Warning: Spoilers from Bravo’s Dirty John below.
The screen adaptation of the L.A. Times podcast Dirty John premiered last night on Bravo. Debra Newell — a Los Angeles-based interior designer and the focus of the true-crime podcast — spoke to Us Weekly about the series, and of how Connie Britton’s portrayal of the real life events in Newell’s life were on-target.
“She was pretty spot on. The way she spoke, her hand gestures and the way she dressed. She would ask me questions like, ‘What was the meaning of love in your eyes?’ or ‘What happened in your marriages?’ She just sort of wanted to know who I was,” Newell told Us Weekly of Britton’s portrayal of her. Britton would call Newell up and ask her questions about her life and relationship with the real life Dirty John, wanting to get closer to the woman she was portraying.
Newell’s husband, John Meehan — played by Eric Bana in the series — was a conman and a drug addict who turned Newell’s life upside down. Their whirlwind romance, and the nightmare that followed having married two months after meeting on a Christian singles website, was the focus of the psychological thriller. The six part podcast and narrative series premiered in October of last year, and covered Newell and Meehan’s tumultuous marriage.
The series focused on Meehan’s drug abuse, and his decades spent conning several women in his life. This roller-coaster of affairs was subsequently ended in Meehan’s death by the hands of Newell’s youngest daughter. Meehan, who stalked and tortured Newell’s family for months following their separation, snuck up on her youngest daughter, Terra, apparently aiming to stab her to death. Terra fought back, and turned the knife on Meehan, stabbing him repeatedly. Meehan spent his last days on life support before succumbing to his injuries.
“Eric, I don’t know whether to slap you or kiss you. I have a little bit of mixed feelings here. He played the part very well,” Newell told Us Weekly of Bana’s portrayal of Meehan.
Since the events that inspired the podcast, and now the series, Newell hasn’t been back out into the dating world. She and her family are still reeling from the effects of Meehan’s torture — her family even pushing back at the situation being scripted for the world to see. But Newell knows that the portrayal can help other women who may be in a similar situation.
“I survived. I’m stronger. I’m hoping that a lot of women will listen to this and go, ‘Oh my gosh. I’ve got to listen to the red flags, take my time,'” she added in the Us Weekly exclusive.