58° Good Afternoon
58° Good Afternoon

'Dirty John': A scripted drama on Bravo

When love goes wrong, it doesn't necessarily stay a secret . . . especially in the age of podcasts.

Such a program is the inspiration for ''Dirty John,'' which becomes the reality-heavy Bravo's latest venture into scripted drama when it premieres the eight-episode series Sunday at 10 p.m. ''Nashville,'' ''Friday Night Lights'' and ''American Horror Story'' veteran Connie Britton adds another show to her resume as a successful interior designer whose romance with a doctor (Eric Bana) moves fast — to the definite discomfort of her adult daughters (Julia Garner, Juno Temple).

The younger women decide to look into his background, and what they learn about him makes them even more alarmed, and their mother more vulnerable. Jean Smart also stars as the family matriarch, whose complicated relationship with her daughter doesn't help matters.

In its original, popular form, ''Dirty John'' was developed from Pulitzer Prize-winning Los Angeles Times journalist Christopher Goffard's articles about a murder investigation in tony Newport Beach, California — which expanded for him into a probe of John Meehan, the person played by Bana.

''I enjoy being in the skin of someone else,'' says one-time movie ''Hulk'' Bana, ''and it doesn't bother me if they inhabit me more than they should, or stick around for a bit longer than they should. I think that's a bit of a privilege. I really like that feeling at the end of a production when you find yourself still feeling something about who you're playing. So, [Meehan is] welcome to take over part of my brain for as long as I'm contracted.''

Britton was able to consult with her real-life ''Dirty John'' counterpart, Debra Newell, and the actress deems it ''a unique, privileged experience'' to talk with someone she's playing. ''Also, it's helping give so much insight into the story in a way that maybe we weren't able to experience in the podcast, and for me to really have a better understanding of what her experience was and how she was pulled in by this guy is so important. Ultimately, we're telling the story of how a con man can be so effective, so it's important to make Debra relatable . . . so that we can all see ourselves in her.''

''Dirty John'' already has an order for a second season that will offer a different story. Executive producer Alexandra Cunningham reports Season 1 is ''not going to go past the end of the podcast. We want people to have the framework of that experience.'' Meanwhile, fellow executive producer Richard Suckle adds of Season 2, ''We're just figuring out what exactly that story should be, what we could do that would have similarities, but also not feel like we're just doing a repeat.''


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