The Act
Genre
Created by
Starring
ComposerJeff 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
Original release
NetworkHulu
ReleaseMarch 20 (2019-03-20) –
May 1, 2019 (2019-05-01)

The Act is an American biographical crime drama limited series that premiered in eight parts on March 20, 2019, on Hulu. The plot is based on the 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.

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 behavioral condition in which a caregiver exaggerates or fakes another person's illness. At the time, this condition 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-TonnerreNick Antosca & Michelle DeanMarch 20, 2019 (2019-03-20)
Dee Dee Blanchard and her 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. Lacey's mother, Mel, acts coldly towards Dee Dee after spotting Dee Dee and Gypsy stealing a necklace from a mall. Dee Dee later hosts a party at her house for all the neighbors, with the intention of buying Mel's silence. At the party, Dee Dee sees Gypsy eating frosting from a cupcake and immediately rushes her to the hospital, claiming Gypsy is allergic to sugar. Mel feels sympathy for Dee Dee's hardships, and the two women make peace. 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. Gypsy does not experience any of the anaphylaxis symptoms that her mother had warned her about, revealing that Dee Dee had lied to her. The episode flashes forward to June 14, 2015, revealing 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 sugary foods at night, 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. Despite this, Dee Dee insists that she and Gypsy attend a Child of the Year awards ceremony. Dr. Lakshmi Chandra, a new doctor who is seeing Gypsy, suspects Gypsy's medical records are incorrect and begins contacting other hospitals to see if they are true. Dr. Chandra reports Gypsy's situation to Child Protective Services. When a social worker makes a visit, a panicked Dee Dee gives Gypsy sleeping pills, making her appear disoriented and dizzy when she speaks to the social worker. Dee Dee confronts Mel, believing she made the CPS report; Mel explains it wasn't her and reassures Dee Dee 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, possibly hinting that Gypsy had a boyfriend involved in Dee Dee's murder and her own disappearance.
3"Two Wolverines"Adam ArkinRobin VeithMarch 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. 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), though her legal birth certificate states she was born in 1991. Meanwhile, Russ and Dee Dee briefly flirt, but Dee Dee cuts off contact with Russ when he expresses interest in pursuing a serious relationship. When Scott gets in a bar fight and winds up in the hospital, Gypsy decides to visit him; she leaves a note for Dee Dee, saying she left to be married to her prince charming, and signs it "your nineteen year old daughter". Scott invites Gypsy back to his house; moments later, Dee Dee arrives and threatens to create a scene if she doesn't go with her. She also tells Scott that Gypsy is 14. When they arrive home, Dee Dee forces Gypsy to come out of the van in a wheelchair.
4"Stay Inside"Christina ChoeMichelle DeanApril 3, 2019 (2019-04-03)
In 2013, Gypsy starts experiencing her sexual awakening, becoming interested in dating after hearing about Lacey's new online boyfriend. Dee Dee wants to get legal guardianship of Gypsy, but discovers she can only do so if Gypsy is incapacitated and agrees to it. Dee Dee is diagnosed with diabetes, and while she's feeling sick, Gypsy buys a laptop without her knowledge. She creates an account on a Christian dating website 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 in case their fraud is discovered. As time goes by, Gypsy bonds with Nick, who introduces her to BDSM. One morning, Gypsy falls asleep with the laptop; Dee Dee sees it and smashes it with a hammer. When Gypsy states she'll just get a new one, Dee Dee tries to tie her hands, but Gypsy frees herself by spitting on her. 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?", and 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 to 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 that 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; 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; the two have different ideas over how to raise her. When Gypsy is two years old, Emma takes care of Gypsy while Dee Dee is in jail for check fraud. When Dee Dee comes back, she gives Gypsy cough medicine, insisting she has a fever even though she does not. 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; when they come back from the hospital, Dee Dee places her in a wheelchair. In the present day, Gypsy's plans to run away with Nick are put on hold because Nick only bought one return ticket to his hometown. After waiting for two days, Gypsy and Nick officially leave for Wisconsin.
7"Bonnie & Clyde"Hannah FidellDan 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; her anxiety worsens as past transgressions begin to catch up with them. When Gypsy arrives at the Godejohns' house, she sees that Nick's parents don't take care of him as much as Dee Dee cared for her. Gypsy also starts to feel remorse over her mother's death. Since Dee Dee's body has not yet been found, she and Nick post vulgar comments on Facebook about the murder; Lacey sees the posts and immediately contacts Mel. However, Nick and Gypsy forget to disable the location, resulting in local police raiding the Godejohns' house later that night. Gypsy and Nick are interrogated separately: Nick accepts his blame and states he did it because he loves Gypsy, while Gypsy maintains she had no idea Nick was going to kill Dee Dee. Gypsy's trial begins; Lacey and Mel are shocked to see Gypsy walking on TV. Gypsy bursts into tears upon learning that she could 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; Gypsy's lawyer instructs her to provide all available medical records since birth. Gypsy calls Lacey, asking her to visit, though Lacey is non-committal; Gypsy also calls her father, Rod, for her medical records. When Rod arrives, Gypsy confronts him over his absence, believing that he never loved her or wanted to be in her life. However, Rod 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, which upsets Nick, as he claims he only did it to be with her. Mel visits Gypsy at the prison instead of Lacey; she informs Gypsy that she and Lacey have decided not to continue their association with her. Flashbacks depict the night of Dee Dee's murder; Gypsy's last conversation with her mother is shown. Later, when Dee Dee is asleep, Gypsy lets Nick inside; Nick stabs Dee Dee while Gypsy hides in the bathroom, and the two have sex before leaving the house. The final scene depicts Gypsy in her cell, imagining herself tilting her head on Dee Dee's shoulder; Gypsy believes that she still loves her mother despite what she went through. Subtitles reveal that Gypsy is currently serving a 10-year sentence and plans to start a family when 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 included 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 Woodmansee'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] However, screenwriter Franchesca Macelli told Vulture regarding Gypsy's statement "it was from her own place of anger and disappointment and frustration" and that "nobody is taking legal 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 series received highly positive reviews from critics. On review aggregator Rotten Tomatoes, the series has an approval rating of 88% based on 49 reviews, with an average rating of 7.4/10. 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 73 out of 100 based on 17 critics, indicating "generally favorable reviews".[21]

