Arkansas Southern Storytellers

22 Jun 2023 in

“Southern Storytellers,” a three-episode series, premiering July 18 at 8 p.m., from PBS and Peabody Award-winning filmmaker Craig Renaud, follows some of the South’s most compelling and influential contemporary creators to the places they call home — the communities that fertilize the stories they tell in books, songs, poems, plays and on screens large and small.

Among “Southern Storytellers’” 17 storytellers, four feature Arkansas flavor: songwriter Justin Moore, songwriter/screenwriter/actor Billy Bob Thornton, songwriter/actor Mary Steenburgen and screenwriter Qui Nguyen.


Born and raised in Poyen, Arkansas, multi-platinum, chart-topping country star Justin Moore built his career playing by his own rules, favoring an old-school approach. Moore landed his first country No. 1 song with “Small Town USA,” his breakthrough single off his 2009 self-titled debut. The record went platinum, as did his follow-up 2011 record, “Outlaws Like Me,” which yielded another No. 1 single. Following his first two releases, Moore established himself as one of modern country’s most reliable artists, landing nine more No. 1s, winning New Artist of the Year at the ACM Awards and racking up more than a billion streams.


Born in Hot Springs, Arkansas, the charismatic and uniquely talented Billy Bob Thornton has carved out an extensive and impressive career in motion pictures, TV and theater. Thornton is an Academy Award-winning writer, actor, director and musician and is currently seeing a high-water mark in his career. Thornton most recently starred in the fourth and final season of his Amazon series “Goliath,” for which his performance received rave reviews and garnered him a Golden Globe Award for Best Actor in a Television Drama.


Mary Steenburgen, born in Newport, Arkansas, is an Academy Award- and Golden Globe-winning actress best known for her works in the films “Melvin and Howard,” “What’s Eating Gilbert Grape,” “Stepbrothers” and “Book Club” as well as TV shows “Justified,” “Orange is the New Black,” “Curb Your Enthusiasm” and “The Last Man On Earth.” Not only is Steenburgen a songwriter for Universal Music Group and was recently shortlisted for an Academy Award for Best Original Song, “Glasgow (No Place Like Home),” which she co-wrote and appeared in the film “Wild Rose.” “Glasgow” received the Critic’s Choice Award and the Hollywood Critics Association Award for Best Original Song.


Originally from south Arkansas, Qui Nguyen is a Vietnamese American filmmaker, playwright and co-founder of the New York-based  theatre company, Vampire Cowboys. Notable works include his plays “Vietgone” and “Poor Yella Rednecks,” which centered on his parent’s love story, “She Kills Monsters.” It continues to be one of the most produced plays in colleges and high schools across America. Other notable works include Disney films “Strange World” and the Oscar-nominated “Raya and the Last Dragon.”

Craig Renaud is known for character-driven cinema verite filmmaking. His work has aired on PBS, HBO, NBC, The Discovery Channel, The New York Times, ESPN and VICE. Renaud has won a Peabody Award, two Columbia DuPont Awards, two Overseas Press Club Awards, an IDA Award, a Webby, an Edward R. Murrow Award, an Emmy Award, a DGA nomination and multiple Emmy nominations. Craig and his brother Brent founded the Little Rock Film Festival and the Arkansas Motion Picture institute.


In addition to the three-part broadcast series, “Southern Storytellers” includes a six-part series on PBS Digital Studios that explores the powerful role of place in the lyrics of Southern songwriters: Carrie Rodriguez, Gabe Lee, Marlowe, S.G. Goodman, Tank and the Bangas and Valerie June.

Check it out at


Will air Tuesdays from July 18 to August 1 at 8 p.m. on PBS, and the PBS App.

Check out a playlist featuring some of the storytellers as well as artists mentioned in the show on our Spotify playlist: Southern Storytellers PBS

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