by Lauren Piester | Thu., Nov. 22, 2018 4:00 AM
Get ready to be creeped out completely!
Dirty John makes its official debut this weekend (after its pilot went online last week), and it's an unbelievable true story. The Bravo show is based on a podcast and a series of articles from the LA Times about a woman in Southern California who meets a man who quickly turns from a charming dream come true to a terrifying nightmare relationship.
The entire story is available in multiple formats online, and many of the real people are still around to tell the story themselves, but the show will add a whole new layer to the tale. We'll get to watch it play out, as uncomfortable and creepy as it may occasionally get, especially knowing what we know about how it turns out, and knowing that there's no way to warn Connie Britton about what she's gotten herself into as we watch it all happen.
In case you don't want to spoil yourself with the whole story, here's the general gist:
Debra Newell (Connie Britton) is a 59 year-old hot, successful interior designer with four kids, four divorces, and a fair amount of money. She meets a guy online named John Meehan (Eric Bana) who seems great on screen: Christian, an anesthesiologist, divorced. He may not be the snappiest dresser, and he might do some weird things, but he makes Debra happier than anything, until he doesn't.
The podcast, hosted by journalist Christopher Goffard, debuted October 2, 2017, the day after part one of Goffard's companion series in the LA Times was published. While the article starts very much from the beginning of the story, the podcast starts a bit more like the show does, with bloody hints of the stab wounds to come at the end of this tale.
The podcast also features the voices of the actual people involved in the story, including Debra Newell and her daughters, who have major roles in the story. While the article tells more of a chronological overall story, the show seems to most closely follow the podcast, just without the journalist narrator and with some other details filled in. Debra's assistant is played by Gilmore Girls' Keiko Agena, and we follow them as they shop for design elements and work and discuss Debra's attempt at a dating life.
Plus, the show has things like Gwen Stefani songs and Connie Britton's legendary hair, which you unfortunately do not get from the podcast.
When taking on the project, Connie Britton was most excited by how much information there was available from the real Debra Newell.
"I think there was a really great generosity in her to tell this story and I think it was so that other people could really get some of the warning signs," Britton says.
She tells E! News that she's pretty old school and wasn't all that knowledgable about online dating, and all of her research went into knowing Debra, rather than how it all actually works.
"It was more important to me to understand her psychology, where she comes from, who she is, and reasoning behind some of the choices that she made," Britton says, explaining that she would even call Debra when she had trouble with a scene.
"She'll always answer, and she'll talk it through with me," she says. "She's also been so sweet to me, because she said, 'I'm honored to have you play me,' and I'm like, you're so sweet, I want to do you justice."
Britton hopes that the show helps people see how easy it is to be conned by a con man, especially in the current environment where the truth is sometimes questionable, but she also sees a connection to Me Too.
"The other thing to me that I hope people and particularly women in this Me Too movement will see is a real exploration into how we as women sometimes create our ideas of who we're supposed to be. For me, the idea of playing Debra in this story was trying to unpack some of why she made the choices she made, who she thought she was supposed to be as a woman, as a woman to this man and as a woman in the culture."
Dirty John airs Sundays on Bravo.
E! and Bravo are both part of the NBC Universal family.
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