Awards and nominations

Year Award Category Nominee(s) Result Ref.
2019
Hollywood Critics Association Midseason Awards Best Streaming Movie or TV Series Nominated
International Online Cinema Awards Best Actress in a Limited Series or TV Movie Joey King Nominated
Online Film & Television Association Awards Best Limited Series Nominated [22]
Best Supporting Actress in a Motion Picture or Limited Series Patricia Arquette Nominated
Primetime Emmy Awards Outstanding Lead Actress in a Limited Series or Movie Joey King Nominated [23]
Outstanding Supporting Actress in a Limited Series or a Movie Patricia Arquette Won
Satellite Awards Best Miniseries & Limited Series Nominated [24]
Best Actress in a Miniseries or a Motion Picture Made for Television Joey King Nominated
Best Supporting Actress in a Series, Miniseries or a Motion Picture Made for Television Patricia Arquette Nominated
World Soundtrack Awards Television Composer of the Year Jeff Russo Nominated [25]
2020
Artios Awards Outstanding Achievement in Casting – Limited Series Sharon Bialy, Sherry Thomas,
Lisa Mae Fincannon, Craig Fincannon,
and Kimberly Wistedt
Nominated [26]
Critics' Choice Television Awards Best Actress in a Movie Made for Television or Limited Series Joey King Nominated [27]
Best Supporting Actress in a Movie Made for Television or Limited Series Patricia Arquette Nominated
Golden Globe Awards Best Actress – Limited Series or Television Film Joey King Nominated [28]
Best Supporting Actress – Series, Limited Series or Television Film Patricia Arquette Won
Prémios Fantastic Awards Best International Series or Mini-Series in Streaming Nominated
The ReFrame Stamp Top 100 Most Popular Television (2018–2019) Won [29]
Screen Actors Guild Awards Outstanding Performance by a Female Actor in a Miniseries or Television Movie Joey King Nominated [30]
Patricia Arquette Nominated

