OxyContin and its dangerous control over rural communities take center stage in Hulu’s upcoming Dopesick. While the limited series, based on Beth Macy’s bestselling book, takes from real anecdotes of addiction, creator and executive producer Danny Strong said elements of fiction help further expose the true tales of the epidemic.
“I wanted to do something that really felt like it was telling the totally of the story. One story wasn’t the whole story,” Strong said during Hulu’s TCA presentation on Friday.
Strong joined fellow executive producer and star Michael Keaton, Rosario Dawson, Kailyn Dever, Michael Stuhlbarg, Will Poulter and John Hooganakker to talk the process behind Dopesick, which will premiere October 13. Directed by Barry Levinson, the series tracks how OxyContin went from harmless painkiller to a highly addictive substance through the late ’90s to the early aughts.
Of the six castmembers, only a third play real life figures – Stuhlbarg as Purdue Pharma’s Richard Sackler and Hooganakker as former government official Randy Ramseyer. The rest play fictionalized characters that represent the many who found themselves sucked into the OxyContin crisis, including doctors symbolized by Keaton’s Dr. Finnix and manual labor workers in rural communities represented by Dever’s Betsy Mallum.
“I was trying to represent the totality and the universality of the experience. In some cases we have real life characters and we’re watching them do what they did…I thought that for the victims, creating composite characters we could get more anecdotes of what really happened,” he said.
Keaton, who returns to star in yet another project based on true stories of institutional corruption, added that the series, specifically his character, can also bring more attention to the harsh consequences of the OxyContin crisis and addiction.
“It’s satisfying because I’m in a fortunate position where what I do for a living affords me an opportunity to possibly change things or affect people in some ways,” he said.
Similarly, Dawson added the the Hulu limited series can help challenge stigmas of addiction and how people perceive the epidemic.
“To have the ability to tell these real people’s tales – I think is going to bring humanity to a situation that unfortunately has seen a lot of Inhumanity,” she said.
Beyond the panel, Hulu also dropped the trailer for Dopesick. Watch it above.
Strong and Levinson executive produce Dopesick with Keaton, John Goldwyn, Littlefield via the Littlefield Company, Macy and Karen Rosenfelt.