'The Act': Here's the real story which inspired Patricia Arquette and Joey King's Hulu show
The show will be about the real-life relationship between a mother who suffered from Munchausen syndrome by proxy and her daughter.
Hulu's 'The Act,' starring Patricia Arquette and Joey King, is all set to premiere in March, and it has already garnered a lot of attention in part due to Joey King's look in the show and mostly due to the character she plays.
Based on a real-life incident that was reported in 2015 by then Buzzfeed contributor Michelle Dean, the story is about a mother, DeeDee Blancharde (Patricia Arquette), who suffered from Munchausen syndrome by proxy, and her relationship with daughter Gypsy Blancharde (Joey King). Munchausen syndrome by proxy is a psychological condition in which a caretaker makes up or causes an illness to the person under their care.
The original story was reported on August 18, 2016, and was titled 'Dee Dee Wanted Her Daughter To Be Sick, Gypsy Wanted Her Mom Murdered'. The story is about why a daughter orchestrated the murder of her mother, who was known to be a patient and caring parent.
It was about a dutiful mother who lived in a small pink bungalow on West Volunteer Way in Springfield, Missouri. The daughter was usually on a wheelchair and was comforted by her mother's company. When neighbours asked the mother about Gypsy's condition, Dee Dee would have a list of diagnoses that she would reel off, and it ranged from muscle dystrophy, sleep apnea, cancer, chromosomal defects, epilepsy, severe asthma and eye problems.
Gypsy was five feet tall and wore wide framed glasses and according to the article she was pale, skinny and her teeth were crumbling. She was fed through a tube and her mother was even spotted carrying an oxygen tank around when she was with her daughter. Not only the medical conditions, Dee Dee even reminded her neighbours that Gypsy 'had brain damage'. Gypsy was homeschooled and was often referred to as a girl with a brain of a seven-year-old by her mother.
Gypsy's father was absent from their lives and Dee Dee had told the neighbours that he was a deadbeat alcoholic, who would mock his daughter's disabilities. Dee Dee left her hometown because her own father was abusive.
The neighbors loved Gypsy and admired Dee Dee for being a caring mother to a sick child.
Until one fine day when Dee Dee's Facebook account had an update which read, "That Bitch is dead!"
Her friends on the social media platform were shocked and wondered if it could be a hacker when this was followed by another update, "I fucken SLASHED THAT FAT PIG AND RAPED HER SWEET INNOCENT DAUGHTER…HER SCREAM WAS SOOOO F***EN LOUD LOL."
Police with the help of neighbors found Dee Dee's body in the house, but Gypsy was missing. Dee Dee had been dead for a few days before she was discovered, and it was with this discovery that the veil on the whole sordid saga was lifted.
Dee Dee and Gypsy's secret was revealed to the world when Gypsy's friend, Aleah Woodmansee, approached the police and confessed that Gypsy had had a secret online boyfriend. Aleah was like a sister figure for Dee Dee and Gypsy had told her about her secret social media accounts.
Gypsy even contacted Aleah through her secret account. She told her that she had met a man on a Christian singles site and was sure that her mother wouldn't approve. She planned to marry this man, whose name she revealed was Nicholas Godejohn. The two had been in touch for over two years, and she said Nick did not care about her being on a wheelchair. Gypsy's secret was not a secret for long as Dee Dee approached Aleah and warned her off about talking to Gypsy about boys.
At this point, Dee Dee reiterated that her daughter was too young mentally to think about such matters and Aleah shouldn't talk to Gypsy about it. The fact that it was Gypsy who had created her secret accounts, did not bother Dee Dee much. She confiscated Gypsy's phone and computer for a while. Of course, Gypsy had managed to sneak in some time on the computer when her mother was asleep. Aleah, however, did not hear from Gypsy after this. It was six months after Dee Dee's body was discovered that Aleah came forward to the police about Gypsy and her secret boyfriend.
Following this, the police put a trace on Nick's IP address for investigation and what awaited them at his residence shocked the West Volunteer Way community.
Gypsy had eloped with her boyfriend and more; she didn't need a wheelchair. She also wasn't bald but had repeatedly shaved her head at her mother's insistence to make her look ill. Gypsy was an unintentional accomplice in fooling her neighbours in thining that she was sick. While she did not understand her mother's psychological condition that forced her to lie about her daughter's physical and mental condition to gain sympathy, she knew something was not right.
What was even more shocking was the fact that Gypsy's father Rod Blanchard was neither an alcoholic nor a deadbeat. Dee Dee, originally Clauddine Blanchard, married Rod because she was pregnant. He was 17 to her 24 and thought the best solution to the situation was marriage. A year later, however, he was unhappy in his marriage and separated from Dee Dee. Since then, Rod had been sending cheques to Dee for child care and Gypsy had also visited her father on many occasions, once he had remarried.
According to Rod, Dee Dee was convinced when Gypsy was three months old that her daughter had sleep apnea, and that is how everything started and quickly spiralled out of control. Even when the doctors found nothing wrong with Gypsy, Dee Dee was convinced that she was right and increasingly came up with more diagnoses. Gypsy who was dependent on her mother went along with her mother. Dee Dee started using aliases and moving around when she got into legal trouble for writing bad cheques and the rest stemmed from here. In fact, the first time Rod saw Gypsy walk was on a news channel when the police had arrived at her boyfriend Nick's house.
Once she managed to get support from Ronald McDonald houses, she got an appetite for more and worked with other charities until she reached Springfield.
Even here, the daughter and mother benefitted from free flights from a volunteer pilots' organization, free trips to Disney World, stays at a lodge for cancer patients and more.
In due course, Gypsy did realise she did not need a wheelchair, but she believed that she did have cancer. Gypsy also believed that she was 19 years old at the time she was caught by the police, but her father Rod straightened that out by showing her birth certificate to prove that she was 23. The fact that she was medicated throughout her life, had surgeries performed on her with no due cause and a confusing list of drugs resulted in diagnoses that Dee Dee was indeed suffering from Munchausen by proxy. However, it could not be confirmed as Dee Dee was dead.
Gypsy confessed to the police that she did plan to kill her mother, but it was a fantasy that she spoke of to her boyfriend and that it was Nick who killed her mother. This statement was also corroborated by Nick. She was charged with second-degree murder and was sentenced to 10 years in prison.
When Dean had approached Gypsy for her piece, she spoke about her mother, and she had this to say, "I think she would have been the perfect mom for someone that actually was sick. But I’m not sick. There’s that big, big difference."
'The Act' will premiere on March 20 on Hulu.