Patricia Arquette recognizes that playing a mother suffering from Munchausen Syndrome By Proxy in the first season of Hulu’s The Act so soon after playing a prison employee/inmate lover in Showtime’s Escape At Dannemora has left her “a little exhausted at playing crazy women.”
She acknowledged people have treated her like someone special since receiving so much awards-season recognition for the latter but, at the end of the day, “it doesn’t matter,” she said.
“I mean, it matters, but…your life goes on. You have dirty laundry” to wash, she joked.
The Act is a seasonal anthology series that tells startling, stranger-than-fiction true crime stories. Written by Michelle Dean and Nick Antosca, directed by Laure de Clermont-Tonnerre, the first season is based on Dean’s 2016 Buzzfeed article “Dee Dee Wanted Her Daughter To Be Sick, Gypsy Wanted Her Mom To Be Murdered.” It follows Gypsy Blanchard (Joey King), a girl trying to escape the toxic relationship she has with her mother, Dee Dee (Arquette). Chloë Sevigny and AnnaSophia Robb co-star as mother/daughter neighbors.
Munchausen Syndrome By Proxy is a mental illness in which a person acts as if an individual he or she is caring for has a physical or mental illness when, in fact, they do not. Experts still are not sure if syndrome sufferer “believes the fraud,” Dean said, based on her reporting.
Long intrigued by the illness, Arquette said she found especially helpful an interview with a woman in prison for having killed her child. One in 10 children whose parent suffers the syndrome winds up dead, she noted.
One critic noted it’s not the first dramatization of the syndrome, but Antosca said The Act is based on a true story and so tells a “deeper truth.”
“Reading Michelle’s article I found myself wondering what was it like to live in that house. What like to have the day to day experience Gypsy and Dee Dee had” which he described as a “love story” so extreme it “became toxic,”
The series, he called “a psychological horror story.”
Dean said experts still are not sure if the syndrome sufferer “believes the fraud.”
King said she did a lot of research to play Gypsy, but “when you step on set with a shaved head and fake teeth, and being in the wheel chair and in Gypsy’s clothing” the story fell “into place.”
Now in jail, the real Gypsy, King told TV critics, says she is only now being socialized” after years of being infantilized and smothered by Dee Dee.