References

  1. ^ Harnick, Chris (March 4, 2019). "The Trailer for Hulu's Gypsy Blanchard Series The Act Will Leave You Shook". E! Online. Retrieved March 7, 2019.
  2. ^ a b Andreeva, Nellie (September 6, 2018). "'The Act': Joey King To Star In Hulu True-Crime Anthology Series". Deadline Hollywood. Retrieved September 6, 2018.
  3. ^ a b Elliott, Megan (February 17, 2019). "'The Act': Hulu's New True Crime Drama Is Based on a Shocking Real-Life Story". The Cheat Sheet. Retrieved April 8, 2019.
  4. ^ Hatchett, Keisha (March 22, 2019). "Patricia Arquette's Kids Didn't Want Her to Star in Hulu's True Crime Story The Act". TV Guide. Retrieved April 11, 2019.
  5. ^ Turchiano, Danielle (March 13, 2019). "'The Act' Team on Diving Into the Psychology of Gypsy Rose Blanchard 'Coming of Age'". Variety. Retrieved April 8, 2019.
  6. ^ "Actress Joey King shaves her head ... again for role as Gypsy Rose Blanchard". ABC 36 News. October 9, 2018. Retrieved May 2, 2019.
  7. ^ a b c Jones, Alexis (April 4, 2019). "What Gypsy Rose Blanchard's Stepmom Says Hulu's "The Act" Got Wrong". Marie Claire. Retrieved April 5, 2019.
  8. ^ a b c d e Herzog, Kenny (May 3, 2019). "How The Act's Actors Compare to Their Real-Life Counterparts". Vulture. Retrieved May 3, 2019.
  9. ^ Petski, Denise (July 21, 2017). "True-Crime Anthology Series From Nick Antosca & Michelle Dean In Works At Hulu". Deadline Hollywood. Retrieved May 18, 2018.
  10. ^ Petski, Denise (May 18, 2018). "Hulu Orders 'The Act' True-Crime Anthology Series From Nick Antosca & Michelle Dean". Deadline Hollywood. Retrieved May 18, 2018.
  11. ^ Goldberg, Lesley (May 18, 2018). "True Crime Anthology Series 'The Act' Set at Hulu". The Hollywood Reporter. Retrieved May 18, 2018.
  12. ^ Holloway, Daniel (August 1, 2018). "Universal Cable Productions Sets Four Female Pilot Directors (EXCLUSIVE)". Variety. Retrieved September 5, 2018.
  13. ^ Schwartz, Dana (December 20, 2018). "Patricia Arquette is an obsessed mother in true-crime anthology 'The Act': First look". Entertainment Weekly. Retrieved December 21, 2018.
  14. ^ "Jeff Russo Scoring Hulu's 'The Act'". Film Music Reporter. March 11, 2019. Retrieved March 12, 2019.
  15. ^ Andreeva, Nellie (September 5, 2018). "Patricia Arquette To Star In Hulu True-Crime Anthology Series 'The Act'". Deadline Hollywood. Retrieved September 5, 2018.
  16. ^ Andreeva, Nellie; Petski, Denise (September 12, 2018). "'The Act': Chloë Sevigny & AnnaSophia Robb To Star In Hulu True-Crime Series". Deadline Hollywood. Retrieved September 12, 2018.
  17. ^ Pedersen, Erik (October 2, 2018). "'The Act': Calum Worthy To Star In Hulu's True-Crime Anthology Series". Deadline Hollywood. Retrieved October 2, 2018.
  18. ^ Rigsby, G.G. (November 27, 2018). "Filming of Hulu true crime series may prompt ordinance". Savannah Morning News. Retrieved December 2, 2018.
  19. ^ a b c Jones, Alexis (April 4, 2019). "Did Gypsy Rose Blanchard Make Money From 'The Act'?". Marie Claire. Retrieved April 5, 2019.
  20. ^ "The Act". Rotten Tomatoes. Retrieved July 16, 2020.
  21. ^ "The Act". Metacritic. Retrieved April 18, 2019.
  22. ^ "23rd Annual TV Awards (2018-19)". Online Film & Television Association. Retrieved May 15, 2021.
  23. ^ "The Act". Emmys.com. Academy of Television Arts & Sciences. Retrieved July 16, 2019.
  24. ^ "2019 Satellite Awards". Satellite Awards. International Press Academy. Retrieved November 28, 2018.
  25. ^ "World Soundtrack Awards". World Soundtrack Awards. Retrieved December 18, 2021.
  26. ^ "2020 Artios Awards". www.castingsociety.com. Archived from the original on August 4, 2020. Retrieved January 30, 2020.
  27. ^ "Critics' Choice Awards 2020: Fleabag, Watchmen, When They See Us, Unbelievable Among TV Nominees". TVLine. December 8, 2019. Retrieved December 8, 2019.
  28. ^ "The Act – Golden Globes". Golden Globe Awards. Retrieved July 5, 2021.
  29. ^ "ReFrame Announces that the ReFrame Stamp for Gender-Balanced Scripted Series is Being Awarded to 21 of the Top 100 Most Popular TV and Streaming Shows from 2018-2019". www.businesswire.com. January 14, 2020. Retrieved March 14, 2020.
  30. ^ "The 26th Annual Screen Actors Guild Awards". Screen Actors Guild Awards. Archived from the original on January 28, 2019. Retrieved December 12, 2018.