Is Ptolemy Grey Based on a Real Person? 6 Things To Know About The Last Days of Ptolemy Grey

Is Ptolemy Grey Based on a Real Person? Ptolemy Grey, a 91-year-old man suffering from dementia who is investigating the murder of his great-nephew Reggie, stars in the drama series ‘The Last Days of Ptolemy Grey’ for Apple TV+. Grey’s lonely life is made much more difficult after Reggie’s death when his niece’s best friend’s daughter Robyn comes to live with him.

Robyn’s arrival puts a light of hope and enthusiasm into Grey’s life as he continues on his mission to find the killer of his great-nephew. Ptolemy Grey is an incredibly soul-stirring figure.

Is Ptolemy Grey Based on a Real Person? 6 Things To Know About The Last Days of Ptolemy Grey

Grey’s fans are surely wondering if the character and the show have a real-life parallel. Let’s find out what we can!

Is Ptolemy Grey a fictional character or a real person?

Ptolemy Grey is based on a real person in part. The protagonist of Walter Mosley’s eponymous novel, which serves as the miniseries’ original text, is this figure. Despite the fact that the character’s life and the main plot are fictional, Mosley was heavily influenced by his mother’s life while conceiving Ptolemy Grey’s dementia. “[…] my mother had dementia for many years, but it became very, very serious in the final three or four years, and that’s the way [like Ptolemy Grey] my mother was.” “She’d turn on the television and had to keep it on because she couldn’t figure out how to turn it off,” Mosley said NPR in an interview.

Mosley built Ptolemy Grey and his moving life with imaginary details, using dementia as a base. The fabricated stories of the murder investigation and Grey’s complicated connection with Robyn were used to create his character. Mosley’s mother affected the construction of those narratives as well.

“I saw in my mother’s eyes and some of her emotions that she was saying, ‘I want to comprehend it; I want to understand what you’re saying; I want to engage in a dialogue with you; I want things to be the way they were.’ That is the central theme of the book: “What would you do if you could have things back the way they were?” According to NPR, the author stated. Grey is perfectly defined by the spirit of the novel, which is interwoven into the show. Grey’s goal in both the novel and the programme is to return to a time in his life when he didn’t have to battle to recall and understand something or someone.

Ptolemy Grey’s Characterisation Appears To Be Faustian As Well

Grey is surrendering his body for memories from Dr. Rubin, whom the former regards to as Satan, rather than his soul. Grey, like Faust, is willing to give up or limit his life in exchange for remembrance rather than eternal knowledge. Grey’s memory serves as an endless source of information for the 91-year-old man in his pursuit for Coydog’s treasure and Reggie’s killer. The remarks made by Satan/Devil Grey in front of Dr. Rubin suggest that the legend of Faust may have had an influence on Grey’s creation.

Samuel L. Jackson’s perception and performance of Ptolemy Grey as an actor is also informed by a real-life person, namely his mother. For a decade before her death in 2012, Jackson’s mother didn’t recognise him as her son due to dementia. As a result of this encounter, Jackson was inspired to depict Grey in a realistic manner and to give honour to the character’s depths. Ptolemy Grey is a fictional character based on real-life events. Mosley successfully combined the two components to create a distinctive and admirable character.



The Last Days of Ptolemy Grey stars Samuel L. Jackson

(Photo by Apple TV+)

Since first picking up the book in 2010, Jackson has been focused on adapting Walter Mosley’s story. For the actor, the tale of an older man who is grappling with dementia and is haunted by the memories of his past hit close to home. Jackson said he felt it imperative to shine a light on the issues of dementia and mortality, under the specific lens of Alzheimer’s disease, as many people who struggle with the condition end up being without agency, voice, and understanding.

“I’m from a family where I felt like I was surrounded by Alzheimer’s,” Jackson revealed. “My grandfather, my uncle, my aunt, my mom, there are people on my father’s side who have Alzheimer’s. I watched them change, deteriorate, and become different people over the years. And being able to tell their story, to understand that things in their past are more their present, and understand how to convey that to people, and give an audience an opportunity to know that they aren’t the only people who watch their loved ones deteriorate that way. The memories that they have aren’t in a place that they should abandon. It’s OK to have that, and it’s OK to remember. It’s OK to live in that place. You are still a worthwhile individual even though a lot of people discard you.”


Considering the amount of time they worked to get this series made, it’s unsurprising to think that Jackson’s inner work as an actor was constantly being exercised. Those wheels have been spinning for some time, and while Fishback revealed her method for bringing characters to life involves journaling and creative introspection, Jackson said he’s not at all a method actor when it comes to stepping in front of the camera.

