Geno McDermott, director of Aaron Hernandez documentary Killer Inside, answers burning questions
Aaron Hernandez’s fall from grace is at the center of Netflix’s newest crime drama obsession, Killer Inside: The Mind of Aaron Hernandez. And while the documentary answers a lot of questions about the former football star, some mysteries remain unexplained.
Hernandez, a star tight end for the New England Patriots from 2010-2012, was convicted of murdering Odin Lloyd and sentenced to life in prison in 2015. He died by suicide in his jail cell just days after being acquitted of a different charge: a 2017 double homicide in Boston.
The documentary alleges several theories in an attempt to explain what could’ve caused the young, talented father to throw it all away, including trauma and mental health issues, the neurodegenerative disease chronic traumatic encephalopathy (CTE), and conflicted feelings about his sexuality.
Killer Inside‘s director Geno McDermott spoke to EW about some of the most controversial aspects of the doc, including why Hernandez’s lawyer Jose Baez (who also famously represented Casey Anthony) is now slamming the project.
ENTERTAINMENT WEEKLY: Why did you choose Aaron Hernandez as the subject of your documentary?
GENO MCDERMOTT: I first met with Dan Wetzel and Kevin Armstrong in January 2017. They had been writing a book about Aaron Hernandez and they had covered his first trial.
What fascinated me about the story and the timing was that we were going into his second trial and it seemed like everyone had forgotten about Aaron. [At this point], everyone was like, “This guy is a thug. He’s a convicted murderer. He’s got a bunch of tattoos. Same old story and you know he’s got to get convicted again.”
I was like, “Man, I have to get in here and I have to start to tell the story, and I have to investigate.” So, at that time we started just gathering interviews and researching and putting together whatever we could.
There’s been a lot of social media commentary about all the new information released in the documentary. What do you hope people take away from it?
When I first set out to make the film, it was really about getting all the facts straight and putting out a cohesive, unbiased piece that explained everything that happened. Post-film, when we started making the series and things started becoming substantiated, it became more about getting things like Aaron’s phone calls from jail. Those calls [allowed us to] have Aaron as a character in the series.
We hope that folks walk away after watching having more of an openness to having important conversations about topics like the entitlement of athletes. How could Aaron have done so many things and alleged things and gotten away with it purely because he was a professional athlete?
Another conversation is about sexuality in sports, and exploring that and what it must’ve been like for Dennis SanSoucie and Aaron growing up together and having a relationship but having to keep it in the closet.
The third thing is a conversation about CTE — which, we’re not saying that it’s a football issue, it’s a sports issue and it’s an American issue. I played a ton of sports growing up. I played lacrosse, which has about as much contact as football. There was never any sort of conversation about what it meant to hit your head. As a young athlete, you want to perform and you want to like make varsity and keep moving forward, so you’ll do whatever it takes.
Speaking of Hernandez’s longtime friend Dennis SanSoucie and his father Tim, there have been a lot of questions by viewers about their authenticity. Why should people believe their story?
I sat with Dennis and his father Tim for the better part of a couple of days and I really got to know them well. There’s no reason for Dennis and his father to talk about this issue that they had growing up and Dennis’s relationship with Aaron. They’re not craving attention, they’re just good people. Dennis just wants to tell his story.
From my perspective, they’re just genuine American guys and they had a great story to tell. That’s why we included them in the series.
Did any of Hernandez’s family members participate in the making of this documentary?
Honestly, we had some trouble getting his immediate family to participate. They declined, very respectfully. And we respect that decision because they’ve been bombarded with outreach over the past years. We totally understand their position.
Hernandez’s attorney Jose Baez did participate in your documentary but he’s posted negative commentary about it via Instagram. Do you know why?
I haven’t seen it but I had heard that that was happening. I’m honestly not sure why he’s doing that. He did participate and he gave us a great interview. We do nothing but explain that he’s a great lawyer.
If I may, he wrote: “I don’t give a damn about what some lame-ass documentary has to say about Aaron. I knew him, they did not and while he was far from perfect, they are not even close to the truth. People have no idea how documentaries are made, the truth is usually found on the cutting room floor. These producers lied directly to my face, so I don’t expect their money-making scheme to be much better.”
I don’t know what he means by that and I can’t really speculate.
EW reached out to Baez after speaking to McDermott for clarification on his social post.
We spoke to Geno McDermott about his documentary on Aaron Hernandez and I asked him if he knew why you were upset about it. He said he wasn’t sure why. Can you give insight into what you disagreed with?
JOSE BAEZ: I thought the biggest problem with it was using [Hernandez’s daughter] Avielle’s voice and photos as a very significant part of the documentary — this was done without her parent’s consent. Her mother did not give permission for this. While I recognize that [the calls] are public record, I still think that it was in poor taste. And whether they can do something legally, doesn’t necessarily mean that they should.
The second issue was that I think they made way too much of his sexuality. It’s funny how in the documentary, they mention how a reporter should never out someone based on their sexuality, yet they decided to make it a center [of] focus of the documentary.
I can understand some people’s curiosity, I just simply did not agree with it. I had voiced that to them on another occasion, and apparently, those pleas fell on deaf ears. I don’t see how any of that fits into the story, and I realize that there will be those that disagree.
The third part that I had an issue with were the allegations about what occurred at the University of Florida. That is probably one of the biggest issues that I have with a lot of the coverage. The police found that he had nothing to do with it because there were multiple eyewitnesses that describe an African American as the shooter.
But yet, it doesn’t matter because it’s all part of the storyline that he allegedly shot somebody and got away with it in Florida, so facts be damned.
Do you regret being a part of this documentary?
Killer Inside: The Mind of Aaron Hernandez is currently available to stream via Netflix.