The 'Scandal' actor stars in the ID television-film about the infamous murder case
The morning of Feb. 17, 1970, Jeffrey MacDonald — a Green Beret army surgeon — called police to report a stabbing in his home. MacDonald’s pregnant wife and two daughters had been repeatedly clubbed and stabbed to death. He described a break-in of Manson Family-like hippies who slaughtered his family and left him unconscious, but in 1979, MacDonald was convicted of his family’s murder and sentenced to life in prison. Jeffrey MacDonald, still alive today, continues to maintain his innocence.
Investigation Discovery is re-examining the case in Final Vision, which centers around journalist Joe McGinniss’ investigation of MacDonald — one which ultimately became a controversial best-selling book. Scott Foley (Scandal) stars as MacDonald, the charismatic army surgeon who, depending on your perspective, is either a sociopathic killer or a wrongfully accused man who survived tragedy.
ENTERTAINMENT WEEKLY: Did you get a chance to actually meet the real Jeffrey MacDonald?
SCOTT FOLEY: You know, I didn’t. I did a lot of research reading books and articles and trying to get my hands on as many video interviews as he did. The video really helped me with a lot of his mannerisms, and, more importantly, his voice — that was the one thing about him that really stuck out to me. For this Green Beret, this macho guy, he had a bizarre, nasally voice that I thought was important to tell the story.
So was it a conscious decision not to meet him?
I didn’t want to be clouded for any sort of feelings I had for the man himself, regardless of the crimes he’s been accused of. So I didn’t ask for an interview, a phone call, anything. This movie is based on a book. We’re not telling a docu-drama, we’re telling the story of this book written by Joe McGinniss, who, in his defense, spent a lot of time with Jeffrey MacDonald, but on the other side of that, this is a very one-sided story. Joe McGinniss decided through his interactions with [MacDonald] and through what I consider to be some fairly large leaps of faith, that Jeffrey MacDonald committed this crime. I didn’t feel that meeting or interacting with MacDonald would help me at all because we’re telling this one man’s perspective.
In McGinniss’ book, MacDonald is described as a “narcissistic sociopath.” Is that how you were playing him?
To the best of my ability. You know, that’s the role that was written, and I wanted to be as faithful as I could to that. Now, my beliefs don’t necessarily line up with the beliefs of the book, but because that’s what the script is based on, that’s what I was going with.
Do you think he’s innocent?
I don’t know, but I still have questions. After doing the research and speaking with a lot of people and reading a bunch of stuff myself — I don’t know. Look, he spent 40 years in prison. This is the longest-running criminal case in United States history, but there are a lot of questions. There are a lot of questions with regards to misconduct with regards to handling the evidence of the crime scene initially, by the Army. Now, Jeffrey didn’t do himself any favors with contradicting himself, and his father-in-law was very adamant about catching him in a bunch of lies, but regardless of his guilt or innocence, I’m not convinced that he should have been convicted in a criminal court.
An interesting element of the case — as the prosecution presented it — is that MacDonald used the Manson murders as a model to stage the crime scene.
They say that he used it — I don’t know that he used it. It could have been a plant. They say he had the Esquire magazine that talked all about Charlie Manson and they say he was infatuated with it — we don’t know if that’s the case. Just because they said it doesn’t mean it’s true. They say that he was the one who wrote “Pig” in blood on the headboard to try and ape the Manson murders of Sharon Tate… I don’t know. They say he did it. But he never said he did it. He never said he was obsessed with it. It’s interesting.
Weirdly, this case took nine years until MacDonald ultimately went to trial…
It’s crazy. And you know, the whole time, the nine years after the incident occurred, he was an upstanding citizen. He was, I think, the head of surgery at Long Beach Hospital, he had a social life, he had friends — he had friends who stood by him and testified for him during the trial that he’d made post-murders. This is not a man who, in my opinion, was a serial killer. He didn’t kill his family and then go out and keep killing. Something happened, and in his eyes, and his story something he didn’t do happened, and he was able to create another life in spite of that.
Unless he was just a very convincing sociopath.
That’s the thing. Christ, maybe it was just nine years of a really good cover. A beautiful work by a f—ing nutbag sociopath.
Final Vision premieres on Investigation Discovery (ID) Sunday at 8 p.m. ET.