Ryan Murphy got advice on the Watcher case while filming a Netflix show – The Hollywood Reporter


ryan murphy said he knew he wanted to fit in The Observer for television after reading the true story of the suburban nightmare in the 2018 article by The Cut from New York Magazine.

“I immediately thought of my own family and I think this idea of ​​how we now live in a world where everyone everywhere I guess seems to be under attack in one way or another and this idea of ​​’how can I keep my family safe?’ was something that immediately motivated me,” says the co-creator of the psychodrama starring Naomi Watts and Bobby Cannavale. “I wrote it on the notecard and put it next to my computer while we were writing the scripts.”

After reading the article, Murphy, who has an overall production deal with netflix, says he knew it was his next project and made a phone call, but the rights had already been sold. “And it had been sold to someone at Netflix. And I went, ‘What?’ So it sold out really fast. And so I found out it was my friend Eric [Newman].”

Newman, who also has an overall deal with the streamer and is a producer on The Observer, then got a call from Murphy. “I said, ‘I’m such a fan of this play and I’m such a fan of this genre that I’m going to write it for free; just let me write it down. And he said okay. And that’s how I got involved,” says Murphy. “I got involved as a fan, just because I was very involved in the story and I was deeply connected. It was personal, I think it was personal to Ian Brennan, who made it. also co-created with me.

Murphy shared the show’s origin story during a pre-recorded couch chat with the female stars of The Observer, Naomi Watts, Jennifer Coolidge, Mia Farrow, Noma Dumezweni and Margo Martindale. The conversation (below), produced by the streamer, was filmed ahead of the horror thriller’s October 13 release and on the heels of the latest Netflix true-crime limited series from Murphy and Brennan, Dahmer – Monster: The Jeffrey Dahmer Story.

Both The Observer and Dahmer have since become hits for Netflix, with the latter having 3.66 billion minutes of watch time in its first week and entering as one of the 10 greatest titles since Nielsen started tracking streaming viewing. The pair of limited series also sparked conversations around the ethics of the true-crime genre, as well as the glamorization of serial killers, following family backlash victims of Jeffrey Dahmer who have spoken out to say they weren’t consulted on the show and were re-traumatized.

Speaking with her co-stars, Murphy and her female leads noted the great interest in the true-crime genre, especially from women, and how fear and the collective experience of dealing with fear brings audiences together. . And it was his own obsessive nature that drew the creator of american horror storywhich also just released its 11th season on FX/Hulu, for both Netflix projects.

“I only do things I want to watch. I have a very strict rule about it and I always have,” explains the prolific producer. “And I always think the more specific something is, the more universal it becomes. I don’t know if that’s one of the secrets of my career is that I become obsessed with things.

He continued: “When I did Dahmerwhat I did just before that, we researched for 3.5 years, and it was interesting to me. [The Watcher] is a very universal theme for me, which was parenthood – I have three kids – and this idea of ​​working so hard, you get the American dream; What if someone took it away?

Noma Dumezweni as Investigator Theodora Birch with Naomi Watts as Nora Brannock in The Observer.

Courtesy of Eric Liebowitz/Netflix

In the same way detailed in The cup in 2018, Derek and Maria Broaddus (played by Cannavale and Watts in the series) were the new owners of a six-bedroom house at 657 Boulevard in the idyllic suburb of Westfield, New Jersey, when they started getting letters letters from someone calling themselves “The Observer. The letters, which are recreated in the series, included specific and threatening details about the family. The cup writer Reeves Wiedeman detailed the emotional and psychological torture this brought to the family over time, as investigations by local police and the family themselves never revealed The Watcher’s identity.

The story eventually went viral when the Broadduses sued the previous owners, and after the article was published, Wiedeman said there were many offers to opt for the story. “A horror producer offered to buy 657 Boulevard, hoping to use the house as a set: wrote Wiedeman in a recent follow-up post, where he explained that after Lifetime made a movie without the family’s permission, they decided to sell their story to Netflix to maintain “minimum control.” They had two requests to the production which were granted: that the series change its name (Watts and Cannavale play the role of the parents of the Brannock family) and that The Observer family resembles theirs as little as possible.

The case to this day remains unsolved, and The Observer spends its seven episodes casting doubt on each character. The series, in the opening title card, advertises itself as being based on a true story, but most of the cast, when talking to The Hollywood Reporter at the premiere of the show, said the show was heavily fictionalized.

Murphy – who says he wrote every part with the actresses in mind and they all said yes before even reading a script – said the investigation was still ongoing during filming, leading him into “holes of worm” and even putting it on the receiving ends of tips. “When we were filming, there were things coming out on Reddit like, ‘Here’s a new suspect, here’s another idea. Here’s another thing,'” he says. “It was like working on something that was alive, we were constantly adding characters.”

Their filming style was to work script by script, so the actors also didn’t know how the thriller would end. “We were getting advice like, ‘Here’s another suspect.’ I was getting anonymous emails: ‘Don’t forget about this suspect.’ And then I would follow that person’s wormhole,” Murphy explains. “And of course… some identities were changed, like we do.”

(Left to right) Terry Kinney as Jasper Winslow, Mia Farrow as Pearl Winslow in The Watcher Episode 101.

Mia Farrow as Neighbor Pearl Winslow (Background: Terry Kinney as Jasper Winslow) in The Observer.

Courtesy of Eric Liebowitz/Netflix

The Observer marks a return of Murphy’s collaboration with Coolidge (Pinch/Tuck) and Martindale (American Crime History: Impeachment), and Watts will appear in his upcoming second season of Quarrel. But it was Murphy’s first time booking Farrow for a role, after introducing him to the american horror story pilot more than ten years ago and refused. During their conversation, all of the women thanked Murphy for writing such meaty roles for women over 40.

“When I wrote the pilot of american horror storyI wrote a role for you and I begged your agents to send it to you, and they were like, ‘Oh, Mia doesn’t want to work right now,'” he recalled. the period when Farrow wasn’t acting.”I’m so sorry I didn’t do that,” said Farrow, who also said she only watched her own horror classic. Rosemary’s baby once answered. “I regretted not having done so.”

Coolidge had also been around Murphy during AHS, when one of the seasons was shot at her home. She said she tried to land a role while “Jessica Lange was upstairs in my bedroom”, but Murphy never got it. Perhaps in an effort to correct this, he floated an idea for The Observer season two to end chat: “The other adventures of Karen Calhoun, taking over the Darren Dunn agency,” he said of the white lotus character of the star, who ends the season in style. Watch the 33-minute conversation below.


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