people don’t know the names Kid Cann or Walter Liggett. I found myself explaining the O'Connor System to friends, family, colleagues... even those who had lived in Minneapolis for their entire lives looked at me with wide, curious eyes. I couldn't believe it. It’s taken me years to wrap my mind around the fact that an underworld as dark as this one could take almost everything—people, lies, injustice—straight to the grave.
But Walter and Edith Liggett knew better. They left it on paper. Waiting for someone to finish a story they began 100 years ago.
While Hennepin is not science fiction it draws from a similar vernacular: a period piece with a retrospective angle. Edith Liggett, the sole narrator, is both relaying and reacting to her story—as a person might do when recalling painful memories for the first time. There’s no playing with timelines or changing what’s been done, but it does grant her the opportunity to grapple with history. She’s putting together the pieces of her life alongside the viewer; connecting dots, telling truths, accepting what she’s able. I debated Edith as narrator for quite some time. Initially, the juxtaposition between 1930’s gangster rhetoric and a pint-sized female lead felt too predictable... Way to be different, Carly. Make it about feminism, nobody’s ever done that before.... And then I thought to myself... have you learned nothing from Edith Liggett? Just write the fucking truth. Believe that it's enough. She did, didn’t she?
I’ve learned more about being a woman from Ms. Liggett than any living breathing person on the planet, and I’ll be damned if I don’t give her story the closure that she didn’t live to see.
The remainder of Hennepin’s cast is equally worthy of screen time. Edith is joined by a heroic husband, a ruthless villain, a polarizing Governor and a whole lot of party animals who taught Gatsby how to Gatsby.
You’ve never heard this story before. And that’s the truth.