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Connie Britton has been a beloved fixture on television for many years. Now, the actress is back as the lead in the Bravo anthology, Dirty John. Why did she choose the podcast adaptation as her next major TV show? Britton explained what drew her to it, saying:
One hundred percent of the reason I wanted to do Dirty John was because I found the character in the story to be an opportunity to do exactly what you're saying, which is to transcend that form as a woman. There was a lot of victim-blaming after the podcast, of people saying, 'Well, she was just so stupid,' and 'Why did she let this happen?' I wanted to get into her psychology and show how she's just trying to be the best version of herself, as we all are as women. But she's doing that given the rules that she's grown up with and the confines of how she perceives herself culturally, in her church and her family. As women, we all have our own ideas of who we're supposed to be. I wanted to explore that and try to show her as a relatable woman who is trying her best and who ends up in this situation, with the hope that other women will recognize that in themselves and maybe ask questions.
It sounds as though a chance to probe deeper into the mind of Debra Newell is what appealed to Connie Britton, per her answer to THR. Hearing about something in a podcast is one thing. Seeing it brought to life is another. Whether Dirty John has the power to change hearts regarding its central protagonist is not entirely clear.
Actors bringing a story to life can be a game changer regarding how people feel about a character. Or in this case, a real-life person. Debra Newell is the central focus of the true crime podcast, Dirty John, and she is interviewed throughout its run.
The show and Connie Britton's portrayal of Debra Newell has a chance to do what the podcast could not. Provide subconscious subtext to the story. Audiences' familiarity with Britton should have an impact on how they automatically perceive Debra, as portrayed in the series.
In the first episode, Dirty John also presented John in a way in which Debra's attraction to him made sense. Accordingly, so does the trepidation of Debra's children. The key is what Connie Britton mentions about asking questions. For instance, how and would viewers have handled things differently?
In the mind's eye of the show, it is easy to get swept up in the way Debra sees John, but we know what she's falling for is an illusion. Her kids do not have those romanticized blinders on. Albeit, while watching, it is easier to understand how she got swept up into her whirlwind romance with John than it is in the podcast.
In the podcast, we have no frame of her reference for the sort of chemistry Debra and John shared. Dirty John can tell its tale from that perspective of fleshing out what we only heard about it. Seeing is believing. As she has done in many of her roles, Connie Britton brings her ability to create relatable characters, ensuring that she does the same for Debra.
The first episode of Dirty John portrayed the first month or so of Debra and John's rapid courtship. Episode 1 shows viewers how they met, began dating, moved into together, and got even more serious. Eric Bana does an excellent job of portraying the smooth-talking and seemingly innocuous John. It is easier to get what Connie Britton's Debra sees in him.
It may not have the feel of the podcast, but there is a reason. Like any adaptation, Dirty John will be taking artistic liberties with certain facts. It will also be using that artistry to explore how we perceive the characters and their choices. Seeing an actor's charisma gives you a chance to understand better how their real-life charms would work on people.
This is one of the things actors and their portrayals bring to the table. It is a chance for listeners of the podcast to experience the story in a whole new way. So far, Dirty John and Connie Britton are doing that.