Following the release of A Friend of the Family, actor Jake Lacy has opened up about playing a child predator. A Friend of the Family is a Peacock series that tells the unbelievable true story of Jan Broberg, a daughter of a Midwestern Mormon family who was kidnapped twice by Bob Berchtold, a close family friend, during the 1970s. Jan Broberg’s story was previously adapted in the 2017 Netflix documentary called Abducted in Plain Sight.
For Lacy, playing a predator and pedophile was not an easy task. In a recent interview with The Hollywood Reporter, Lacy opened up about how he entered that disturbing head space and how he dealt with it. Imagining it to be something completely different, Lacy said that he kept a higher purpose in mind, saying the show is not trying to be voyeuristic or sensational but is rather intended to shed light on the prevalence of the issue and show compassion to victims of childhood sexual abuse:
“This isn’t some voyeuristic look at their lives or some tabloid version of a story. We wanted to be authentic and compassionate toward what the experience was like inside this family, inside this community when this wonderful young girl gets taken. Ultimately, the saving grace for me, and for the production, was that there’s a real purpose in telling this story: Let’s shine a light on what it is to be a victim of both sexual abuse as a child, but also as a family and the people surrounding that.”
Lacy also praised the way production team handled the topic, saying that there was a lot of research that went into it. The production kept the environment safe and supportive by having therapists on set, and gave altered scripts to minors on set, so they would not see any mention of anything sexual in nature. Lacy also revealed that creator Nick Antosca was incredibly strict with what kind of abuse was shown, and refused to show any intimate scenes between Jan and Berchtold. Lacy said what particularly struck him was when Jan Broberg reached out to him by leaving a note for him on the first day of filming:
“The note described a bit of how Berchtold was warm and charismatic and funny and kind, and that was how he wedged himself into the family and gained their trust and how he then got what he wanted. And the back half of the note was saying, like, ‘I’m OK, I’m in a healthy place, and I’m thrilled you’re doing this, and you have permission to do this role and tell this story as you see fit without being worried.’ The level of grace and compassion for someone to offer that to me, who’s just some dumb actor playing this part, when she’s the one who’s actually experienced it, is beyond my comprehension.”
Image via Peacock
Lacy’s graceful handling of the role is not without consequence though. In an interview with Oxygen.com, Lacy said that playing this role made him realize that his own “vigilance and paranoia surrounding my kids and adults in their lives” was justified. Lacy said that he tries to dig for information when his kids mention a schoolteacher or adult figure they particularly like, but tries to do so in a calm manner that doesn’t “create paranoia or aggression in their lives.”
A Friend of the Family is an American drama miniseries produced for Peacock. It consists of nine episodes, and first premiered on Peacock on October 6. It is created by Nick Antosca, and executive produced by Alex Hedlund and Eliza Hittman. It stars Anna Paquin as Mary Ann Broberg, Colin Hanks as Bob Broberg, Lio Tipton as Gail Berchtold, and McKenna Grace as Jan Broberg.