The Act (TV series)

Last updated

The Act
The Act Logo1.png
Genre
Created by
Starring
Composer Jeff Russo
Country of originUnited States
Original languageEnglish
No. of seasons1
No. of episodes8
Production
Executive producers
  • Nick Antosca
  • Michelle Dean
  • Britton Rizzio
  • Gregory Shephard
ProducerJan Peter Meyboom
Running time48–60 minutes
Production companies
Release
Original network Hulu
Original releaseMarch 20 (2019-03-20) 
May 1, 2019 (2019-05-01)
External links
Official website

The Act is an American true crime drama television series that premiered in eight parts on March 20, 2019, on Hulu. The plot is based on the real life of Gypsy Rose Blanchard and the murder of her mother, Dee Dee Blanchard, who was accused of abusing her daughter by fabricating illness and disabilities as a direct consequence of Munchausen syndrome by proxy. [1] Joey King portrayed Gypsy, while Patricia Arquette played her mother, Dee Dee Blanchard. AnnaSophia Robb, Chloë Sevigny, and Calum Worthy star in supporting roles.

Contents

At the 71st Primetime Emmy Awards, Arquette won for Outstanding Supporting Actress in a Limited Series and King received a nomination for Outstanding Lead Actress in a Limited Series.

Premise

The series follows the story of Gypsy Blanchard (Joey King), who uses a wheelchair due to an illness. Growing up, her relationship with her overprotective mother (Patricia Arquette) begins to sour as she increasingly insists on her independence. She rebels as her mother, who dedicated her life to her care, grows more protective, controlling and abusive, particularly amid her attempt to explore her sexuality.

The relationship turns even more toxic as Gypsy discovers many secrets. [2] She grew up believing she was sick with cancer but discovers that she was not sick at all. [3] Her mother Dee Dee successfully deceived not only Gypsy but also her family, friends, and medical professionals into believing her child was ill. [4] It is suggested that she suffers from Factitious disorder imposed on another, a mental illness in which a caregiver exaggerates or fakes another person's illness. At the time, this disorder was classified as Munchausen syndrome by proxy, by which it is still commonly known. [3] The narrative eventually leads to murder after Gypsy asks her boyfriend to kill her mother. [5]

