Michelle Dockery in Anatomy of a Scandal

Wait, Is Anatomy Of A Scandal Based On A True Story?

There's a reason it may feel so familiar.

by Ani Bundel

Netflix’s latest hit is a British courtroom drama that combines some of the highest-profile angles a legal case can have. James Whitehouse, a well-known Tory MP (Member of Parliament) and former Home Office minister, stands accused of infidelity and assault of an aide. On one side stands his wife, who steadfastly believes him to be innocent. On the other, the QC (Queen’s Counsel), aka the prosecution, who believes in her bones he is guilty. If this all sounds familiar, that’s because Anatomy Of A Scandal is based on a book, and that book, in turn, draws inspiration from true stories.

Warning: Spoilers for Anatomy of a Scandal Season 1 follow. Netflix first announced it would be producing an adaptation of Sarah Vaughan’s popular novel Anatomy of a Scandal in 2020, with the legendary David E. Kelly working with Melissa James Gibson to write the scripts and S. J. Clarkson directing all episodes.

Vaughan is the pen name of British journalist Sarah Hall, who spent the first part of her career working at The Guardian as a political correspondent. She spent 11 years there as a senior reporter, covering all things Parliament, from lawmaking to corruption. In the early 2010s, she started writing novels, and although her first two works were more lighthearted fiction, Anatomy of a Scandal was darker, based on some of the things she saw as a reporter. It became a best-seller.


Anatomy of a Scandal seems believable, but it’s not based on one real case. Instead, Vaughan drew from her various experiences as a reporter in the political realm and her experiences as a student at Oxford, where she saw younger women preyed on by older, powerful men as the basis for a fictionalized story. Gibson told Town & Country that when she and Kelley spoke to Vaughan about her inspiration, “she said the story isn’t based on anyone in particular, [but] it’s certainly based on a milieu — and we tried to take that and run with it.”

Although Netflix’s Anatomy of a Scandal tells the whole story of the case from beginning to end, fans can expect more to come. According to Deadline, the show was planned as an anthology series. (Not unlike Amazon’s A Very English Scandal and A Very British Scandal, which are from the same set of writers and directors but dramatize two very different ripped-from-the-headlines cases.) No Season 2 announcements have been made yet, however, so fans will have to stay tuned for that.

All episodes of Anatomy of a Scandal Season 1 are now streaming on Netflix.