If you already miss The Act, we’ve got good news: There’s another true crime show telling Gypsy Rose Blanchard’s story, and it’s already in the works. But if you’re expecting it to be much like Michelle Dean’s Hulu series, well, you might be in for a surprise. If you’ve been following our Debunking The Act series, then you’re likely already familiar with Gypsy’s step-mom, Kristy Blanchard, as well as TV writers Francesca “Fancy” Macelli and M.J. Pack. Along with Aleah Woodmansee, Gypsy’s real-life friend and neighbor, they’ve been helping break down what’s real and what’s fake in the Joey King-led show. But now, Kristy, Fancy and M.J. want to introduce you to their own project, By Proxy.
Like The Act before it, By Proxy aims to tell Gypsy’s story. But it’s not just Gypsy’s story. It’s also Dee Dee Blanchard’s story, Nick Godejohn’s story, the Pitre family’s story. As the producer, writer, and sole owner of the rights to tell Gypsy’s life story, Fancy, who created the show with Aria Macelli and Tori Johnson, has spoken to all kinds of different people who were part of the Blanchards’ lives in some way or another. It was important to her to share the truth of what really happened — and not just one person’s truth, but everyone’s. M.J., who first covered the story at Thought Catalog as it was breaking, brings her own expertise to the role. With her article inspiring the HBO documentary Mommy Dead and Dearest, she’s been involved with the case for as long as anyone. But not quite as long as Kristy, a member of the family and witness to some of what went down and all of the backlash after the fact.
Together, the three women are working with the rest of the By Proxy team to bring something different to TV, and it all started with M.J. “[She’s] been with us … since before anybody,” Fancy exclusively told In Touch. “She took the same role as Michelle [did on The Act]. She was a reporter that was reporting on this, and then kind of got involved in a series that was going to be dramatized. … It is the reason why I chose, when I started working with Kristy on this, to bring M.J. in. Because I felt she added an element of truth that maybe even I didn’t have.” You can trace the origins of plenty of stories about Gypsy back to M.J.’s article about the case, which became something of a makeshift database of information about what was going on as she continued to update it with each new piece of the puzzle she found.
“I was a staff writer at Thought Catalog at the time of the crime happening,” M.J. said. “I also went to school and lived in Springfield, [Missouri] for eight years, so I had people on Facebook who were sharing the story [of Dee Dee’s murder] even before Gypsy was even found, and I just kind of stumbled across it and started covering it in real time.” Though M.J. graduated from college with a major in mass media and media studies, she doesn’t actually consider herself a journalist. “I had a really unique position being somebody who was really educated on true crime and then also, obviously, the power of social media and the [way] information spreads these days.” She continued, “I knew I wanted to report what I was told, what I found … and say, ‘This hasn’t necessarily been backed up,’ or, ‘This has been backed up by facts.’ Basically, just completely unbiased and saying, ‘This is the information we have,’ but not jump to conclusions or sensationalize.”
As the case developed, she shared her work with law enforcement officers and Gypsy’s legal team. “I actually did reach out to the detective on the case and said, ‘I have this article, it’s full of information, I think you should have this. I’m also going to provide this to Gypsy’s public defenders because I feel like everybody should have the same amount of information.’” Because of her work, she developed personal relationships with Kristy and Aleah, but she calls the whole thing “something [she] happened into.” She explains, “I tried to cover it the best that I could in a very non-biased way. … It was something that I, from the very beginning, wanted to treat delicately and give it the utmost respect, because I think that everyone involved deserves that.” After Erin Lee Carr read the article, she began to develop Mommy Dead and Dearest for HBO. And after Fancy saw Mommy, she became obsessed.
“I’m a true crime fan. I eat up true crime,” Fancy said. “My kids make fun of me. They’re always talking about, ‘Oh, Mommy’s watching another people killing people show.’ There was a period of time where that was pretty much all I watched. … I was going through a deep depression and it made me feel better about my life in a way. … So I saw the documentary and my true crime brain went into, ‘Okay, I gotta know more. That can’t possibly be all of it.’ … I started going into forum boards and researching articles and doing my own research into what I could find.”
What she found was Kristy talking to true crime fans, trying to explain what had really happened and defend her family from harsh criticism. “She defended everyone and she was so composed in what she would say, and I could feel the emotions,” Fancy said. As an “actress-turned-writer-turned-producer” who had left L.A. and the industry to raise her family in Kentucky, she was looking for new projects. However, she found herself focused more on creating her own work than contributing to someone else’s vision. “It became abundantly clear that a writing bug that had bitten me a long, long time ago was something that I really wanted to continue pursuing. … I am my own company, and this was one of our things that we just happened to fall into.”
