How Lifetime's Who Killed JonBenét? Cast the Role of JonBenét Ramsey

Exclusive: Director Jason LaPeyre details the process of casting Payton Lepinski in Lifetime's original movie, set to premiere on Nov. 5

By Tierney Bricker, Lauren Piester Nov 04, 2016 5:00 PMTags
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World, get ready to meet Payton Lepinski.

The child actor is taking on the role of JonBenét Ramsey in Lifetime's Who Killed JonBenet?, their latest original movie set to premiere on Nov. 5. While the movie centers on the investigation that followed JonBenét's murder in 1996, Payton plays the 6-year-old in home videos and flashbacks. 

Casting the role of JonBenét was a challenge for the filmmakers, with director Jason LaPeyre telling E! News, "JonBenét Ramsey is such a unique person...JonBenét herself is utterly, hypnotically fascinating. You can see why she holds sway over people." 

And while "everybody knows what she looks like, so we thought it was pretty important to have someone that looked the part," which Payton definitely does, LaPeyre explains they wanted to reclaim the human being whose been at the center of a media frenzy for two decades.

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"We wanted to reclaim some of the qualities we knew she had, which is that she wasn't particularly into pageants all the time," he explains. "She did like to run around in the grass and play and she was a regular little six year old kid, and we just tried to find someone who had those qualities of seeming like a regular kid. But also had that sort of incredible adorableness that she also had."

Given the subject matter and some of the darker elements of Lifetime's movie (including having JonBenét narrate the film and John Ramsey, JonBenét's father, discovering her body), LaPeyre says it was "essential" to have a lot of conversations with Payton's parents throughout the process. 

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"The things we had to ask her to do were so… you know, most of them were pretty typical, but there were a couple things she had to do that she had to be prepared for," he says. "And even though we did have conversations with her, and we had conversations with her parents, it still was very challenging on the day to have to ask her to do those things. We certainly had to move very slowly that day to make sure she didn't get too upset." 

The darker material, LaPeyre says, sets Who Killed JonBenét? apart from the network's other original movies, saying, "This is a little bit different from most Lifetime movies…A little bit darker, less kissing."

Who Killed JonBenet? airs Saturday, Nov. 5, at 8 p.m. on Lifetime.