Cast and characters

Main

Recurring

Guest

Episodes

No.TitleDirected byWritten byOriginal release date
1"La Maison du Bon Reve" Laure de Clermont-Tonnerre Nick Antosca & Michelle Dean March 20, 2019 (2019-03-20)
Doting mother Dee Dee Blanchard and her sweet daughter Gypsy arrive in a new neighborhood in Springfield, Missouri, 2008, following the destruction of their previous home caused by Hurricane Katrina in 2005. Gypsy feels lonely due to a barrage of medical issues, but is befriended by Lacey, a teenager on their block who visits them. Mel (Lacey's mother) watches Dee Dee and Gypsy steal a necklace from a mall; later, with the intention of buying Mel's silence, Dee Dee plans a party at her house inviting all neighbors. As Dee Dee explains the issues of raising her daughter alone to Mel, she sees Gypsy eating frosting from a cupcake and rushes her immediately to the hospital, claiming Gypsy is allergic to sugar. Mel suddenly feels sympathy for Dee Dee's hardships, so the two women make peace that same night. Gypsy hears the doctor telling her mother she is not allergic to sugar. That night, she walks to the kitchen (despite being equipped to a wheelchair) and eats whipped cream, waiting to see if she has any of the symptoms of anaphylaxis that her mother has warned her about. Instead, it proves her mother lied to her. As Gypsy walks back to bed, she is startled when seeing her mother is awake and tells her she was thirsty. Gypsy goes to bed again, connected to a machine by Dee Dee, as she sings to her. The episode flashes forward to June 14, 2015, and shows that Dee Dee has been found dead, Gypsy is gone, and the police are investigating.
2"Teeth"Laure de Clermont-TonnerreDan DietzMarch 20, 2019 (2019-03-20)
In 2009, Gypsy starts sneaking at night to eat sugary foods while watching make-up videos, bringing about a visit to the dentist where all her teeth are removed, due to them rotting from the medications that Dee Dee gave her. This causes her to resist attending an award ceremony to receive an award Gypsy won (nominated by her mother), but Dee Dee forces her to go, providing her with dentures so she feels better. Dr. Lakshmi Chandra, a new doctor who is seeing Gypsy, suspects her medical records are not correct and begins contacting other hospitals to see if they are true. The doctor reports Gypsy's situation to Child Protective Services, which freaks out Dee Dee, causing her to give Gypsy sleeping pills, making her appear disoriented and dizzy when she speaks to the social worker. Believing it was Mel who reported her to CPS, Dee Dee confronts her; however, Mel explains it wasn't her and comforts Dee Dee by reassuring her that she is a good mother. In the present day, Lacey tells her mother and the police that Gypsy had a secret Facebook account, which she used to get romantically involved with young men, probably hinting that Gypsy had a boyfriend involved in Dee Dee's murder and her own disappearance.
3"Two Wolverines" Adam Arkin Robin Veith March 27, 2019 (2019-03-27)
In 2011, Dee Dee makes Gypsy play dress-up for a costume convention, where they each attract men wearing Wolverine costumes who could complicate their insular relationship; Gypsy is attracted to a guy named Scott while a man named Russ has an attraction for Dee Dee (both men were dressed as Wolverine). Gypsy steals money and buys a phone so she can text Scott, and creates a secret Facebook account after discovering her mother has lied about her age, claiming she is fifteen (born in 1995) but her legal birth certificate states she was born in 1991. Scott has an accident at the hospital and Gypsy visits him wearing the red wig Scott got for her (as a reference to Jean Grey), but not before leaving a note to her mom saying she left to be married to her prince charming, signed "your nineteen year old daughter". Gypsy later goes to Scott's house where Dee Dee arrives later and threatens her to create a scene if she doesn't go with her, while also telling Scott that Gypsy is 14. When they arrive home, Gypsy is scared as she sees her mother's angry look when she forces her to come out of the van in a wheelchair.
4"Stay Inside"Christina ChoeMichelle DeanApril 3, 2019 (2019-04-03)
In 2013, Gypsy starts her sexual awakening, seeing a guy who mows the lawn, and gets interested in dating as Lacey tells her about her new boyfriend. Dee Dee wants to get legal guardianship of Gypsy, however it won't be easy, as she'll only get it if Gypsy is incapacitated and Gypsy has to agree to it. Dee Dee is diagnosed with diabetes, and while she's feeling sick, Gypsy buys a laptop without her mother finding out. She creates an account on a Christian dating website (the same one used by Lacey), where she meets Nick Godejohn, who claims to have a split personality with a dark side. Dee Dee makes Gypsy sign the guardianship documents, promising Gypsy she can protect her from all the lies they have invented and she won't go to jail (since she is now 18 and could face legal consequences as an adult). As time goes by, Nick and Gypsy get along well together, with the former introducing her to BDSM. The next morning, Gypsy falls asleep with the laptop, and when Dee Dee sees it, she smashes it with a hammer, even though Gypsy states she'll just get a new one. As a result, Dee Dee tries to tie her hands but Gypsy frees herself by spitting on Dee Dee. Even though she has a chance to leave, Gypsy comes back to her mother and takes care of her. Later that night, Gypsy texts Nick about her destroyed computer. Nick assures her he will protect her. Gypsy then asks "from anyone?", as the episode ends with her masturbating on the floor.