Getting in Contact With Gypsy’s Family
That’s when Fancy reached out to Kristy. “I was looking for projects that I really wanted to do what I felt … would be impactful,” Fancy shared. “I really did want to be involved in something that I felt was important.” She started to get involved in forum discussions about Gypsy’s case, “trying to bring logic to it from an outside perspective.” But when she felt like she as “getting nowhere” as the attacks against Kristy and the rest of the Blanchards continued, she decided to reach out. “I’m really sorry you’re going through this,” she says she messaged Kristy. She explained that she was interested in the case, but didn’t want to be the one that comes in to “capitalize” on the story. Slowly, Kristy says, they formed a friendship.
“I started talking to her and then … she [asked], ‘What do you do?’” Fancy said. “So I started asking her about, ‘Well, what do you think about a dramatized series?’ And she asked me, ‘Well, what is that?’ She didn’t even know. … ‘It would be like a Law & Order or a true crime story that’s played by actors.’ And she said, ‘Well, I don’t know, maybe.’ But at the time, she was still under contract with HBO, so she couldn’t even basically talk with me in a realm of looking at doing another project.” But now that the two women had a personal relationship, they continued talking. “So we kind of went through the process of I just wanted to be there to support her in a way to protect the families, protect the people involved.” She helped guide them through the media circus, a job she’s continued to do as The Act aired, helping the family handle press and even doing interviews with Kristy and on her behalf.
But things changed. “One day I got a message from Kristy that said, ‘OK. Our [contract] with HBO is up today. We really want to talk to you based on the fact of how supportive you’ve been and how you have composed yourself in trying to logically look at this and tell people maybe it’s not what [they] think, maybe there’s more to it.’” So Fancy and one of her cowriters, Aria, talked it out, hopped in a car, and drove down to spend an entire week with the family. “I’ve talked to friends, I’ve talked to family. Not just Gypsy’s family, but Dee Dee’s own family. … I interviewed Rod, I spoke with Mia, [Gypsy’s half-sister]. I talked to Kristy. I visited the Pitre family, [Dee Dee’s] dad and her step-mother,” Fancy said. “I got the discovery files, the text messages, the crime scene photos, all the documents that they had for medical things, and I can tell you, I flip a page, and every time I think I’ve heard the craziest part of the story, I flip another page and go, ‘Oh my god!’”
The more she learned, the more committed she was to telling the true story as it happened. “As a writer, as a producer, you have to think just beyond, ‘Is it a great story?’” she explained. “But the answer for this one was, ‘My god, it’s all right here in black and white. I don’t gotta add a darn thing.’ I just gotta figure out how to put it all together so people will see it.” And though she was working with the family, she wasn’t interested in protecting anything but the truth. “When I went to Kristy and I started this whole thing with wanting to write this … that was one of the very first things I said to her: ‘I will not do this just to make Gypsy look good. Whatever gets into the show, it’s because it’s the truth of what happened.’” Kristy agreed. “You have to go through the bad to get to the good, or the good to get to the bad,” she said.
Gypsy understands, too. “We’ve had long conversations, Gypsy and I, about my thoughts, my personal thoughts, about what she did or didn’t do and why I think she could or couldn’t have done differently,” Fancy said. “But … I need to report with the truth. I need to tell the truth. That’s our job.” After all, it’s not any one person’s story. “It’s a family story,” she explained. “It’s a story about a tragedy that happened to these families. That’s the difference in how we want to approach it as opposed to anyone else’s approach so far.”
Gypsy’s Involvement With By Proxy
Though it took Gypsy a while to open up, she’s become more comfortable with Fancy over time. “Based on the first [time] I started talking to her, I feel a difference in [her] honesty and the willingness to be honest. When I first started talking to her, I know she wasn’t being intentionally deceptive, but I think she was still worried about saying something wrong. Or saying something that would upset or hurt another person. … So she just kind of went along with certain things.” Fancy had to help her break that habit. “We had a conversation [about it] very early on. I said to her, ‘If I’m going to do this, and you want me to trust you, and you want me to tell the truth as you see it, then you can’t lie to me. You can tell me, “I don’t want to tell you.” That’s fine. You can say, “I don’t want to answer that.” But do not tell me something that isn’t true.’”
