You will be redirected back to your article in seconds

‘Dirty John’ Team Talks Expanding Perspective of Bravo Adaptation

When Bravo ordered an eight-episode limited scripted series based on the “Dirty John” podcast, the production team had a wealth of material on which to base the show. Beyond Christopher Goffard’s audio telling of the story were numerous LA Times articles. But additionally, the real Debra Newell is still alive and has been a resource for her portrayer, Connie Britton.

“We actually spent a good deal of time together and I really like her a lot, so it’s been such a great experience for me, and new experience for me, to sit down and really get to ask her questions — get to ask the character that I play questions,” Britton said at a Television Critics Assn. set visit for the show Wednesday. “It’s a really unique privilege to experience. And also, it’s helping to give so much insight into the story in a way that maybe we weren’t able to experience in the podcast.”

For Britton, what was key was to conveying Newell’s experience was understanding “how she was pulled in by this guy” because ultimately, she noted, the story the show is telling is “of how a con man can be so effective.”

Britton and executive producer Alexandra Cunningham both pointed out that it will be key for everyone who watches the show to “see ourselves in her” and not judge her or assume her actions are because she is or is not a certain way.

“We cast the spell that John cast over Debra and we’re trying to include the audience in that. We’re trying to sweep the audience off their feet the way John swept Debra off her feet,” Cunningham said.

Cunningham described the show as being centered on “a successful, attractive woman who meets a very charming man on the internet, who sweeps her off her feet and then she discovers the darkness within him and it almost takes down her entire family.”

As the titular John, Eric Bana shared that he finds the character “mysterious” and doesn’t want to know a lot about him because he finds that if you choose to perform the role in a way “that’s 100% traceable to the exact facts, it can be boring.” Instead, he wants to “try and come up with a sense of that person that may be a little more interesting.”

“It’s not him individually that’s fascinating,” he said. “It’s the type of character and his behavior.”

However, he shared that he does think John “genuinely fell for Debra,” which made the early stage of their relationship “passionate and real.”

“At what stage does the acting begin and at what stage does the more dangerous part of his character take over and begin to poison that relationship?” he said. “There’s a lot of scope there to explore internally.”

Britton noted that at this time in history, post-the #MeToo movement, the story’s more relevant than ever.

“It’s very hard for everyone, but women especially to throw off their societal conditioning … with how they behave towards people they are in relationships with,” she said.

The show will touch on multi-generational portrayals of this conundrum through Debra and her mother (played by Jean Smart). The way Debra internalized some of what her mother showed and taught her about trust, Cunningham said, may inform her response to John.

Additionally, though, Cunningham pointed out that the aspect of meeting someone online is more relevant today, as well, given the prevalence of “trolling.”

“[It] is showing us that everybody wants to matter,” she said of the online behavior. “Trying to feel seen and be special and prey on that, that’s not going to stop happening.”

But perhaps most importantly, she said, that “the search for love and the wanting to reinvent yourself through the eyes of someone else” is a key theme of the show.

For the audience that is familiar with the podcast, new perspectives will be granted by watching the show. Whereas the podcast came from the reporter’s (Goffard) point of view, the show will “delve into a lot of different” ones, executive producer and director Jeffrey Reiner said.

“It’s all about, ‘Who is John?'” he said, noting that it starts with Debra but also will expand out to include characters like Tanya and the sisters. “We go back in time [and include] things that were not necessarily in the podcast.”

Added Cunningham: “The framework is the same and a lot of the things that people love about the podcast are still there but within the frame, we go deeper.”

Executive producer Richard Suckle added that with all of the copious amounts of information available, “when you can go down a certain rabbit hole [with the story]…you should go there because there’s a lot of things people don’t know about.”

More TV

  • James Marsden attends the 2019 MOCA

    New Abortion Ban Laws Take Center Stage at MOCA Gala

    Forty years ago in Los Angeles, the decision to invest millions in a museum dedicated exclusively to contemporary art — not to mention its formerly desolate downtown location, where the vibe was more apocalyptic than artsy — was a risky proposition. But now that the city’s cultural heart has shifted south of Hollywood, it seems [...]

  • WGA Agents Contract Tug of War

    Writers Guild Expands Suit Against Agencies With New Fraud Allegations

    The Writers Guild of America has bulked up its lawsuit with additional fraud allegations against Hollywood’s four biggest talent agencies. The WGA amended its suit Monday in Los Angeles Superior Court with the claim that CAA, WME, UTA and ICM partners have engaged “constructive fraud” by allegedly placing their own interests ahead of their clients [...]

  • Jason Mitchell

    Jason Mitchell Dropped From 'The Chi' Season 3, Netflix Film

    Jason Mitchell is being dropped from a number of his current and upcoming projects. Variety has confirmed that the up and coming actor will not return for “The Chi’s” already announced third season, with Season 2 of the show currently airing on Showtime. In addition, Mitchell will no longer be starring in the Netflix film “Desperados,” in [...]

  • Maisie Williams

    TV News Roundup: Maisie Williams to Guest Judge 'RuPaul's Drag Race UK'

    In today’s roundup, Maisie Williams will guest judge on “RuPaul’s Drag Race UK” and “Drunk History” will return with eight new episodes to Comedy Central.  DATES Comedy Central‘s “Drunk History” will return with eight new episodes beginning with “Derek Waters’ Believe It or Not” Tuesday, June 18 at 10 p.m. The series premiere of “Alternatino [...]

  • Lisa Kudrow

    Lisa Kudrow Joins Lee Daniels-Whitney Cummings Comedy Pilot 'Good People' at Amazon

    Lisa Kudrow has signed on to star in and executive produce the comedy pilot “Good People” currently in the works at Amazon, Variety has learned. The half-hour project hails from writers and executive producers Whitney Cummings and Lee Daniels, with Cummings also set to star. It centers on three generations of women working in the [...]

  • 'Game of Thrones' Series Finale: Much

    'Game of Thrones' Series Finale: A Lot of 'Love' Despite Much-Criticized Ending

    Spoiler alert: Do not read until you’ve watched “The Iron Throne,” the series finale of HBO’s “Game of Thrones,” aka season 8, episode 6. Bran Stark may have a perpetual poker face, but “Game of Thrones” fans certainly had a lot of feelings about him Sunday night. The stony faced character was the No. 1 [...]

More From Our Brands

Access exclusive content