Staying strong. The story of Debra Newell’s toxic relationship with John Meehan is about to play out on Dirty John, Bravo’s adaptation of the hit podcast by The L.A. Times. While Newell feels being portrayed by Connie Britton is a “dream come true,” not everyone in her family was thrilled about making their nightmare past into a television drama.
“Some of the family members were not for this. So it was really hard being able to know if we should do it or not,” Newell told Us Weekly exclusively. “They were going to do it without us so we felt like, ‘Wouldn’t it be better if we were able to have an opinion or share our story?’ At that point it was pretty easy.”
And it worked. The businesswoman thought Britton, 51, played her “very well” and captured some of her mannerisms.
“She was pretty spot on. The way she spoke, her hand gestures and the way she dressed,” Newell said. The women had lunch together multiple times and exchanged phone calls and texts while the American Horror Story vet prepared for the role.
“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 explained. “She would call me with some random questions. One of them was, ‘What was love?’ She wanted to talk about what exactly happened.”
“This whole thing has been a whirlwind,” she then added, explaining that she first met Britton at a lunch with her daughter and they were so excited.
“Connie ran up to me and said, ‘Oh, it’s such an honor.’ I said, ‘Oh you’ve got this backwards. It’s been an honor to meet you,’” Newell recalled.
As for Eric Bana, who plays the very scary conman John Meehan in the drama, Newell was torn. “I said, ‘Eric, I don’t know whether to slap you or kiss you,’” she told Us. “I have a little bit of mixed feelings here. He played the part very well.”
Now, two and a half years after the tragedy, Newell is staying positive. “I survived. I’m stronger,” she told Us. However, she hasn’t had a date since Meehan. She may start looking eventually — but never again, online. She hopes her story encourages others, too: “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.’”
Dirty John premieres on Bravo Sunday, November 25, at 10 p.m. ET. However, the first episode is already available to watch here.
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