Interview with Charisma Carpenter and Nancy Grace of “The Good Father: The Martin MacNeill Story” on Lifetime by Suzanne 9/14/21
This interview was from Lifetime’s Fall Movies Press Day. It was very enjoyable to chat with many stars during the panels.
Unfortunately, this movie’s star, Tom Everett Scott (Dr. MacNeill), couldn’t make the interview. Most of the movie centers on him, and his daughter, Alexis played by Anwen O’Driscoll. She wasn’t there, either. Carpenter plays his wife, Michele, who gets murdered fairly early on in the movie. Grace is seen briefly (as herself) and was responsible for bringing the story to Lifetime.
I really hadn’t planned to speak to Grace, since I’m not a fan of her style of journalism. However, when I asked Carpenter my question, she really didn’t have much of a response, so I decided to ask Grace a question after that. She didn’t like my question (which was partly my fault because I didn’t really phrase it very well), so she went on and on about it. Oh, well. It was a good movie, and an interesting panel interview, nonetheless. I just wish I could have asked Carpenter about some of her other roles (“Buffy the Vampire Slayer,” “Angel” “Veronica Mars” et al.).
MODERATOR: Our next panel is “The Good Father: The Martin MacNeill Story” executive produced by Nancy Grace and starring Charisma Carpenter. Hi, ladies.
CHARISMA CARPENTER: Hello.
NANCY GRACE: Hello.
MODERATOR: Thank you for joining us. We’re going to kick it off with a question from Jay Bobbin.
QUESTION: Hello, thank you. Nancy, my question is for you. A lot of what you’ve done in the TV-Movie realm, it seems like these are stories you’ve dealt with in other ways on your other programs in your other appearances. Is this one of those stories for you?
NANCY GRACE: Well, yes as a matter of fact, it is. I covered the Martin MacNeill prosecution when it occurred. And felt that I became friends with various members of the family, specifically Alexis. I remember distinctly like yesterday — as a matter of fact we just showed the promo you just saw? It literally gave a chill on my arms because when I see that, it’s so realistic, it reminds me of the actual case. And I can still remember the night of the verdict and speaking with Alexis. And she was telling me about how she had gotten married her mother wasn’t there because her father murdered her mother and what that felt like so this movie means a lot to me.
QUESTION: A follow up on that if I could, when you talk about the chill that it gave you bringing back the real case, how are you on the set when a dramatization of a case you’ve actually covered is being done? I would imagine you want it to be as truthful to the fact as possible, yet it is still a dramatic movie. How are you with that?
NANCY GRACE: Well, I will say that I went — I combed over the screenplay over and over and over. And actually pitched this to Lifetime with the intent of one day telling the true story of Dr. Martin MacNeill. But you know what? I don’t like calling it the Dr. Martin MacNeill story. I like calling it the Michelle MacNeill story because in my mind that’s the real star.
QUESTION: Thank you very much.
MODERATOR: Thank you. Our next question is from Jamie.
QUESTION: Hi, thank you both for being here. Nancy, how involved was Martin’s daughter when it came to Anwen’s portrayal?
NANCY GRACE: Oh wow, well her wishes and her desires were paramount in my mind. Because as I always like to say and I have said from the beginning of my TV career, these are not stories. They’re real. This is a real fact scenario with a real victim who died in the family’s bathtub. Her daughters — they had eight children, four natural, four adopted. They no idea what had really happened to their mother. So when we talk about how much Alexis had to do with it, this is the telling of the story through her eyes. So she had a lot to do with it. These are real characters. It’s not a made-up plot that someone came up with or dreamed up. This is real. And that makes it in my mind even more critical that it’s true to life.
MODERATOR: Thank you. Our next question is from Jamie Ruby.
QUESTION: Hi guys. Thanks for talking to us. Charisma, what was it that initially drew you to the part?
CHARISMA CARPENTER: Well, I think any time you mix true crime with scripted television, you do have to walk and extra careful line. It was super challenging to honor her memory and to be able to get across her love of family, to be able to get across the behaviors that she was experiencing and her confusion about his behavior, the pathological lying and the sociopathy behind it all. So I feel like whenever you’re approaching a character, you have these insights that you bring to the table, but when it’s a real-life story, you have to take the insights that you understand from whatever the history is of the story. You have to do a lot of reading, a lot of research and then you know the importance of getting that across was a true challenge and something that I took to heart and wanted to pay the utmost of respect to. So that was a new thing for me.
QUESTION: Thank you.
MODERATOR: Thank you. Our next question is from Howard Benjamin.
QUESTION: My question is for Nancy. How difficult is it to get life rights? You’ve taken to task a lot of ripped-from-the-headlines stories and getting the cooperation from the family and the estates, how difficult is that?
NANCY GRACE: Well, since — being a crime victim myself, usually tell stories from the point of view of the crime victim. And I’ve never had any problem with their cooperation. Very often they want their story told and not just within the confines of the witness stand.
QUESTION: Is it difficult for them to relive this all over again?
NANCY GRACE: Yes, it is. It’s very difficult for them to relive it. I’ve had many, many crime victims that don’t want to talk about it. It brings it all back to them and including the pain that they went through. And that’s one thing about Alexis of many things that was so significant and so critical in this project because it did bring back a lot of sadness and a lot of emotion for her that she had to relive, but she did. And I’m so glad she did.
