Home Before Dark boss says telling Hilde's story inspired her as a woman
Inspired by the true story of 9-year-old journalist Hilde Lysiak — who did in fact solve a murder in her town — the new series stars The Florida Project's Brooklynn Prince as the fearless, determined reporter and Across the Universe's Jim Sturgess as her similarly determined father, who teaches her everything he knows.
The addictive new series released its first three episodes Friday, and EW spoke with showrunner Dana Fox about how the show came to be.
ENTERTAINMENT WEEKLY: How did you discover this story?
DANA FOX: I did not, actually. Joy Gorman did, and she is an extraordinary producer and a longtime friend of mine. She was at the Tribeca Disruptor Awards, and there were all these adults who were winning awards for being incredible. Then this little 9-year-old girl stood up and she was accepting this award for being a disruptor, because she had scooped her local paper on a murder, and everybody in her hometown had given her hell for it. Hilde [Lysiak] gave an incredible speech, and Joy was just in awe of her and the fact that all she wanted to do was be a journalist. What's so amazing about watching her character is that she is so inspiring to me, both Hilde and Brooklynn [Prince] are so inspiring to me. They both have such an incredibly strong work ethic, and that they never give up. To me, what was so emotional as an adult female was watching a younger person go through the kinds of stuff that you, as an older woman, go through at work. You get told to sit down and shut up, and you don't know what you're talking about. We get told that all the time, and then watching this little girl stand up and speak truth to power. As an adult woman, it resonates so strongly with me.
What was it like balancing a real story with obviously some creative license?
As we were trying to figure out how to get into the story creatively, because obviously there was so much that was true, but we knew we had to fictionalize certain elements of it, we just kept saying over and over again, "Let's take this character as seriously as she takes herself. Let's give her the treatment that is normally reserved for male movie stars. Let's let her be taken that seriously."
As the shoot got going, how involved was the real Hilde?
She's been amazing. Her whole family has been really amazing actually, I feel like we won the lottery with them. Because you enter into this weird marriage with people when you're taking their real lives as fodder for a creative endeavor. We consulted them on a lot of stuff, we asked them a lot of questions that pertained to journalism, but also just who they are as a family. That's the other thing about the show that I love. We always said, "You have to be able to pull the mystery out and have the family show work, and you have to be able to pull the family out and have the mystery work." We challenged ourself to do that with every episode, but Hilde and that whole family, they don't approach parenting the same way that most people do. I've never seen a father come into a daughter's room and talk to her and say, "You didn't check your sources. You didn't follow-up, that's bad journalism." And knowing that's the thing that he could say to her that would hurt her the most. What I take away from it as a person is just I can't believe this father is talking to his daughter as such an equal.
How did you guys get Jim Sturgess, who's so amazing in this role?
I was a big fan of Across the Universe, so I never forgot about Jim Sturgess. Casting the father was incredibly difficult, because we knew that we didn't have a show unless we had Hilde, so went there first, and we were lucky enough to get Brooklynn, but then we thought about trying to get the dad, and it's a really interesting thing, not a lot of men wanted to audition with an 8-year-old girl. We had a really, really hard time getting people to audition, but Jim he had zero issues with it. Their chemistry together is absolutely extraordinary. I think anybody who sees them together just gets it right away. But really, I've just given the women of America this beautiful perfectly wrapped gift in Jim Sturgess.
Home Before Dark is on Apple TV+ now.