‘A Friend of the Family’ Showrunner Talks Finale, The Responsibilities of True Crime Creators, and Thoughts on Season 2

‘A Friend of the Family’ Showrunner Talks Finale, The Responsibilities of True Crime Creators, and Thoughts on Season 2


Warning: Spoilers for A Friend of the Family ahead.

If you’ve seen Netflix’s Abducted in Plain Sight, you may think you have a comprehensive understanding of Jan Broberg’s horrifying true story. The popular 2017 documentary revealed that Jan was kidnapped at ages 12 and 14 by her family’s close friend Robert “B” Berchtold, a master-manipulator who groomed them for years, gained their trust, then brainwashed and abused Jan. But Peacock‘s original nine-episode limited series, A Friend of the Family, proves there’s so much more to this wild, emotional saga worth unpacking.

With a nine-hour runtime, Nick Antosca set out to tell this harrowing human story as accurately as possible. And he succeed, thanks to the approval and involvement of Jan and her mother Mary Ann Broberg, who serve as producers on the series. Jan also makes several cameos throughout.

“Jan’s collaboration was essential. We talked a lot about how we would not have done the show if she hadn’t been on board, and that was the very first step in going down this road,” showrunner, EP, and writer Nick Antosca told Decider in a Zoom interview. “It gives you tangible things like information, memories, accuracy, but it also gives you intangible things like the daily reminder that this is a present, real, emotional experience for the person who lived it. And that is something we certainly carried with us in the making of the show and that I think was really important for the actors, too.”

In A Friend of the Family, Jan is played by Hendrix Yancey and Mckenna Grace. Colin Hanks and Anna Paquin portray Jan’s parents, Bob and Mary Ann. And Jake Lacy gives a truly terrifying performance as B. Ahead of the series finale on November 10, Nick Antosca spoke with Decider about closely working with the Brobergs, the responsibilities of true crime showrunners, a potential Season 2, and why Jake Lacy was perfect for this role.

A Friend of the Family Peacock Review
Photo: Erika Doss/Peacock

DECIDER: What did the real Jan Broberg’s involvement bring to the series for you, and has that collaboration changed the way you’ll approach adapting human stories in the future?

NICK ANTOSCA: Yeah, I mean, Jan’s collaboration was essential. We talked a lot about how we would not have done the show if she hadn’t been on board, and that was the very first step in going down this road. [The collaboration] gives you tangible things like information, memories, accuracy, but it also gives you intangible things like the daily reminder that this is a present, real, emotional experience for the person who lived it. And that is something we certainly carried with us in the making of the show and that I think was really important for the actors, too. It was also so essential that Jan and her whole family are so open. They don’t go into saying, “How can we make ourselves look like we didn’t make any mistakes?” They’re like, “Our family made a lot of mistakes, and we are aware of the bizarre headline version of this story.” But it’s also a very human story and everybody has their weaknesses.

Jan Broberg introducing Peacock's 'A Friend of the Family'
Photo: Peacock

Permission and involvement from the subject of this series is so refreshing to see, especially as true crime series like Netflix’s Dahmer are being criticized for not working with victims or their families. With a rise in these types of shows, what do you feel the responsibilities are for creators and showrunners?

Yeah, it’s a great question. I mean, I do think it is a case-by-case basis. There are many cases where there is a kind of objectivity or distance that’s needed to tell the story in its most authentic way, because participants in the story may have agendas or they may not have as a complete perspective on what happened, so you have to be very, very careful. I think that in cases where there is a very clear victim and they are eager to tell their story, and they’re very open about the details of what happened, then I think it would be irresponsible to tell the story without them if it’s not going to have their participation and positive effect on their life. And I do think, obviously, that the Broberg story is kind of a textbook example of the kind of story that you should not tell without the blessing and participation of the people who lived it.

We see the real Jan Broberg introduce the series and it’s no secret that she played such a vital role behind-the-scenes, but I was so excited to see her cameo in the finale as Jan’s therapist. Hearing her deliver that about there being a path to healing for Jan was so powerful. Did you always know you wanted her to act in the series, and what role did she play in shaping this cameo?