After that, Gypsy was an open book. “Whatever I asked, she just answered. I think it gave her almost a sense of the ability [that] it’s OK to just tell it. Just say what you’re gonna say. Let the cards lay where they’re gonna lay. I think the truthfulness comes because a lot of times she says things that aren’t very good about herself.” Though Gypsy has frequently shied away from and been exhausted by the media focus on her life, she understands that it comes with the territory. “She almost wanted to pull the plug on anything we were working on because she’s like, ‘Well, I just feel like, no matter what I do or what I say, I’m always going to be portrayed this crappy way.’ And I told her, ‘Well, I’m gonna tell you what, honey. If we get our story to the screen, I assure you that at the very least it will be very truthful in how you’re portrayed.’”
If you’re having trouble trusting Gypsy’s story, Kristy would do her best to assuage your doubts. “[Lying] was a habit that she had to break,” the step-mom admits. “Think of it. This is how she was raised. … Where was the line between that life and the life she has now?” Over time, however, things changed. “I honestly don’t think she’s going to come out and lie and weasel her way because she’s not like that now. She’s very honest. … She says, ‘You know how good it feels not to have to keep this facade of how it was with my mom now that I can tell the truth and be honest? I don’t have to worry. Because I’m telling the truth. My story won’t change because I’m finally telling the truth.’”
By Proxy Has the Blanchards’ Support
Though Kristy had been involved with the project from the beginning, the rest of the family also got on board. However, it took longer for some than for others. “It took a long time for Mia to open up,” Fancy admitted. “The first time I went down there, she wouldn’t speak to me. I spent an entire week there. I think she said three words to me.” Kristy confirmed that her daughter with Rod, Gypsy’s dad, pretty much stayed in her room. “She was 14 when it happened,” the mom shared, and it took a long time for her daughter to fully appreciate exactly what Gypsy had done — and, more importantly, why. Eventually, she opened up. “I really wanted to know, ‘How did you feel? What did you feel like when this happened? What did you feel like when that happened?’ … Innocent people have been affected in ways that they had to be guarded, and they shouldn’t have to do that. But they are. … A lot of our story is based on, not just the murder or what happened to Gypsy, it’s really based on how this affected everyone involved.”
For her part, Kristy didn’t take much convincing. Fancy had already won her over, and she’d read M.J.’s piece, too. “I was very pleased with it,” she shared. She’s trusting the By Proxy writers to be honest with what they bring to the screen. After working with Michelle Dean for her Buzzfeed article which The Act was based on, however, that’s been something she had to relearn how to do. “At first, yeah, we were green,” Kristy said. “We were told, ‘Here’s Michelle Dean. You can trust her. She’s good at what she does.’ We took that and just fully trusted her.” Then they ended up with a Hulu show that she felt distorted Gypsy’s story. Now, she’s being more careful. “My job is to protect my family. And that’s what I’m doing.”
All the Juicy Details
Because of Fancy’s connection to the family and her access to all the case files and medical records that they can get her hands on, you can expect By Proxy to be honest. But you can also expect it to be just as shocking and unbelievable as The Act was. “The story itself, in my opinion, is absolutely interesting enough and dark enough and twisted enough to stand on its own,” said M.J. While debunking The Act, they shared just a few of the juicy details to come. But in By Proxy, they’ll be sharing even more.
“For instance, she didn’t get chemotherapy, right?” Fancy said. Dee Dee, who likely suffered from Munchausen syndrome by proxy, had told Gypsy and their family that her daughter had cancer, but she seemingly never received any actual treatment for it — despite all the other unnecessary medical treatments she actually did receive. “I asked her about that, I said, ‘Gypsy, did you ever go to chemotherapy?’ She said, ‘No, but my mom gave me a pill and told me it was my chemo pill.’” It just goes to show the degree to which Dee Dee kept her daughter sheltered and isolated from the rest of the world. “From [age] 5 when she started doing that, Gypsy wouldn’t know that’s not how chemo happens. Even at 20, if she’s never been exposed to someone going through chemo … she’d have no realm of understanding of how what she was seeing from her mother is different from what anybody else was going through.”
Though The Act showed Gypsy getting her period, the family wasn’t sure if she even had a menstrual cycle in real life. “I had found no sanitary, no pads, no nothing like that, no female products in that way,” Kristy said. “I know that a lot of medications that you’re on, sometimes you can be really irregular. Or who knows if her mom gave her the Depo shot or whatever so that she wouldn’t have a period.” But Gypsy’s answer was even more shocking than Kristy expected. “She was like, ‘No, that’s why I had so many diapers. My mom made me wear a diaper.’ … That was another control thing. That her mother told her that she couldn’t use women’s sanitary products because she was ‘small in that area.’”
