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Ryan Murphy discusses family and true crime with the women of The Watcher

After reading The Cut’s 2018 article, The Haunting of a Dream House, Ryan Murphy thought about the well-being of his family. The idea of safety and what people were willing to do to protect their loved ones motivated Murphy to adapt the article for Netflix, which became the true crime series, The Watcher.

“That’s the thing that drew me into this story because I was thinking when I read that story that was in The Cut, I instantly thought of my own family,” said Murphy in an interview with Netflix. “And I think that idea of how we’re living in the world now, everybody all over the world, I guess seems under attack in some way and that idea of, ‘How do I keep my family safe?’ was something that I was instantly motivated by.”

Two women sit at a table talking in The Watcher.

Co-created by Murphy and Ian Brennan, The Watcher follows Nora (Naomi Watts) and Dean (Bobby Cannavale) Braddock, a married couple who move into a beautiful home with their two kids in Westfield, New Jersey. After arriving in the idyllic house, the Braddocks begin receiving anonymous letters from a stalker who uses the pseudonym, “The Watcher.” In the first letter, “The Watcher” threatens to kidnap the Braddock’s two children. As more ominous letters come in, Nora and Dean attempt to identify their stalker, but as they dig into the mystery, they start to question everyone around them, including their intrusive neighbors.

Murphy sat down with the female cast members of The Watcher to discuss the themes of the series and their reasons for taking part in the project. The women include Watts, Noma Dumezweni, Mia Farrow, Margo Martindale, and Jennifer Coolidge. Murphy explained how each of the women was his first choice for each specific part. Many of the cast members did not know about the story until reading the article. As with Murphy, the article hooked the actors in with its real and terrifying premise.

Ryan Murphy Talks with the Women of The Watcher | Netflix

“I got to read the article, and I was like, ‘Oh my Lord. I have no idea. This is a real story.’ And I loved that,” said Dumezweni. “But that fact that you could feel so unsafe. This is your forever home. And even just watching, oh my god. It’s my terror.”

After signing a massive five-year, $300 million developmental deal with Netflix in 2018, Murphy’s shows like The Politician, Ratched, and Hollywood failed to captivate critics and audiences. Within the past two months, Murphy is at the top of the streaming world with two massive hits, The Watcher and Dahmer – Monster: The Jeffrey Dahmer Story. The Watcher has registered over 273 hours viewed, and Dahmer became Netflix’s second-most popular series of all time, with over 856 million hours viewed.

Naomi Watts and Bobby Cannavale walk in unison in a scene from Netflix's The Watcher.
The Watcher. (L to R) Naomi Watts as Nora Brannock, Bobby Cannavale as Dean Brannock in episode 101 of The Watcher. Cr. Eric Liebowitz/Netflix © 2022

Murphy explained how he only makes things that he wants to watch, and with his last two shows, it’s clear that viewers love true crime, especially if they spark controversy.

“I only make things that I want to watch. I have a very strict rule about that, and I always have,” said Murphy. “And I always think that the more specific something is, the more universal it becomes.”

Stream all episodes of The Watcher on Netflix. 

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