5"Plan B"Steven PietNick Antosca & Lisa LongApril 10, 2019 (2019-04-10)
In 2015, Gypsy and Nick scheme to meet in person and hope to win Dee Dee's approval. The next day, Dee Dee and Gypsy go to the movies and watch Cinderella , but Dee Dee feels creeped out by Nick, who follows them inside the movie theater. Gypsy and Nick have sex for the first time in the bathroom. When Gypsy and Dee Dee arrive home, Nick calls and tells Dee Dee that he loves Gypsy and they have been in love for several years. Dee Dee ties Gypsy's hands to the bed. With their plan gone disastrously wrong, Gypsy tells Nick that she needs Victor (Nick's dark side) to kill her mother because she can't do it alone, so he agrees and travels back to her. Gypsy buys a fishing knife and starts packing when she receives a message from Nick saying he's there.
6"A Whole New World"Laure de Clermont-TonnerreHeather MarionApril 17, 2019 (2019-04-17)
While Gypsy and Nick are on the run following Dee Dee's murder, flashbacks to a much younger Dee Dee reveal how trauma with her own mother, Emma, set her up for conflict with Gypsy, as the two of them have different ideas about raising her. When Gypsy is two years old, Dee Dee is arrested for check fraud and goes to jail for six months, while her mother is the one who takes care of Gypsy. When Dee Dee comes back, she gives Gypsy cough medicine, insisting she has a fever even though she does not. In the present day, Gypsy is disappointed when she discovers Nick only bought one return-ticket to his hometown; therefore, they must wait two days to leave. When Gypsy is six, Emma's health is getting worse but Dee Dee neglects her until she finally dies. After Emma dies, Dee Dee discovers that Emma never gave the letters she wrote to Gypsy while being in prison. Gypsy has an accident falling from a trampoline and when they come back from the hospital, Dee Dee places her in a wheelchair. Back in the present day, Gypsy leaves with Nick to Wisconsin.
7"Bonnie & Clyde" Hannah Fidell Dan Dietz & Robin VeithApril 24, 2019 (2019-04-24)
Gypsy is excited to start over with Nick in Wisconsin, but their new life doesn't match the happily-ever-after she imagined, and her anxiety worsens as past transgressions begin to catch up with them. When Gypsy arrives at the Godejohns' house, she sees that Nick's mother Kathy and his father Vance don't take care of him as much as Dee Dee cared for her. With a lack of food in the house, Gypsy and Nick head to the supermarket, while the former pretends to have a sprained ankle, giving her an opportunity to use an electric scooter and steal mashed potatoes-mix while Nick distracts a worker. Later, at the house, Gypsy feels remorse over her mother's death. Since Dee Dee's body has not yet been found, she and Nick post comments on Facebook about the murder. Lacey sees the posts and immediately contacts Mel. However, Nick and Gypsy forgot to disable the location, resulting in local police dramatically-raiding the Godejohns' house later that night. The couple is interrogated separately. Nick accepts his blame and says he did it because he loves Gypsy, while being aware of his recent charge in 2013 for masturbating at a McDonald's restaurant for 9 hours while watching porn. Gypsy maintains she had no idea Nick was going to kill Dee Dee. When Lacey and Mel see Gypsy on TV, they are shocked to see that she can walk, much to Mel's anger that they were betrayed for several years. Gypsy's trial begins. She bursts into tears when she learns that she will be sentenced to life in prison or the death penalty if she pleads guilty for Dee Dee's murder.
8"Free"Steven PietNick Antosca, Michelle Dean & Lisa LongMay 1, 2019 (2019-05-01)
Gypsy fights for her life by defending her actions, while Mel and Lacey realize that behind closed doors things were not always as they seemed. Gypsy's lawyer states that she has to prove she is innocent to the state of Missouri or else she will be killed, and instructs her to provide all available medical records since birth. Gypsy later calls Lacey to ask if she could visit, but Lacey is non-committal. Gypsy then calls her father for her medical records that she needs for evidence. When Rod Blanchard, Gypsy's father and Dee Dee's ex-husband, arrives, Gypsy freaks out over believing that he never loved her or wanted to be in her life, until he shows her happy pictures of them together when she was a small child. Gypsy's lawyer asks the judge to try Gypsy separately from Nick, as both had different motives in the murder. The motion is granted, upsetting Nick because he claims he only did it to be with her. Mel arrives at the prison instead of Lacey, telling Gypsy that she and Lacey have decided not to continue their association with Gypsy. In a flashback to the night of Dee Dee's murder, Gypsy's last conversation with her mother is shown, remembering when Gypsy was scared with the spanish moss resembling ghosts and Dee Dee telling her to look at the stars as they are angels who take care of them (the flashback is shown at the beginning of the episode when Gypsy was six). When Dee Dee is asleep, Gypsy lets Nick in and proceeds with the plan to kill Dee Dee. After Nick stabs her while Gypsy was in the bathroom, the two have sex, and they leave the house before Gypsy states that she didn't want to see Dee Dee's body. The final scene shows Gypsy tilting her head on Dee Dee's shoulder in her cell, believing that she still loves her mother despite what she went through. Subtitles reveal that Gypsy is currently serving a 10-year sentence, and stated that she will start a family after she gets out, while Nick is currently serving a life sentence without parole.