Diapers weren’t the only thing that Kristy found while going through Dee Dee’s house after her death. She also found a stolen prescription pad under a mattress. “I can’t begin to tell you all the crazy stuff they found,” Fancy said. “But I assure you it’s absolutely going to be something we show in By Proxy.” While talking to neighbors in the wake of the murder, there were even more revelations. “There [had been] a Facebook page made that supposedly Gypsy made. [It] added me, Dylan, [Gypsy’s half-brother], and Mia.” The account posted some “awful things,” but when Kristy and Rod tried to figure out just what was going on, Dee Dee “blamed it on Aleah.” She said “that Aleah had the password and the email. That she would go into this Facebook and spread a bunch of lies. Concerned as I was, I talked to Dee Dee, [and] Dee Dee blamed Aleah for everything. That’s when the computer got smashed.” After meeting Aleah in person, they discovered she’d been nothing more than a scapegoat the whole time.
There were a lot of things Dee Dee lied about. Not just Gypsy’s health, but also her relationships. “She didn’t know that we genuinely loved her,” Kristy said. “[Her mom] told her, ‘My family hates us because of you,’ and, ‘Your dad and Aunt Kristy — ‘cause that’s what she called me — they don’t really love you.’ She didn’t know that she could call us. She didn’t know. She thought we wanted to have nothing to do with her. Dee Dee made it impossible, very impossible, for her to reach out — whether it was [to] the Pitre side, whether it was us. Anyone else, she made it impossible. Gypsy was always with her.”
Dee Dee did her best to keep her in the dark about not only her family, but the way the world worked. “It’s amazing that she snuck out, that she attempted to run away knowing, ‘I’m going out in this world and I don’t know who I can count on,’” Kristy continued. “She didn’t know how much money it would cost to get a place. She thought $4,000 would last [her and Nick] for a long time, for years. And I’m like, ‘No, baby.’ You see how fast that goes, you know? She didn’t know.”
Of course, though it took a long time for Gypsy to start to suspect that her mom wasn’t honest with her, there were other family members who were suspicious. “It is rumored … that Dee Dee had a hand in [her mom] Emma’s death, but it has never been confirmed. We intend to explore this and several other parts of the family dynamic and Dee Dee’s early years in By Proxy,” Fancy said. Family members questioned her lies, and so did some friends, but they had trouble pinpointing exactly what was wrong. “I’ve talked to friends, several different people who knew them, and there were things that, knowing what they know now, they go, ‘Oh my god, I should’ve seen it.’”
But “you don’t know what you don’t know.” And Dee Dee did her best to shut everyone out. “They [had] stayed with friends and caused a lot of drama there. … It was centered around lots of fraud.” Whenever someone would start to get suspicious, the mom would pack up her things and her daughter and leave. “They moved to New Orleans, all over Cut Off, Slidell, Springfield. After [Hurricane] Katrina, [Dee Dee and Gypsy] were in the Super Dome and nobody could find them.” She made it difficult for Rod and Kristy to stay in touch or see Gypsy by going “radio silent” when they had visits planned. When they family got in touch with her — after Rod had returned to his job working on a boat off-shore for three months at a time — Dee Dee would simply claim that they’d had to go to the hospital for some emergency or another.
By Proxy vs. The Act
Inevitably, of course, By Proxy will be compared to the shows and movies that came before it, especially The Act. But Fancy, Kristy, and M.J. want to address some of those comparisons directly — especially because they were very nearly working on the show. Michelle wanted Kristy to be part of the process when she first started working on the project, only later cutting her out and blocking her across all social media channels. Fancy had also reached out to Michelle to propose that they work together, only to get ignored.
“I’d reached out to her and said, ‘Hey, I’ve kind of come into this thing, and I’ve garnered the life rights from the Blanchards and Gypsy,’” the writer explained. “I didn’t really know there was anything she was working on at first. I offered to partner with her in it, and she never responded to me. … [The family] went to her and said, ‘Well, we’re really thinking of going this direction,’ and that’s when she … kind of stopped talking to them.”
But for the record, while the By Proxy team objects to the writing and storylines followed in The Act, they don’t really have a problem with the rest of it. “I think [co-creator Nick Antosca]’s styling, the colors, the way they’ve presented in the realm of fiction, is amazing,” Fancy said. In fact, they were pretty much blown away by the acting. “Joey King says she researched a lot … and I think she’s portraying her in the way Gypsy looked and talked, she’s on point,” Kristy added. “Gypsy even was like, ‘Wow.’” The now-27-year-old had caught a commercial on TV in prison, though she wasn’t able to watch any of the rest of the Hulu show. “She’s like, ‘Wow. … They made her really look like me.’ … And I was like, ‘Yeah. It’s uncanny.’”
