'The Act' co-creator Nick Antosca reveals his fascination with the story of Gypsy Blanchard: 'I couldn't stop thinking about it'
Nick Antosca, the co-showrunner of 'The Act' was fascinated with the story of Gypsy Blanchard and her mother DeeDee Blanchard after he read Michelle Dean's Buzzfeed article titled 'Dee Dee Wanted Her Daughter To Be Sick, Gypsy Wanted Her Mom Murdered'. The article was based on true events that occurred in 2015 when a mother was murdered by her daughter's boyfriend. His fascination lay not in the murder itself, or how it took place, but in the why of it. Nick tells MEA WorldWide (MEAWW), "Every project for me begins with curiosity. When I read the article, I couldn't stop thinking about it. And when a story hooks you in like, that's when you know you have to pursue it."
And that's when the thought of adapting this true story for television was born. Britton Rizzio, one of the executive producers got in touch with Antosca about televising the article as a show and so we have 'The Act' starring Patricia Arquette as Dee Dee Blanchard and Joey King portraying her daughter Gypsy Blanchard. One of the main reasons why he was hooked to this particular incident was the background behind the murder. "To me, it's not a story about murder, it's the story set behind the murder. It is about the relationship, the humanity and the love that kind of mixed together that led to the killing. I was curious about the characters and their relationships. I wanted to understand what it was like to see them, to live in that house for all those years," he explained.
Casting Joey King and Patricia Arquette:
Antosca also revealed that Arquette was the first choice when it came to casting for Dee Dee. "Patricia brings so much experience, so much skill and she is the kind of person you want as the leader of your cast. She just brings everything."
The role of Gypsy Blanchard, however, was not simple to cast. The makers had many auditions before King and it wasn't until Antosca and Dean saw King that they were convinced. "We auditioned hundreds of people for the role of Gypsy. After we met Joey; Greg, Michelle and I looked at each other and said, 'That's her. Isn't it?' We didn't expect it either. We had no way of knowing how skilled, how special she was. Her dedication, her range of talents, and she's only 19... she's an experienced professional. She really puts in the work."
King's transformation into Gypsy Blanchard:
King went bald for the show to portray real-life character Gypsy and since her look from the show released, the uncanny similarity has been a talking point. For Antosca, seeing Joey as Gypsy for the first time will remain an unforgettable moment. "When I first saw Joey transformed into Gypsy - she had shaved her head, costume, changed her voice, changed her mannerism - that was the moment that I felt that we were going to be able to explore this (the premise), explore the portrayal of Gypsy in an interesting way, in a powerful way," said Antosca.
The equation between Arquette and King while filming:
Arquette and King as the mother and daughter have some intense scenes together in the show. A lot of preparation went into getting their onscreen equation right and before filming intense scenes the actors would talk about their scenes with the creators. "It is always a matter of preparation and making sure that the actresses have everything they need to do their job, to be comfortable. It is also about having the time, space and support and so for particular scenes, we would have conversations beforehand with Joey, or with anybody else about what the scene is. So everybody knew what to expect and were able to do their best work," explained Antosca about the process.
Speaking of the equation between Arquette and King and the resulting chemistry, he said, "This show doesn't work if you don't have a powerful core relationship to translate on screen. We knew that whoever we cast as Dee Dee and Gypsy had to have really emotional chemistry. Patricia and Joey had a special bond on sets. To see them working as mother and daughter - Patricia was very accurate and a relatively young newcomer (King) was inspiring. We knew we had something special in the first couple of days. We saw how well they work together and they were able to bring out the best possible work in each other."
Michelle Dean's role in 'The Act':
Dean was the author of the 2016 article that was published on Buzz Feed and also serves as a co-showrunner of the show. Her investigation and the research is the foundation of the show according to Antosca. "Anytime in the writer's room when we had a question about what really happened or what year does it happen, or what was Gypsy's childhood like, we would turn to Michelle as a resource. She had extensive research, medical records, she interviewed family, she interviewed Gypsy, It was a very valuable thing to be able to collaborate like that," he explained and also added that they never spoke to Gypsy or anyone else personally connected to the incident to stay separated from it all.
Antosca said that all the information was accessed through Dean. "I am a writer and I never spoke to Gypsy or Nick Godejohn and part of that is because I think that you need to have a separation. It's not a documentary. It's a dramatic retelling, so sometimes we get the license to combine characters and events in order to get what we felt was the psychological and emotional true story," he said.
'The Act' is not about the murder, but about what led to the murder. Antosca concluded by saying, "It's about a how a mother-daughter relationship become so corrupted that it led to murder."