Production

Development

On July 21, 2017, Hulu confirmed it had put the production into development. The potential series was expected to be written by Michelle Dean and Nick Antosca based on Dean's BuzzFeed article "Dee Dee Wanted Her Daughter To Be Sick, Gypsy Wanted Her Mom To Be Murdered". Writ Large, who acquired the screen rights to the article in 2016, was set to produce. Production companies involved with the series include Universal Cable Productions. [9]

On May 18, 2018, it was reported that Hulu had given the production a series order. It was further announced that Dean and Antosca would serve as co-showrunners and executive produce alongside Greg Shephard and Britton Rizzio. [10] [11] On August 1, 2018, it was announced that Laure de Clermont-Tonnerre would direct the series' first episode. [12] On December 20, 2018, it was announced that the series would premiere on March 20, 2019. [13] On March 11, 2019, Jeff Russo was announced to be the show's composer. [14]

Casting

In September 2018, it was announced that Patricia Arquette, Joey King, Chloë Sevigny, and AnnaSophia Robb had been cast in starring roles. [15] [2] [16] On October 2, 2018, it was reported that Calum Worthy had joined the cast in a starring role. [17]

In April 2019, Kristy Blanchard, stepmother of Gypsy Blanchard, stated that she was unhappy with how Aleah Woodmansee was portrayed in the show. While Woddmansee's name isn't mentioned, Robb's character Lacey originates from her. Blanchard stated that there was a scene in the second episode where Lacey gave Gypsy a cigarette, which in reality, did not happen. In an interview with Vulture , Blanchard stated: "She is the total opposite of that. It hurts Aleah because she lives in Springfield, and people are going to look at her differently and she's scared that it affects her job and reputation." [7] Woodmansee also took issue with the choice to have Robb speak in a twangy accent, adding, "I'm not a fan of the whole hillbilly tone." [8]

Filming

Principal photography for the series took place from October 2018 to February 2019 in Effingham County, Georgia. [18]

Multiple scenes were filmed at the Savannah Mall and in Episode 8 scenes were filmed at the Bryan County Courthouse.

Controversy

On April 4, 2019, Gypsy Blanchard stated that she would be taking legal action towards The Act and Dean, its creator. While Blanchard was not able to watch the show in prison, she stated: "I feel it is very unfair and unprofessional that producers and co-producer Michelle Dean has used my actual name and story without my consent, and the life rights to do so". [19] Kristy Blanchard and screenwriter Franchesca Macelli, however, stated that it was from her own place of anger and disappointment and frustration, referring to how no one is taking action. Macelli stated that they will be looking into the legal rights for their actions, either cancelling the show or making its storyline right. [19] [7]

Kristy Blanchard, Gypsy's stepmother, accused Dean of breaking a promise to share the financial proceeds from the show with Gypsy, saying: "We were on a phone conversation, and she had told me that whatever she made, it didn't matter what it was, she was gonna send us 50 percent of what she made and she was gonna keep 50 percent." [19]

Reception

Critical response

The first season received highly positive reviews from critics. On review aggregator Rotten Tomatoes, the season has an approval rating of 89% based on 46 reviews, with an average rating of 7.36/10. The website's critical consensus reads, "Disturbingly nuanced performances from Patricia Arquette and Joey King make The Act a convincing case for the ongoing dramatization of true crime stories." [20] On Metacritic, it has a weighted average score of 74 out of 100 based on 16 critics, indicating "generally favorable reviews". [21]

Awards and nominations

YearAwardCategoryNominee(s)ResultRef.
2019 Primetime Emmy Awards Outstanding Lead Actress in a Limited Series or Movie Joey King Nominated [22]
Outstanding Supporting Actress in a Limited Series or Movie Patricia Arquette Won
Satellite Awards Best Miniseries The ActNominated [23]
Best Actress – Miniseries or TV Film Joey KingNominated
Best Supporting Actress – Series, Miniseries or TV Film Patricia ArquetteNominated
2020 Golden Globe Awards Best Actress – Limited Series or Television Film Joey KingNominated [24]
Best Supporting Actress – Series, Limited Series, or Television Film Patricia ArquetteWon
Critics' Choice Television Awards Best Actress in a Limited Series or Television Movie Joey KingNominated [25]
Best Supporting Actress in a Limited Series or Television Movie Patricia ArquetteNominated
Screen Actors Guild Awards Outstanding Performance by a Female Actor in a Miniseries or Television Movie Patricia ArquetteNominated [26]
Joey KingNominated
Casting Society of America Limited SeriesSharon Bialy, Sherry Thomas, Lisa Mae Fincannon, Craig Fincannon and Kimberly WistedtNominated [27]

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