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Is The Undoing a True Story?

October 24, 2020
4 min read

With ‘The Undoing,’ HBO added another compelling series to its library comprising intriguing drama shows with well-rounded characters. Starring Nicole Kidman and Hugh Grant, the story revolves around a successful marriage therapist named Grace Fraser. She has a son studying in an elite private school and is happily married to a medical professional.

However, a violent death and a missing husband cast a murky shadow on her life just a few weeks before her book is about to release. Upon its release in October 2020, the show received a positive response from the critics and the audiences. The premise sounds like something out of a true-crime show, right? Well, let’s explore its veracity together!

Is The Undoing Based on a True Story?

No, ‘The Undoing’ is not based on a true story. The narrative is actually the brainchild of the author, Jean Hanff Korelitz, who released a book called ‘You Should Have Known.’ David E. Kelley, who wrote the script for ‘The Undoing,’ is also the man behind HBO’s ‘Big Little Lies.’ Initially, he thought the book could not be turned into a series, but something about the characters eventually compelled him to take this step. He explained, “It went more in the direction of healing and psychological exploration. It’s an excellent book, but it emotionally de-escalates, and in television, you kind of need the opposite.”

Talking about the inadvertent similarities between the two shows, the writer said, “We gravitate to material that fascinates us. In this piece, the theme and core of denial that the characters lived in drew me in.” He shared the script for ‘The Undoing’ after wrapping up his previous aforementioned venture. In fact, Kidman loved the story and said, “He would slowly give them to me, so I was on the roller-coaster journey of it, not knowing what was going to happen when I would read the next.”

Grant, who plays the therapist’s husband, also felt the same way— “The cliffhangers are beyond genius. The way I can really judge is that, when I was reading the scripts, did I want to quickly pick up the next one? And the answer was always ‘Yes.’ And that’s very rare.” At its core, the story is about trust, deception, and mendacity. Kidman said that human psychology is something that has always intrigued her, and the show explores it plentifully.

She stated, “That’s fascinating to me, the desire to see somebody a particular way and therefore not seeing the things that are right there in front of you. All of those things I think are really wonderful kernels of emotions to sort of explore and ripen on screen.” However, the role of Grace was not an easy one as it was a very distressing state to exist in. The range of emotions that the therapist goes through as the story unfolds was something that Kidman found challenging.

Although we all know and love Grant from his good old rom-com days where he charmed us every time he came on screen, the actor stated that he had purposely stepped away from such roles over the past couple of years. Calling ‘The Undoing’ a fantastic production, Grant also spoke a bit more about his character in conversation with EW.

“I came up with a whole backstory involving an uncle who’d been a sort of black sheep of the family who I revered and who lived in Paris, and I’d had quite a pretentious past at the Sorbonne University and I like French philosophy and I wanted to dress like that and I wanted to have long hair,” Grant said. “And [Susanne] very cunningly nodded along and said, ‘Yes, that’s all marvelous, that’s marvelous, that’s marvelous.’”

The ‘Notting Hill’ actor continued, “And then about two days before we actually started shooting, she threw it all out the window. All these costumes with scarves and things. So I had to play it much more lightly characterized, but with lots of inner stuff.” When it came to filming the extremely emotional father-son scenes, he stated that being a parent in real life really helped him connect with his character as well.

Evidently, there is a certain je ne sais qoui that sets the story of ‘The Undoing’ apart from the many other productions eminent in the genre. But having said that, there are still some aspects of the story that are fundamental in most thrillers – the mystery, the intrigue, the drama, and most importantly, the enigma of whodunnit. For this reason, it may feel as though the story is based on real events. However, that is not the case.

Read More: Where Is The Undoing Filmed?

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