The Act, a series that delves into the the horrifying real-life story of DeeDee and Gypsy Blanchard, debuts March 20, 2019 on Hulu, and promises to be one of the shows everyone will be talking about this season.
In 2015, a small community in Greene County, Missouri was rocked to its core when DeeDee Blanchard was found stabbed to death in her home, but the murder was only the tip of the iceberg as revelation after revelation was revealed about the secrets she and her daughter, Gypsy, had been hiding.
It seemed that DeeDee had convinced not only the community but also Gypsy that the child was terribly ill in one of the most outlandish and horrific cases of Munchausen we’ve seen in recent years.
As friends and neighbors discovered not only that Gypsy was not terminally ill, but that she was responsible for her mother’s murder, disbelief turned to outrage.
Created by Nick Antosca and Michelle Dean, the journalist who wrote the viral BuzzFeed article exposing the case, The Act seeks to fill in some of the blanks and offer some explanations as to what life might have been like in the Blanchard home.
Antosca, whose previous work includes the Syfy original series Channel Zero and films like The Forest, spoke with iHorror about how the show came into being and the genre-blending tone of this bizarre true story.
“The feel of the show is something akin to the uneasiness I felt when I was reading Michelle’s BuzzFeed article and reading about the case,” Antosca explained. “When I think about how it must have been to live through that, to live in that house for all those years, it makes me very uncomfortable. We tried to capture a combination of innocence and increasing dread in these episodes.”
Antosca says he was drawn to Gypsy and what she must have gone through behind closed doors, and he admits that Dean’s article and the work she did was a godsend to the production.
“She interviewed Gypsy and a ton of other people in the case,” he said. “She compiled medical records and a wall of documentation. We familiarized ourselves with that and then used it as a basis for imagining what the experience must have been like.”
It wasn’t long before the casting process was under way for the series, which Antosca said was quite easy, especially after the two leads were announced.
Patricia Arquette (Stigmata) and Joey King (The Conjuring) are phenomenal in the roles of DeeDee and Gypsy, and their participation drew interest from Chloe Sevigny (Lizzie), Calum Worthy (American Vandal), and Adam Arkin (Halloween H20) who directed episode three of the series.
“These characters are so complicated that actors were drawn to it,” he pointed out. “When you have one-of-a-kind story, actors want to play those parts.”
The same philosophy informs the showrunner’s outlook on the genre of the series. It’s clearly a complicated story, and one that doesn’t fit into a particular mold, nor did he try to force it.
“I don’t always think of myself as a horror guy. By definition, I am simply because that’s where my work has been,” Antosca explained. “I’m interested in characters, psychology, and stories. This story is like a nightmare you can’t forget about. I never thought specifically about genre, though. I let the material itself guide those creative choices.”
This process also led to a creative storytelling process. The Act bounces back and forth in time, simultaneously telling the story that led to DeeDee’s murder and the way the investigation was handled.
This means that the viewer always knows the truth, such as it is, about Gypsy’s condition and what her mother was doing to her behind closed doors. Antosca points out that this really isn’t a spoiler to the story, however, because so many people had already seen the news coverage and watched the subsequent documentary, Mommy Dead and Dearest.
No, what Antosca and his predominantly women-led writing room were more interested in was peeling back the layers of deception that converged in Greene County, Missouri.
“There are so many layers of deception going on in this story,” he said. “The deception that DeeDee and Gypsy are performing for the outside world, the deception that DeeDee is performing on Gypsy, and the deception that Gypsy is performing on DeeDee for herself.”
It makes for potent television, and one that will be fascinating for viewers to watch play out, but with its tone and the sheer intensity of the story, is it something you’d want to binge?
“It depends on the type of viewer you are,” Antosca laughed. “Each episode packs a lot of power!”
The Act debuts on Hulu on March 20, 2019.