The series name is taken from the nickname of the notorious Canadian Donnelly family, who participated in a violent 19th Century feud around Lucan, Ontario that ended with a home invasion and massacre. Paul Haggis grew up in nearby London, Ontario, where stories of the feud are well known, and promised to use elements of them in the series.
Due to licensing restrictions and changing air dates, at least two versions of the pilot exist. The pre-air version featured some tracks that were removed before the official air date on February 26th, 2007.
The exterior shots for the Firecracker Lounge were filmed at the Shannon Pot, a bar at the corner of Jackson Ave. and Davis St. in Long Island City, Queens. The exterior shots for the Minetta Tavern were filmed at the real-life Minetta Tavern at 113 MacDougal St. in New Yorks Village area, also known as SoHo although it is North of Houston.
The series was originally expected to debut during fall 2006, but was bumped to January 2007 to replace ER (1994) during its hiatus. In fall 2006, ER (1994) had such good ratings that NBC decided to scrap the hiatus, and The Black Donnellys (2007) was pushed back to March 2007. Another new NBC show, Studio 60 on the Sunset Strip (2006), faltered, and The Black Donnellys (2007) was put in its time slot in February 2007.