- Hulu’s original series “The Act” premieres on Wednesday.
- It’s based on the real murder of Dee Dee Blanchard (Patricia Arquette), whose daughter Gypsy Rose (Joey King) eventually pled guilty to second-degree murder.
- Dee Dee was most likely afflicted by Munchausen by proxy, a rare mental illness and form of abuse.
- Nicholas Godejohn (Calum Worthy) physically carried out the murder after he was urged by Gypsy, his then-girlfriend.
- Here’s how the actors compare to the real people they play on the show.
Hulu’s new original series “The Act” is based on the real murder of Dee Dee Blanchard, whose daughter Gypsy Rose eventually pled guilty to second-degree murder.
After her death, it was revealed that Dee Dee forcibly kept her daughter in a child-like state and convinced everyone – including many doctors – that Gyspy Rose was afflicted by a variety of diseases and mental illnesses.
Hulu’s dramatic take on the tragic relationship was based on a Buzzfeed article by Michelle Dean, who adapted the series with Nick Antosca. It’s the second retelling of the story since the 2015 murder, following HBO’s popular documentary “Mommy Dead and Dearest,” and already has critics raving about the cast’s performances.
Here’s how the actors compare to the real people they play on the show.
Patricia Arquette (left) plays Clauddine “Dee Dee” Blanchard.
Arquette is fresh off her win at the Golden Globes for her role in Showtime’s limited series “Escape at Dannemora.”
Dee Dee was found dead in her own bed on June 14, 2015. She had been stabbed several times in her sleep.
Dee Dee is speculated to have had a condition called Munchausen by proxy.
- KYTV / via HBO
To the public’s knowledge, Dee Dee was never evaluated by a mental health professional during her life, and she cannot be posthumously diagnosed. But multiple doctors and therapists who have studied this case say her symptoms are consistent with a rare mental illness called Munchausen by proxy, which is a form of abuse.
Caretakers who have Munchausen by proxy will pretend that the person in their care is ill or unable to function independently, and will usually cause them illness or pain on purpose.
According to MedlinePlus, most people with this problem are mothers with small children. It’s very uncommon for the abuse to continue for as long as it did for Gypsy, who was under her mother’s thumb well into adulthood.
Joey King plays Gypsy Rose Blanchard, who was victim to her mother’s abuse.
- CZ Post/Hulu
According to Gypsy, the abuse she suffered was both psychological and physical. In HBO’s documentary, clinical psychologist Dr. Marc Feldman compared Gypsy’s situation to that of a hostage.
Gypsy’s mother made her believe that she was much younger, both mentally and physically.
Gypsy was born in 1991 and was 23 when she conspired to kill her mother.
But Dee Dee would claim that Gypsy had the mental capacity of a 7-year-old. Dee Dee also told Gypsy she was much younger, sometimes citing different birth years.
The Blanchards’ friends and family, including Gypsy’s father, believed that Gypsy was confined to a wheelchair due to muscular dystrophy. According to Buzzfeed, tests for muscular dystrophy repeatedly came back negative, and Gypsy was aware she could walk by the time she was arrested.
Dee Dee also falsely claimed that Gypsy had been diagnosed with a variety of other diseases and mental illnesses, including leukemia, asthma, and infections that required multiple surgeries on her eyes, ears, and throat.
The show includes scenes after Gypsy’s arrest.
The day after the murder, Gypsy and her boyfriend took a bus to Wisconsin, but they were apprehended shortly after.
Gypsy Rose is currently serving a 10-year sentence after pleading guilty to second-degree murder of her mother. Texts and online communication revealed that she had asked her boyfriend to carry out the killing.
Gypsy admitted to the murder shortly after her arrest.
- Springfield Police Department
Gypsy’s attorney, Michael Stanfield, told Buzzfeed that she gained 14 pounds in the 12 months she spent in Greene County Jail before her plea; most inmates lose weight due to the poor food quality, which seems to indicate that Gypsy had been malnourished when living with her mother.
Gypsy’s stepmother, Kristy Blanchard, told the Springfield News-Leader that her stepdaughter is “thriving” in prison.
“Despite everything, she still tells me that she’s happier now than with her mom,” Kristy said. “And that if she had a choice to either be in jail, or back with her mom, she would rather be in jail.”
Calum Worthy plays Nicholas Godejohn, Gypsy’s then-boyfriend, who she met online.
Gypsy asked Godejohn to kill her mother.
“Honey, you forget I am ruthless, and my hatred of her will force her to die,” Godejohn texted Gypsy before the murder. “It’s my evil side doing it. He won’t mess up, because he enjoys killing.”
Godejohn was sentenced to life in prison without parole.
- Springfield Police Department
AnnaSophia Robb plays Lacey, Gypsy’s friend.
- CZ Post/Hulu
In the trailer, Gypsy tells Lacey that she met her “Prince Charming” when she begins talking to Godejohn online.
Lacey appears to be based on Aleah Woodmansee, Gypsy’s real-life friend and neighbor.
“She would show interest in different boys and try to ask me advice on like, you know, ‘How do you approach them? How do you like kiss a boy?’ Gypsy just wanted to be a regular teen,” Woodmansee told ABC’s “20/20.”
Chloë Sevigny plays Mel, the Blanchards’ neighbor, though it’s unclear whether she has a real-life counterpart.
- CZ Post/Hulu
Chloë Sevigny plays Mel, the mother of AnnaSophia Robb’s Lacey.
“[Robb and I] found it challenging,” Sevigny told Collider. “Gypsy and Dee Dee are based on real people, and there’s so much there. There’s so much of that story they need to tell. We were obviously supposed to be a device for the storytelling.”
“We were supposed to be the normal family,” she continued. “We’re also the observers and the audience. How do we help propel the story? What can we do, as actors and as characters, to show the opposite of what’s going on, in this house across the street?”