In the 2013 book "Difficult Men: Behind the Scenes of a Creative Revolution: From The Sopranos and The Wire to Mad Men and Breaking Bad", David Chase (a writer and executive producer on "I'll Fly Away" before creating The Sopranos) recalled his impatience with some of the network's strategies for marketing the show, especially NBC airing commercials featuring Louis Armstrong's "What a Wonderful World." "If I'd had a gun, I would have killed somebody. What fucking wonderful world? Ku Klux Klan, Mississippi civil rights workers being murdered, housewives from Detroit being gunned down in their car, black kids being lynched? They were trying to sell a series about human pain as a cute story about some cute little boy and his nanny. And it fucking made me want to puke."
Forrest Bedford and Nathan Bedford are both named for Nathan Bedford Forrest, a Confederate officer and founding member of the Ku Klux Klan. The housekeeper Lily Harper is named for Harper Lee, author of To Kill a Mockingbird (1962). The latter was a major inspiration for the series, as the creators thought it would be interesting to explore the life of Atticus Finch's housekeeper Calpurnia outside of the Finch household.
The state in which the series takes place is never identified by name, nor through any identifying characteristics. Characters refer to counties rather than parishes, thus eliminating Louisiana. Characters also speak of Texas, Arkansas, Alabama, Florida, North Carolina, Maryland, Virginia, and Mississippi, thus presumably eliminating them. We later learn that Forrest works in the Fifth District. If this refers to the Fifth Circuit of Courts, then the setting is most likely Georgia, as every other state in that district has been referred to.
The role of Nathaniel 'Nathan' Bedford was played in the pilot by Jason London. When the series was picked up for more episodes, Jason was already committed to filming The Man in the Moon (1991)'. He suggested that his twin brother, Jeremy, replace him in the series. However, Jason took over the role again in late 1993 for the series' two-hour conclusion ("I'll Fly Away: Then & Now") when Jeremy was shooting another project.