Sharing what they’ve seen. The producers of Shiny Happy People: Duggar Family Secrets are speaking out about what they learned while researching the family made famous by the reality series 19 Kids and Counting.
The four-part limited docuseries — which hits Prime Video on June 2 — focuses on the Duggar family’s ties to the controversial religion Institute of Basic Life Principles (IBLP). Codirectors and executive producers Olivia Crist and Julia Willoughby Nason shed light on what viewers can expect from the doc during their Tuesday, May 23, appearance on the “Reality Life With Kate Casey” podcast.
“What we ultimately explore in the show is — there’s the shiny, happy facade, and then beneath the surface is this insidious cult behind the family, called the IBLP,” Willoughby Nason explained. “The Duggars are a jumping off point for us for a much, much larger story.”
Jill Duggar — one of Jim Bob Duggar and Michelle Duggar’s 19 children — participated in the series along with her husband, Derick Dillard. A press release for the doc described it as “the first time” that Jill, 32, “will go on record with her own story.”
In 2015, the Duggar family’s OG TLC show was pulled from the network amid reports that the eldest sibling, Josh Duggar, molested several girls when he was 14 and 15 years old. It was later revealed that Jill and her sister Jessa Duggar were among the victims.
Despite the scandal, the family returned to reality TV that same year with the spinoff Counting On. The show aired for 11 seasons, coming to an end in 2020 — one year before Josh, 35, was arrested on child pornography charges. TLC officially cut ties with the Duggars in June 2021. Josh is currently serving time in a Texas Prison after being found guilty on two counts of receiving and possessing child pornography in December 2021. He is expected to be released in October 2032.
The Duggar family aren’t the only IBLP followers to be affected by abuse. Willoughby Nason noted that what she found most “disturbing” about interviewing former members of the religious organization was the “pervasiveness” of abuses of power.
The Fyre Fraud producer added: “The men are at the top with ultimate authority and then the women and then the children underneath. … This sort of structure is just ripe with abuse.”
Although Jill is the only one of her siblings who participated in Shiny Happy People, her cousin Amy Duggar was also featured in the trailer. Jill’s younger sister Jinger Duggar, meanwhile, opened up about the restraints of IBLP teachings in her book Becoming Free Indeed: My Story of Disentangling Faith From Fear, which hit shelves in January.
Speaking exclusively to Us Weekly ahead of the book’s release, Jinger, 29, said that she “definitely” thinks her strict upbringing was “cult-like in many ways.” She continued: “It was built on fear, manipulation, control and superstition, so all those things combined in how hard it is for kids to leave or adults to leave — anyone, really. … Once you hear the teachings, you’re not supposed to depart from those.”
Although some of the Duggars’ secrets have already been exposed, the Shiny Happy People producers think that the show will leave viewers wondering why certain inner workings of the family and their religious beliefs weren’t closely examined sooner.
“A lot of things have been swept under the rug that should have been looked into,” said Willoughby Nason. “I think once you watch the show, you know … there’s a lot that should have been looked into that wasn’t.”
All four episodes of Shiny Happy People: Duggar Family Secrets will premiere June 2 on Prime Video.