Calum Worthy describes the first season of Hulu’s true-crime anthology series “The Act” as “a character study.” He describes the three main characters as “these very complex individuals who are … both the protagonists and the antagonists at the same time. I find it interesting that people can be really good, doing bad things, and really bad, doing good things at the same time.”
It’s an apt description of the eight episodes’ depiction of the case of Dee Dee and Gypsy Rose Blanchard, the mother and daughter (respectively) whose long con ended in murder. Probably for the money and possibly because she may have suffered from Munchausen syndrome by proxy, Dee Dee (played in the series by Patricia Arquette) made her daughter participate in a scam that made the girl appear seriously ill, even wheelchair bound, for her entire life. Gypsy Rose was apparently as much a victim as a perpetrator of the ruse. When Dee Dee was brutally murdered, Gypsy Rose (played by Joey King) and her boyfriend, Nicholas Godejohn (Worthy), were charged with the crime.
During her interrogation in “The Act,” Gypsy says, “She did love me” though Dee Dee had done terrible things to her. And while the young couple commit a terrible act, the two seem to think they’re doing the right thing.
“You see people coming away with this saying they have conflicting feelings about all the characters, and that’s very true to life,” said Worthy during an Emmy Contenders chat at the Los Angeles Times video studio. “People are very complex … we’re not always the good guy and not always the bad guy.”
The actor noted one of Godejohn’s interrogators during the trial found him to be “a very sweet, kind guy” — after he had admitted to the crime. Worthy said, while acknowledging the killer’s heinous act and his developmental challenges (he’s apparently on the autism spectrum), “the core of him is very sweet and he does have a very kind soul — which is very interesting for the character who’s supposed to be the antagonist in many ways.”
Worthy says, in his effort to better understand Godejohn, he spoke with experts and spent time at a facility for those with similar disorders.
“I also read numerous pieces of literature and essays from people who are on the spectrum, describing their experiences. I really wanted to see the world through their eyes and understand what it feels like on the inside, and hopefully, then, that could be reflected on the outside.”
He points out Gypsy Rose and Nick, at least as they’re played in “The Act,” really are in love: “For that moment, they are the hero of their own story. I wanted it to seem like, if you only saw one or two episodes, maybe you could actually think, ‘Oh, it’s a love story.’ It’s actually very real for those two people.”
“The moment that seemed most intense, that felt like we were really conveying these people the most, was the scene in the closet when we were waiting for the SWAT team to come in. It was the moment I had been most excited and most fearful to film because it’s their last moment of freedom. And for Nick, it’s going to be his last moment of freedom forever,” Worthy says of the pair’s childlike response to their imminent capture.
“So Joey and I just decided to sit in the closet the whole time, even between setups … Once we sat in there, we sat in there for, I think, two hours. They would change everything around us and we would just hold each other and we would break down crying and we really didn’t leave that emotional state the entire time.
“And when the SWAT team came in, we asked them to not tell us what they were going to do, but just treat us as they would if they were actually arresting someone. We had a real SWAT team; they weren’t actors ... they removed us and it was very satisfying as an actor, but also very intense as well.
“We both woke up the next morning, we got in the car to drive to set, and our eyes were bloodshot. We could barely open them,” he said, with a smile.
To see the entire interview, click on the video below.