Kristy found the whole cast pretty impressive. “She’s doing a great job. They all are [with] what they were given.” The only issue? None of the actors got to meet their real-life counterparts to “talk to them, spend time with them, learn them.” Fancy added, “Joey King said was it was very helpful having Michelle, who had so much information on the real [events].” Being able to talk to the woman who wrote one of the first viral articles on the story “helped with understanding people” in it. But Fancy feels that information wasn’t fairly shared. “She had the information, but it’s not what she conveyed to [them.]”
While talking to Variety, Joey said, “It would have been amazing to meet [Gypsy]. Unfortunately, that couldn’t happen for reasons, honestly, beyond my understanding.” Fancy claims that the only “reason” that existed was that Michelle, as an executive producer, didn’t want the family involved with the show. “If [Joey] had [reached out], then they would’ve been more restrained by what [material] could or couldn’t pull through.” According to the family, Michelle took liberties with certain storylines and characters. If The Act was just a “crazy, creepy, weird, horror-like true crime-y” show, she thinks it would be amazing. In reality? “This is not fiction, this is a true story. It perverts what you’re doing.”
Though the writers agree that some changes need to be made to adapt a story to the screen, especially to fit it into a narrative that makes sense in each episode as well as over the larger story act, they want to stick as closely to the reality as possible. “When you’re a storyteller and you’re making a decision to change something from a truthful event or to add something, you have to ask for yourself: 1) Does it make sense? 2) Does it further the story along?” Fancy found Michelle’s changes to be too substantial by far, and suggests that the changes that will exist in By Proxy serve only to tell the truth. “For instance, in our story, we have a character [who is] the person that all of these stories are going to, from everybody that we’ve talked with. He’s gathering these stories. … Did it really happen that way? No, not necessarily. But it didn’t change the scope of the story that was told, it just gave us a vehicle for it to get it out there quickly in an eight-part series.”
Comparisons aside, though, Fancy maintains that the two shows aren’t actually that much alike, despite drawing from the same source material. “With regards to By Proxy, I feel that what sets us apart is that we don’t believe the murder is the big story. We see it as one event in a large story of child abuse, fraud, and deception. Our series is going to focus largely on the series of events starting with Dee Dee as a young child, [going] all the way up to the murder and then show how all of that affected these families in such a horrific way.” For her, the thesis of the show is demonstrating how “one person could destroy so many lives by being so consumed with attention and fame.” She explains, “Gypsy, Nick, Kristy, Rod, etc. were pawns in a very dangerous game Dee Dee was playing. Ultimately, she paid the price — but so did everyone else.”
How Can We Watch?
So when can we see By Proxy hit our screens? It’ll likely be a while. The show is still in production, and it’ll require some major funding before filming can even start. Fancy and the rest of the team haven’t decided yet whether they’ll try to raise the money needed to start shooting themselves or if they’ll end up partnering with a production company down the line. “I want it to be on the right platform with the right amount of control over the story,” she said. As the owner of Gypsy’s life rights — and now, as someone who has a personal relationship with Gypsy and her family, she feels it’s her responsibility to do it right. She also worries about the possibility that working with a larger company will lead to a “network executive, who has no understanding of what’s really happening in this case,” deciding how the story should go.
“That’s where we’re at, and basically right now, I think we’re looking for an independent investor or investors so that we can continue to have [major] control over the truth of the story,” she said. But she seems confident that, either way, By Proxy will end up in the right place. “I’ve been offered things, M.J.’s been offered things, and [we’ve] turned [them] down based on what we felt was ethical or true,” she said. If they do end up saying yes to a network or production company, it’ll be because it’s a good fit.
Here’s what we can share about By Proxy, though. It’ll be 13 episodes that share all of the jaw-dropping, intimate details of Gypsy and Dee Dee’s lives. And if that’s not enough, it’ll be accompanied by an after show featuring real medical professionals and advocates who can break down the complicated topics they’re addressing through a series of interviews and panels. When it does finally make its way to your screens, it’s going to blow your minds. When reading through case files and the interviews she’s done, Fancy still sometimes gets that “I don’t even know what I’m looking at right now!” feeling. “It’s so insanely crazy all by itself that you literally didn’t need another thing in there at all, and even if I told a three season, 12 episode story, you’d still not have all the information. It would still be interesting and creepy and weird and like, ‘Oh my gosh, I can’t believe this actually happened to people.’