Susannah Grant on adapting the real-life story of ‘Unbelievable’ for Netflix

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'Unbelievable' showrunner Susannah Grant. Photo courtesy of Netlfix.

The new Netflix series ‘Unbelievable,’ based on a true story, begins in 2008 with 18-year-old Marie--a young woman struggling to overcome a difficult childhood of abuse and multiple foster homes. Played by Kaitlyn Dever, Marie is living in her first apartment outside Seattle when a masked man breaks in an assaults her at knifepoint. When she reports the rape to the police, she has to recount the details again, and again, and again--at her home, at the hospital, and at the police station. 

A couple of Marie’s former foster moms try to be supportive--but privately, they wonder if Marie made the whole thing up as a way to get attention. When one of them shares her doubts with the police, two detectives call the traumatized Marie back into the station and lay out their suspicions. 

Under pressure from the police and lacking support, Marie just wants the ordeal to end. She recants her rape report with devastating consequences. 

A few years later, two Colorado detectives--played by Merritt Wever and Toni Collette--make an unlikely discovery. Though they work in different cities that have no system for sharing information, they learn by chance that they’ve very likely looking for the same guy--a masked rapist who breaks into the homes of women who live alone. The two cops start comparing notes and merge their investigations. In time, Marie’s case and the Colorado investigation collide. 

Unbelievable is based on 2015 Pulitzer Prize winning article by ProPublica and The Marshall Project (). When screenwriter and director Susannah Grant first read that piece--she instantly knew she wanted to adapt it for the screen. 

Grant has told stories of real people before--she was nominated for Oscar for writing ‘Erin Brockovich’ and she wrote HBO’s Anita Hill movie, ‘Confirmation.’ And her very first writing job was working on Disney’s ‘Pocahontas.’

She tells us about writing and showrunning ‘Unbelievable’ in the era of Me Too, and shares some of the powerful feedback she’s received since the series premiered on Netflix. She also discusses how she went about writing and overseeing the filming of the rape scenes in the series, and balancing the pain of Marie’s story with the empowering narrative of the relentless investigation of the Colorado detectives. 

Credits

Guest:
Susannah Grant - Screenwriter, director, producer

Host:
Kim Masters

Producer:
Kaitlin Parker