See How the Cast of Dr. Death Compares to the Real-Life Characters in the Chilling True Story

Dr. Death, now streaming on Peacock, stars Joshua Jackson as a sociopathic surgeon and Christian Slater and Alec Baldwin as the doctors who blew the whistle on his reckless conduct.

By Natalie Finn Aug 13, 2021 6:15 PMTags

Joshua Jackson isn't scared of going to the doctor now, exactly.

But "I'm more trepidatious about interacting with the medical system than I was before doing this show," the actor admitted to E! News, referring to his new limited series Dr. Death, now streaming on Peacock.

Jackson stars as Dr. Christoper Duntsch, a charming but ultimately sociopathic neurosurgeon who was convicted in Texas of maiming a 74-year-old woman during surgery—but who overall was accused of harming 33 patients, two of whom died after he operated on them.

"I'd definitely get a second or third opinion before I go now," added AnnaSophia Robb, who plays Dallas prosecutor Michelle Shughart. In 2017, her team won a guilty verdict and a life sentence for Duntsch.

TV's Most Killer True Crime Transformations

Adapted from the 2018 Wondery podcast of the same name (while the foreboding moniker itself was coined by Dallas' D Magazine in 2016), Dr. Death is a truly chilling story about a person who positioned himself as a savior—"He thinks he's the hero," Jackson said—but ultimately ruined dozens of lives, the system that allowed him to run amok for almost two years, the women who believed in him (until they didn't), and the doctors who realized something was seriously wrong and made it their mission to take him down.


"We meet his loves, we meet his friends," Jackson shared, "and I found it really, really compelling." Duntsch was a character "that I was immediately just scratching at, wanting to know more about."

For the scoop on who's who, check out the main cast and the real people they're portraying below. And hear exclusive scoop from two of the women who knew Duntsch in the exclusive Daily Pop interview above.

Joshua Jackson as Dr. Christopher Duntsch

Asked if he had a chance to meet with Duntsch, who's now serving a life sentence for maiming Mary Efurd during what should have been routine surgery, Jackson told E! News he did not. He explained, "I'm not sure that I would have found much value in asking a liar to tell me the truth."

Christian Slater as Dr. Randall Kirby

"He could not wield a scalpel," Kirby said on CNBC's The Real Dr. Death, recalling how shocked he was watching so-called expert Duntsch in the operating room. "It was pathetic." The veteran vascular surgeon was one of the doctors who blew the whistle on Duntsch's unconscionable errors to the Texas Medical Board and then followed up with county prosecutors to insist they pursue a criminal case.

Slater told E! News, "I'm extraordinarily grateful to Dr. Kirby and Dr. Henderson for willing to put their careers on the line and stand up and do the right thing. I found both of those gentlemen to be genuine heroes."

Alec Baldwin as Dr. Robert Henderson

"This is almost literally a serial killer," Henderson, a neurosurgeon at Dallas Medical Center who, along with Kirby, took his concerns about Duntsch to the Texas Medical Board, said about the disgraced doctor on Inside Edition.

Molly Griggs as Wendy Young

Young, who has two children with Duntsch, "believed in him," she recalled on The Real Dr. Death. "And then, you know, we just kind of fell apart."

AnnaSophia Robb as Michelle Shughart

Robb did consult extensively with Shughart, the Dallas County Assistant District Attorney who led the prosecution against Duntsch. 

In a July 15 bonus episode of the Dr. Death podcast featuring a chat between the two, Robb asked Shughart if she ever guessed that the case would get so much attention. "I didn't expect it at all," the attorney said. She did think, however, that people might think her office was crazy for going after Duntsch, criminal charges involving medical malpractice being extremely rare, especially in Texas.

"I was actually shocked that they filmed the entire trial...and it just went beyond," Shughart said.

Robb told E! News, "I almost prefer playing real people, just because I love the collaboration of getting to be able to meet with them and hear their opinion and their voice...It's a big honor and, I don't know, it's almost an extra challenge."

Grace Gummer as Kimberly Morgan

Duntsch's nurse and surgical assistant turned lover eventually turned into a key witness for the prosecution, giving testimony via Skype.

"She said she thought that he was going to make millions," B.J. Ellison, Duntsch's former office manager, told Dr. Death podcast host Laura Beil of his friend Morgan's feelings for their boss. "He was smart. He was brilliant. He was a genius. He would be heading up the neurosurgical department at Baylor and she just found the one."

Morgan quit not long after Kellie Martin's fatally botched spinal surgery in March 2012, Ellison telling Beil, "He was crazy and she just didn't want to be associated with him anymore."

In a later deposition, per D Magazine, Morgan said that she took out a temporary restraining order against Duntsch the next month after he showed up at her home at 2 a.m. and banged on her window.

When they were filming and he was playing such a villain, Jackson told E! News, "You're constantly in this cognitive dissonance of like 'Well, the outcome here is terrible,' or 'he's treating these people terribly in this moment.'"

But Duntsch "thinks he's the hero," he continued, "so the Duntsch half of my brain is totally fine, and the Josh half of my brain is going, 'You're an awful, awful human being!' So it was probably more necessary than I even understood at the time to be able to step out of that and be able to go hug my extremely cute baby every night."

Dr. Death is streaming now on Peacock.

(E! and Peacock are both part of the NBCUniversal family)

(Originally published July 21, 2021 at 5 p.m. PT)

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