Netflix’s Devil In Ohio: The Cult Movies That Inspired Madeleine Arthur’s Mysterious Character

Already soaring to the top of Netflix’s most binged series this weekend is Devil In Ohio, a thrilling miniseries about a hospital psychiatrist who takes in a mysterious teenager found with a pentagram carved into her back. That teen named Mae is played by Madeleine Arthur alongside Bones’ Emily Deschanel as Suzanne, the woman who soon realizes she has a former cult member under her care. As we eat up the new Netflix release, Arthur gave us some insights as to how she prepared for the especially dark role. 

Madeleine Arthur is best known for her role in the All The Boys trilogy, which saw its conclusion last year. To get ready for Devil In Ohio, the actress told CinemaBlend what helped her get into character. In her words: 

I definitely researched a lot of different cults. I read some books. I read articles. I loved watching movies - like I watched Midsommar, Martha Marcy May Marlene, which were incredible and just loved diving into that. Cults are fascinating. A lot of people seem to have a fascination with them. So it was definitely a good excuse to read more about them.

Arthur went to a couple modern movies about cults in particular, sharing she stomached Ari Aster’s 2019 horror flick Midsommar, which follows Florence Pugh’s character traveling to a Swedish village and succumbing to its cult following the death of her family and a collapsing romantic relationship. Midsommar is a solid pick because it imagines how someone could fall into joining a cult if they are not supported in other aspects of their lives. 

Florence Pugh in Midsommar and Elizabeth Olsen in Martha Marcy May Marlene

(Image credit: A24/Fox Searchlight)

Martha Marcy May Marlene is a 2011 movie starring Elizabeth Olsen, who plays a woman who is attempting to assimilate back to her family after leaving an abusive cult. It aligns much closer to the plot of Devil In Ohio, especially since both this series and the movie really delve into the negative effects cults can have on people even once they are removed from it. Arthur continued: 

[I took] small elements from everything, I think mostly it was just trying to make small pieces that made Mae more real to me, so I could understand her mindset and like the psychological aspect of it, of just understanding her as a human and her like conditioning. So it was just kind of taking everything I could and bringing that all together.

CinemaBlend also spoke to Devil In Ohio’s Emily Deschanel about the role of trauma in playing her character, who is actively dealing with her past abuse as she takes in Mae (except not from a cult environment). The Bones actress shared it was especially important for her not to “trivalize” the experiences depicted in the series.  

Devil In Ohio, which is based on a book by the Netflix series’ showrunner Daria Polatin, is also inspired by real events in a town in Ohio. The creator has said the framework of the series’ story is true and really happened, but we don’t know what case in particular it is referencing. Devil In Ohio is streaming now with a Netflix subscription

Sarah El-Mahmoud
Staff Writer

Sarah El-Mahmoud has been with CinemaBlend since 2018 after graduating from Cal State Fullerton with a degree in Journalism. In college, she was the Managing Editor of the award-winning college paper, The Daily Titan, where she specialized in writing/editing long-form features, profiles and arts & entertainment coverage, including her first run-in with movie reporting, with a phone interview with Guillermo del Toro for Best Picture winner, The Shape of Water. Now she's into covering YA television and movies, and plenty of horror. Word webslinger. All her writing should be read in Sarah Connor’s Terminator 2 voice over.