Adding to the growing canon of the true-crime genre, Hulu’s The Act tells the gripping but tragic true story of Dee Dee Blanchard and her daughter Gypsy Rose Blanchard. The duo was known as being a caring mother and sickly daughter striving to overcome hard times. Their close relationship seemed to be founded on love and devotion. However, a much more complicated story surfaced following the unexpected murder of Dee Dee Blanchard.
What happened in real life?
Following an alarming Facebook post, police found Dee Dee Blanchard dead in her home and her daughter missing. Contrary to the way Gypsy had appeared all her life — sickly, immobile, in need of extensive medical care — she wasn’t ill at all. Perhaps more shocking was that Dee Dee allegedly forced her daughter Gypsy into pretending she had terminal cancer and other disabilities. People now believe Dee Dee suffered from Munchausen syndrome by proxy, a rare condition in which a caretaker figure sickens a child or other person as a means of guaranteeing attention.
In real life, Dee Dee cared for Gypsy full-time. People who knew them say that Gypsy suffered from leukemia as a toddler. She was homeschooled and confined to a wheelchair, often with an air tank trailing behind. Gypsy also had painful, crumbling teeth and was tube-fed. If one asked Dee Dee about her daughter’s ailments, she would rattle off a long list including muscular dystrophy, epilepsy, chromosomal defects, severe asthma, sleep apnea to name a few. Dee Dee also maintained that Gypsy had the mind of a 7 year-old.
Only after Dee Dee’s murder did it surface that Gypsy was forced to use a wheelchair despite being able to walk. She was forced to eat through a feeding tube and shave her head to achieve the look of a terminally sick girl. But she wasn’t actually sick in the ways Dee Dee made her out to be. Gypsy also discovered that she was several years older than her mother had led her to believe. It turned out that much of life was spun with lies.
Gypsy had met and fallen in love with Nicholas Godejohn online. Their relationship evolved into a dangerous game of make-believe. What began with dressing up in BDSM ultimately escalating to pre-mediated murder.
Gypsy pleaded guilty to second-degree murder and is currently serving 10 years for her involvement. According to the exposé, Gypsy claims to feel more free in prison than she did under her mother’s care. She also hopes to use her time there to write a book and help others in similar situations. Godejohn recently received his sentence for life in prison.
The BuzzFeed exposé, titled Dee Dee Wanted Her To Be Sick, Gypsy Wanted Her To Be Dead, brought wide attention to the story. Now, Hulu has developed it into an original true crime series.
What happens in Hulu’s version?
The official Hulu description reads: “The Act is a seasonal anthology series that tells startling, stranger-than-fiction true crime stories.
“The first season follows Gypsy Blanchard, a girl trying to escape the toxic relationship she has with her overprotective mother. Her quest for independence opens a Pandora’s box of secrets, one that ultimately leads to murder.”
From what we know so far, Hulu’s version stays fairly close to the true story. It appears to match events chronicled in the widely read BuzzFeed exposé.
Variety praised the series and said, “The Act nails what it’s going for — a grotty, nasty, poisonous fable whose punch comes from the fact that some version of it really happened but that would be compelling regardless.”
Nick Antosca and Michelle Dean co-wrote The Act based on Dean’s original BuzzFeed story, which she spent a year researching.
Who stars in The Act?
Patricia Arquette (Boyhood, Boardwalk Empire) plays the role of Dee Dee. Joey King (The Conjuring, The Kissing Booth, Summer ‘03) as Gypsy Rose. Calum Worthy (American Vandal) plays Nicholas Godejohn.
The series also co-stars Chloë Sevigny and AnnaSophia Robb.
Is Gypsy suing Hulu?
While no official action has been reported on, Gypsy has expressed that Hulu produced The Act without her endorsement.
“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,” Gypsy told USA Today.
“I want to share my story and bring awareness about Munchausen by proxy, in the hopes that I can encourage those who might be experiencing abuse to speak up, because someone will listen. No child should ever be abused, especially (by) their parent.”
Is there a trailer for The Act?
Hulu has released a trailer of The Act. Judging by the trailer, the show doesn’t seem to shy away from the details of Dee Dee and Gypsy’s relationship.
It also seems to tell the story with greater sympathy for Gypsy. It depicts her as a scared and lovestruck character who falls victim to sexual exploitation and violence over the inernet.
Those who enjoyed the 2017 HBO documentary Mommy Dead and Dearest by Erin Lee Carr will likely enjoy The Act.
Sharp Objects, the HBO original series by Gone Girl writer Gillian Flynn and starring Amy Adams, is another one to check out.
Where To Watch The Series
The first two of eight episodes aired on Hulu in the US on March 20th, 2019. The remaining episodes appear each subsequent Wednesday.
Unfortunately, those in the UK face a familiar wait. With No UK broadcaster yet to be announced. With rumours that Hulu may launch in the UK, it might be the case that Hulu don’t sell the rights to this show and wait till they launch in the UK instead.
Will The Act air on UK TV?
Though The Act is not currently streaming in the UK, there is potential for the show to eventually air in Britain on Channel 4. If it makes its way over, it will follow in the footsteps of other Hulu originals such as The First and The Handmaid’s Tale.
Channel 4 has not yet revealed whether they will air the series so keep your fingers crossed.