True Mother, Daughter Crime Story Inspires New Hulu Series ‘The Act’

Natalie Dest, Arts and Entertainment Editor

[Spoilers ahead!]

The disturbing, yet tragic saga of Dee Dee and Gypsy Rose Blanchard has come back to life in a fictionalized version of Hulu’s brand new series “The Act.”

For those who are familiar with the pair before “the act” to which the show’s title refers to, Dee Dee posed as a loving single mother to daughter Gypsy, who claimed she was chronically ill, including a plethora of issues that stemmed from the time she was a baby.

However, in 2015, Dee Dee was found dead and Gypsy had disappeared. She was then found in Wisconsin with her boyfriend, Nick Godejohn, whom she had met online, where together they plotted to kill her mother. Sentenced to life in prison for murdering Dee Dee in February 2019, Gypsy was found guilty of first-degree murder in November, but currently surviving a 10-year sentence.

Although many were relieved when Gypsy was found alive following the murder of her mother, it was this complicated tale that soon emerged. Gypsy, it turned out, had not been sick at all.

Dee Dee, who in the public eye was sought to have been a fit and caring mother, had Munchausen syndrome and had fabricated every illness to keep her daughter under control through physical and psychological abuse.

More significantly, she profited off the fake illnesses through donations and charity tips, including the house they lived in, which was built by the Habitat for Humanity.

“The Act,” which opens up with a 911 call from concerning neighbors about the Blanchards, stars Patricia Arquette as “Dee Dee” and Joey King as “Gypsy Rose Blanchard.” The show is Hulu’s newest limited series co-created by Nick Antosca and Michelle Dean, author of popular Buzzfeed story on the Blanchard’s.

The lengths Dee Dee would strive towards in order to convince others of her daughter’s illnesses were due to Munchausen syndrome by proxy. Because Dee Dee was dead, it was impossible to officially diagnose her, but her behavior had fallen in line with many signs of the disorder.

Having once worked alongside a nurse’s aid, Dee Dee was familiar with enough medical terms to convince people in her life that she knew what she was talking about. Seen numerous times throughout the show, it shows just how frequently she switched doctors to leave behind a messy medical trail that would be difficult to piece together.

Going beyond her physical ailments, Gypsy both in real life and “The Act,” was made to act like she had the brain development of a child. Even though she was 23-years-old on the night of her arrest, confused about the own details of her life, Gypsy told the police she was 19. Being homeschooled, the show illustrates her coloring and watching cartoons in an earlier scene, then seen to dress up in a princess costume.

At the beginning of the series, Mel seems heavily doubtful of Dee Dee’s claims about her daughter. Her description grows rather quickly when she catches Dee Dee shoplifting. However, the cleverness of Dee Dee convinces Mel that she means no harm and that her only goal is to protect her daughter.

As the show goes on, the creators dive deeper and deeper into the true horrors behind Dee Dee and Gypsy’s stories, further highlighting their relationships with doctors and neighbors.

With only a total of eight episodes, “The Act” is a rather satisfying exploration of one girl’s desperate dream for independence. Thanks to King’s portrayal, it’s easy to feel for Gypsy even when she starts to cross lines most people don’t have to think about. And that Dee Dee is far from a monster, but rather a woman suffering in pain and her unusual way of coping.

The strangeness, yet trueness to this horrific story is more than enough to keep you hooked. “The Act” is available for streaming on Hulu, with new episodes every Wednesday.

If you are further interested in the real-life story of Gypsy and her mother, be sure to check out Dean’s story “Dee Dee Wanted Her Daughter To Be Sick, Gypsy Wanted Her Mom Murdered,” and the much acclaimed 2017 documentary, “Mommy Dead and Dearest.”