“I kind of do all that work before I get to work so that when it’s time for the work to happen, I just kind of flow into it,” Jackson said. “I’ve seen this series for about 10 years in my head, so when it was time to do those things, I just kind of turn on the emotional asset that I’m able to access and do it. And then when I get off, I talk to my agent on the phone about things that I need to do later on.”


Throughout the development process, The Last Days of Ptolemy Grey took on different shapes. As Mosley explained, adapting the book to a television show was always the plan. But it was a challenging one.

“It’s hard for people in television; they have a very specific idea of what they want to do and this doesn’t really fit into it,” he said. “I think we were at HBO for a while, and HBO wanted to make it a movie. We didn’t really want to make a movie, because movies are short stories. They’re not the larger stories that need to be told. We talked about doing a series with them, but that wasn’t what they were doing right then. And so we went off and but we just kept working, we kept talking about it, and there would be times that we didn’t do anything.”

During the TCA panel, Mosley delved a bit deeper into the elements that make his show vastly different from the entertainment currently found on TV.

“I don’t know of any show like this one, There are so many things differently — the idea of just concentrating on having a whole experience around a person who’s experiencing dementia in a television environment, episodic. What he goes through, how he responds, what he does. And then on top of that, Black characters going through this experience that — usually if you start dealing with characters outside of what people consider the mainstream of America, they have particular roles that they’re playing, but we had a completely different experience. It’s not a movie, which would’ve been too short for this, and it’s not exactly television, either. It’s a kind of a streaming ocean that you embark upon. And so it was a great deal of fun doing it, and it felt very different.”


The Last Days of Ptolemy Grey

(Photo by Apple TV+)

From trying to make it into a movie, to parting ways with HBO, Mosley admits it was a long journey to finding a team that could stay true to his vision and bring the show to life on his terms. And by all accounts, Apple TV+ was the perfect home for the project.

“They were like, we do different things,” he revealed. “Everybody else does the detective stories, the war stories, the fairies flying around, we’re gonna do something different. And they liked it. We put it together. And that’s it.”

McWilliams echoed his sentiments: “Apple is doing a fantastic job at separating themselves as a streaming platform. That really is when they call it ‘an Apple Original.’ They’re doing things in an original way. They’re allowing each thing to have its own art, its own sort of world. It’s like an art-house platform, in my opinion. I just love it. I really like what they’re doing and I think this was the perfect place for it.”


Samuel L. Jackson and Dominique Fishback in "The Last Days of Ptolemy Grey,”

(Photo by Apple TV+)

There are two love stories that anchor Ptolemy’s experience throughout the show’s six-episode run: that of his romantic bond with Sensia in the past, and his current connection with Robyn in his present. While their relationship is ultimately brief, the young caregiver comes in and changes his life for the better, and his mentorship and acceptance alter her own path for good. It’s an unconventional love story and one that keeps the story anchored from beginning to end.

“I think that love is always an interesting thing, because it’s different for the two different people feeling it,” Mosley said. “If they’re not feeling the same thing, they’re feeling different things that work together very well. She needs somebody not only to love her, but to respect her and to basically, in that term, give her respect. He needed somebody to help pull him back into the world. He was out there, he was drifting way out on the horizon, and he needed somebody to pull him back in. In turn, she needed somebody to need her. That’s a way that she could reveal herself. And so is it a love story? Definitely. But it’s not Romeo and Juliet. It’s not that love story. It’s two people who deeply care for each other and see potential in each other.”


The Last Days of Ptolemy Grey stars Samuel L. Jackson

(Photo by Apple TV+)

Jackson’s passion for telling this story and honoring his own family is a perspective shared by each member of the cast. And considering how relatable the conflicts featured in the series are, audiences from all walks of life will surely connect with the struggles Ptolemy and his loved ones face throughout the chaos of his mental condition.

“I think one of the reasons it’s gonna resonate with people is because everyone either has, or will deal with, loss, grief, illness, deterioration, and decay, either in themselves or in someone that they love,” Miller explains. “And I think that everybody will find somebody that identifies with that, possibly, with the character that I play, the Reggie character, who is Ptolemy’s nephew, who has become his caretaker, somebody who he grew up idolizing and mentoring. And in the book, you learn about the various things that Ptolemy taught Reggie, he was a cool uncle to him when he was a child. And now the tables have turned, and Ptolemy has outlived his peer group age-wise, and the responsibility is somewhat neglected, but it has fallen to Reggie, and it’s something that he takes very seriously in taking care of his uncle in the midst of taking care of his own life.”