When it comes to the authenticity of Hulu’s new show The Act, Gypsy Rose Blanchard‘s real life friends and family members aren’t impressed. Her neighbor, Aleah Woodmansee, has dissected the Lacey character based on her, noting huge changes in the character’s look, accent, personality, and interactions with Gypsy in the show. She’s also fact checked plot points from the series, exclusively giving In Touch the real story of what went down. But when it comes to the differences between what we see on screen and what actually happened in real life, no one is more upset than Gypsy’s step-mom, Kristy Blanchard.
Over the past few weeks, Kristy, as well as her friend and writer Francesca “Fancy” Macelli, have spoken to several outlets about issues they have with the Michelle Dean-lead show. Together, the women are working on their own dramatized version of Gypsy’s story called By Proxy, and one thing they’re setting out to do is tell the true story — because, simply put, they don’t think The Act is doing that. Along with M.J. Pack, a writer who first covered the story at Thought Catalog as it was breaking, they decided to speak to In Touch after seeing the fourth episode of the show — and they weren’t thrilled with how the drama played out.
From a writing standpoint, Fancy and M.J. understand that, sometimes, characters or storylines need to be adapted when you’re constructing an on-screen narrative, but they argue that The Act goes above and beyond that standard when taking liberties with Gypsy’s story. And as for Kristy, who watches the show as the mother of a daughter who’s been hurt and had to do terrible things to survive, she thinks the show is giving viewers the wrong impression of her daughter.
“I haven’t slept,” Kristy admitted when we talked to her the day after she watched the episode, which aired Wednesday, April 3. “I didn’t go to bed until 11 o’clock this morning, and I woke up a little while ago. This is how much this stressed me.” When asked specifically what about the episode bothered her, she simply answered, “All of it.” In her opinion, the show diverges too far from the truth, painting Gypsy in a different light, presenting her as a different person than she is. “Not everyone has seen all of the documentaries and the interviews we’ve done,” she said. “[People watching The Act] are going to get a totally different perspective than what we know is the truth. … It is highly upsetting to me.”
Fancy agreed. “It took a really strange turn. It went beyond the fact of, ‘Okay, we’re taking some different liberties with it,’ to, ‘Alright, we’re just gonna totally stray from anything that actually happened, and we’re just gonna go ahead and create this strange narrative that we are going ahead and doing.’ … I kind of looked at it and said, ‘It’s not true crime, and it’s not drama.’ It’s sort of a weird horror that’s kind of bastardizing the story, truthfully.”
In the show, there is a disclaimer that appears before the end credits, warning that “some scenes and characters have been dramatized or fictionalized,” but Kristy, Fancy, and M.J. don’t think it does enough to mitigate those effects, especially since it appears after the episode and not before. “I’ve been scrolling Twitter for a couple of days to see reactions to things, and people really don’t take that last statement … that way,” Fancy said. “People have now gone through, ‘Well, she stole money from her mom and she bought a computer and she bought a cell phone, so if she could do those things … then why couldn’t she get up and walk into a police station?’ Because those things actually didn’t happen. She didn’t steal money from her mom to go buy a phone and a laptop. That never happened.”
According to Kristy, she and Gypsy’s dad, Rod Blanchard, were the ones that bought the laptop for Gypsy and Dee Dee. “It was a shared laptop with her mom,” Fancy said. “The phone was a phone that she had on her mom’s plan.” And as for Gypsy signing over legal guardianship to Dee Dee, it wasn’t that she was emotionally manipulated and psychologically abused until she gave in, although she was both of those things. It’s that she was never even given a choice. “That scene with the lawyer and everything? She went and tried to get that done. The lawyer never did it.” Instead, Dee Dee forged the signatures on the paperwork herself.
While conducting research for By Proxy, Fancy has reached out to members of Gypsy’s family, Dee Dee’s family, and Nick Godejohn‘s family, as well as other friends and people from their past, and those interviews have helped to unravel the truth of what happened in the Blanchard’s home in Missouri. “I have statements from the people that were supposed to be the witnesses on that that are longtime friends of the family that will tell you that they were forged. Gypsy never signed her own paper like that and gave away her guardianship. That didn’t happen. [Dee Dee] forged all of that. She forged documents for the birth certificate. She forged all those different things. And by not showing it in that way, it makes it seem like Gypsy was culpable.”
According to our interview with Aleah, the computer smash featured in episode four actually happened years earlier after Gypsy was caught trying to run away with a man from the convention, the character we see as Scott in the show. In The Act, we see Dee Dee tracking down her daughter at Scott’s house only to persuade Gypsy to come home — and then hiss to the adult man that her daughter was 14, not 19, only after Gypsy had walked away. In actuality, Dee presented the real-life man with forged paperwork, “threatened this poor guy, told him he’d go to jail for statutory rape,” and forcibly removed Gypsy from his hotel room.
In episode four, Dee Dee attempts to restrain Gypsy with a silk tie after smashing her computer. According to stories Gypsy told Kristy and Fancy, that moment happened after she tried to run away from the man at the convention. “She threatened Gypsy and told her, ‘If you do this again, I’m going to smash your hands, I’m gonna do all these different things,’ and then she tied her — chained her – to her bed,” Fancy said. “Not just tied her up or tried to tie her up like they showed in episode four. She chained her daughter to the bed for several days on end.”
Also unlike the show, Gypsy didn’t fight back by spitting in her mom’s face. “Gypsy would have never [done that to] her mom,” Kristy insisted. “She was that terrified of her mom. She has said it over and over in interviews. She said that in the [HBO documentary, Mommy Dead and Dearest]. Erin [Lee Carr, the director] asked her, ‘Would you ever hit your mom back?’ [And she’d say,] ‘No. I was too scared.’ … It changes the story. It makes people think, ‘Oh, Gypsy’s a lot stronger than she said she was. She’s braver than she said she was.’ And that’s not the case.”
On-screen, we see Gypsy make a choice at the end of the episode. With the door open before her and her mom falling to pieces behind her, she could simply walk out if she only had the nerve. But in real life, it wasn’t an issue of finding the courage to try and escape. Gypsy tried to run away several times, including during the incident that we saw memorialized on screen in episode three. “It wasn’t an isolated incident,” Fancy said. “There had been another incident where the cops brought her back and her mom presented documents saying she was incompetent, she was younger than she was, and all these different things. … When she smashed that computer, she told Gypsy, ‘If you do this … I’m going to do to you exactly what I did to this computer.’ … All of that played into a psyche for Gypsy in a real way of, ‘I can’t leave. I’m never gonna get to leave.'”
Like Michelle Dean, who first wrote the Buzzfeed News article that sparked so much interest in the case and then co-created The Act, M.J. knows what it’s like to look at this story from a journalistic perspective. And now, after working on By Proxy with Fancy and Kristy, she knows how to look at it from a creative writing perspective, too. But when she compares the story told in The Act to the real-life story she cataloged as it unfolded, it’s clear to her that they’re not the same. “The story itself, in my opinion, is absolutely interesting enough and dark enough and twisted enough to stand on its own. So these changes that are being made in the plot and in the characters don’t really make sense in my opinion. And to me, this is where it starts to cross an ethical line. … The only word I keep going back to is ‘irresponsible.'”
Michelle Dean has not yet responded to In Touch‘s request for comment.