Jan is a working actress and has been for years, and she was running a theatre company for while. We went to see her in a play before we got started. So we were always talking about considering that as a possibility. It wasn’t something that Jan pushed hard for, although she was like “I’m an actress,” she wasn’t like, “Put me in, coach.” We talked about it once we kind of got toward the end of the writer’s room. And she said she was open to it. She was trying to think about what the right part would be, and then we were talking about one of the nuns potentially, and I was like, “Actually, what about this character who is just mentioned in the book and was a real therapist, Dr. Carr.” I just thought that was a really powerful opportunity. Because telling the story for her has been therapeutic, and I hope that the expression of it in the show — to actually play that role — was therapeutic for her, too. You don’t want it to be too meta, but I thought it was more emotionally resonant than it was meta. I just thought that was a very powerful thing to see her talk to the younger version of herself, and to get a chance to talk to her father who is no longer alive. It was very powerful, and we got chills on set watching it. And she’s really good!

She’s so good in those scenes! The whole cast was phenomenal, but I want to ask about Jake Lacy, who was utterly terrifying in this series. Did you know prior to casting him that he was once Hollywood’s Resident Nice Guy, and what made him stand out?

[Laughs] Yeah, of course I did. I always thought he was a really interesting presence on screen, and a really great, really promising actor. And I saw The White Lotus and I was like, “Oh, yeah. There’s a lot more in him than the nice guy.” [Laughs] But I’ve been a fan of his work for a long time. And I wrote him a letter when we went out to him, and we had a great meeting. And it’s just like, this guy got into their family by being the nice guy and being the guy everybody loved, so it felt appropriate that we have an actor who was known for that. Jake is so versatile and so deep and is such a good presence on set. When we were two or three weeks into shooting I was already saying to myself, “What else can I write for this guy?” But yeah, there’s a lot under the nice guy surface.

Jake Lacy as Robert ‘B’ Berchtold in A FRIEND OF THE FAMILY
Photo: Peacock

The way you ended the series was a bit unconventional, but super powerful creative choice. You show the Broberg family living life together and we see Jan ignoring a call from B. Then we get updates on future events and see the real courtroom scene where Jan confronts to B. I feel like most people might have ended there, but your final shot is Jan (played by Mckenna Grace) taking these crucial steps back into the world. Why did you feel it was important to end on that scene?

I felt like there was a moment to be had at the end with just the audience connecting with her as a human being. Because it is so familiar and necessary, I think, to have that experience at the end with the “where are they now” cards. But I wanted the audience to leave on a moment of emotion, and cinema, and seeing her stepping out into the world that way. I don’t know if I accomplished this, but we also wanted to crystallize a feeling in the end that it’s not a happy ending, it’s not a sad ending, but it’s a complicated ending. She has to step back out into the world and it looks different now. And I think of the show — more so than anything that I’ve worked on — as kind of an optical illusion, because you look at it one way — legitimately it is so horrifying, and you walk away feeling a sickness about what happened — but I also feel that there is a — heartwarming is the wrong word — but there is an ending that is about a kind of complicated triumph. This family did survive this. And it’s horrifying. And they made terrible mistakes. But at the end, they came together, they live together, they love each other, and they stayed very close to this day.

There’s obviously so much more to this story, as you touched on in the final minutes of the series. B did this to other girls, he stalked Jan for years, and there was that courtroom interaction we saw. In a Vanity Fair interview, Jan said she keeps telling you to do a second series. So is there any hope for a Season 2 or do you definitely see this as a limited series?

There are no plans at the moment to do more. I know that there is a lot more to the story for sure. And that may be explored in documentary form, or, I don’t know. But we did see this as a limited series, ending at the moment where the whole family is kind of living in the same reality again.

A Friend of the Family is now streaming on Peacock.



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Rachel Meadows

Rachel Meadows

Trending topics news writer who enjoys cooking, walking her dog and travel.