True crime stories ripped from the headlines for TV productions are just like all adaptations in that some facts are inevitably turned into fiction. A curious neighbor might be created, the timing of a crucial event could be pushed forward, or the creative team may decide to change the main conflict entirely. Hollywood does what it can to make a captivating story, so how real is The Act? Hulu's latest true crime story details the harrowing experience of Munchausen syndrome by proxy victim Gypsy Rose Blanchard.
ICYMI, Hulu's anthology series The Act explores the real story of Dee Dee Blanchard (Patricia Arquette) and her daughter Gypsy Rose (Joey King), who pleaded guilty to second-degree murder of her mother in 2016. Previously unbeknownst to others, Dee Dee was falsely portraying Gypsy as a sick child, claiming that her daughter suffered from seizures, muscular dystrophy, and a chromosomal disorder. Dee Dee also reportedly told people that Gypsy had the mental capacity of a 7-year-old and that she had to use a wheelchair at all times.
Despite the truth about Gypsy's health, she and Dee Dee frequently partnered with charitable organizations like Habitat for Humanity and the Make-a-Wish Foundation. The pair's relocation from Louisiana to Missouri in the wake of Hurricane Katrina then allowed for Dee Dee to deepen her reported lies without fueling much suspicion. However, a growing Gypsy began to catch onto the fabrications, discovering that Dee Dee lied about her daughter's age and questioning whether she was truly sick.
As of April 5, the Hulu series has yet to reach the most gruesome chapter of the Blanchards' story, so we don't know how the TV show will handle Gypsy Rose and her boyfriend Nicholas Godejohn plotting to and succeeding in murdering Dee Dee. The mother was found stabbed to death in June 2015, prompting the arrest of Gypsy and Godejohn less than two days later. In 2016, Gypsy pleaded guilty to second-degree murder and as of 2018, she's serving a 10-year prison sentence. In 2018, following Gypsy's confession that she "talked him into" killing Dee Dee, Godejohn was found guilty of first-degree murder and armed criminal action. In February 2019, he was sentenced to life in prison without a possibility of parole.
But with half of the season's eight episodes now available to stream, viewers have a strong idea of how accurately the creators have adapted real life for the small screen. Based on a BuzzFeed News piece that co-showrunner, producer, and writer Michelle Dean wrote, The Act follows the Blanchards' actual circumstances fairly closely. From recreating the duo's pink house to capturing Gypsy's high-pitched, childlike voice, the physical similarities are mind-blowing. When it comes to the show's nitty-gritty, there are understandable differences, but noticeable parallels still exist.
For starters, Dean's BuzzFeed piece mentions a single mother who befriended Dee Dee in the Blanchards' Springfield, Missouri, neighborhood. The woman, Amy Pinegar, often felt overwhelmed about how much the Blanchards had experienced, seemingly fitting the mold of both Mel (Chloe Sevigny) and Shelly (Denitra Isler) on The Act.
Similarly, neighbor and friend Aleah Woodmansee has spoken publicly about Gypsy confiding in her about dating Godejohn, which happens to the character Lacey (AnnaSophia Robb) on the Hulu drama. While the other neighbors are conglomerates of real people, Lacey is reportedly based on Woodmansee, who even attended all of Gypsy's preliminary hearings after Dee Dee's death to support her.
The show has also recreated interviews, public appearances, and encounters that can be found online or described by Gypsy in documentaries. A 20/20 special on the case includes news and home video footage of events portrayed onscreen, like Dee Dee and Gypsy's interview upon moving into their home and Gypsy singing at what was a Child of the Year ceremony on The Act.
Interviews Gypsy has participated in from prison also detail Dee Dee's reported abuse. In the show, we see Dee Dee smash Gypsy's computer with a hammer, and the trailer teases her tying Gypsy to a bedpost for what became two weeks. IRL, Gypsy claims the computer smashing was right after she ran away to be with the man she met at a sci-fi convention, whereas the show portrayed the incident several years after the convention when Gypsy used her laptop to contact Godejohn. It's a slight change, but the fact that the series has managed to weave together all of these crucial details is impressive.
So what does the real Gypsy think of the series? Although she previously worked with Dean for her original news story, the now-27-year-old Gypsy claimed in an email to Bustle that she didn't approve of the making of The Act. She wrote, "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. Therefore, there will be legal action taken against the show's creators."
New episodes of The Act premiere every Wednesday on Hulu.