QUESTION: Thank you.
CHARISMA CARPENTER: She was impressive in doing that. You know, and also I think you know to add to that is Anwen, you know, it being Alexis’s story portrayed by Anwen, it is a story of empowerment. You know, it is a story of reclaiming your power and not allowing yourself to be manipulated and gaslighted any longer by this perpetrator you know, that was unfortunately her own father who she admired and adored and loved and was well-respected.
NANCY GRACE: Mm-hmm.
CHARISMA CARPENTER: In the community and at work and within his church. So I mean what a powerful place, what an unfortunate thing to have to be confronted with, but then to understand the strength of character, her perseverance, her desire for truth to support her siblings while she was in medical school. I mean, this is an incredible person. This is an amazing woman. So yay to be able to tell this story because it is in fact, Michelle, it may be her story in that sense, but it’s also a story of empowerment which I could really hold onto and clamp onto and why I also wanted to be involved.
MODERATOR: Thank you. Our next question is from Luaine Lee.
QUESTION: Nancy, I have two questions for you.
NANCY GRACE: Okay.
QUESTION: What crime were you a victim of? And what are the qualities required for you to decide to take on a project?
NANCY GRACE: People think I always wanted to be a violent crime prosecutor. That is not true. I studied Shakespearean literature and hoped to teach at a university level Shakespearean literature. That was my dream. My fiancé was murdered shortly before our wedding. I dropped out of school. I lost all interest in being in a classroom or in life, period. I ultimately did go back to school with the aim of becoming a felony prosecutor and helping other crime victims who I believe very often, especially women and children, do not have a voice in our system. This story, as I call it, although it is a true fact scenario, was especially poignant to me because not only were the victims women and children, it was at the hands of one of the most prominent men in that social setting, that community, a doctor and a lawyer who manipulated everyone as Charisma just said very accurately. And they had no voice and it makes what Alexis did even more powerful bringing her own father to justice.
QUESTION: So when you decide on a project, what does it have to have for you to do it?
NANCY GRACE: I’ve never liked — people often ask me, “What’s your favorite case?” There’s not really a favorite murder. I don’t know really how to put it in any other words. But I look for a story to be told, a narrative, not a case that’s open and shut. To turn a scenario like this into a movie, there must be mystery. The characters must be riveting to grab your attention. And I always think that it requires some sort of a mind twist. For instance in that community, the last person anyone would suspect molestation or murder would be Dr. Martin MacNeill.
QUESTION: Thank you.
MODERATOR: Thank you. Our next question is from Suzanne.
QUESTION: Hi. First question, Charisma, did you do any sort of special research or preparation before filming the role?
CHARISMA CARPENTER: Well, I obviously read up about him and about the family story and the family history. You know, I had to get familiar with the story. I didn’t know the story personally so this was an education.
QUESTION: Okay. And Nancy, I was wondering, do you know why in the movie there was never any mention made of the fact that they were Mormons and they were in a Mormon community?
NANCY GRACE: Well honestly, that may be significant to some people, but we had so many miles to cover and I don’t believe in my mind what religion it was that mattered. It mattered to me like in my religion, I’m a Methodist. And within a church, the Methodist Church, the Catholic Church, the synagogue, there are deacons or those people that are looked up to or revered, typically men. So whatever milieu you may be in, there are those people that are seemingly put up on a pedestal as he was, not only within his church community, the Church of Latter Day Saints, but within his medical community. I mean, he had been appointed by the governor to run a state facility. This guy was revered by everyone. Whether he was Mormon or a Methodist or a Catholic or Jewish doesn’t matter. He had the respect of everyone which made it so much more difficult for people to believe he would do this thing. I gotta tell you I remember sweating it out waiting on the jury verdict. And I was worried that people would fall for him and his con. Everybody else believed him, why wouldn’t a jury? I was worried.
CHARISMA CARPENTER: You know, you brought up a good point, Nancy, too. The revere of the community and the medical community and his own family, you know, the police department, they didn’t take imperative steps to determine her cause of death. They took his word for it. Like he just said she had an accident and they didn’t — because of who he was, they didn’t investigate further. So that’s a commentary on our society as a whole. You know, just because you are a prominent figure and it just seems unfathomable that you’d be capable of doing such a thing, it is imperative that people do their job and due diligence.
NANCY GRACE: You said that so well. Because even in the initial police reports, do you know what Alexis had to do to even get the autopsy re-examined to just basically pry the police into believing this could have happened. They had to change the determination on that autopsy report. That’s like moving a mountain.
CHARISMA CARPENTER: And also just the fact that the daughter was Alexis, played by Anwen. She was in her dad’s corner. It took a lot. She didn’t believe her own mom when her mom was trying to tell her things that things weren’t adding up and he was spending a lot of time away and he had all these suspicions. You know, it’s very common for women to be considered hysterical or paranoid or bitter or jealous or you know all these different things when you know our intuition is continually being gaslit and dismissed. And so it’s really important that we as a society do consider and trust the matriarchs of our lives and that we do re-evaluate no matter how high a standard you know our — you know, and this could go either way. You know I’m sure there are prominent women, too. But I don’t mean to make this anti-men, but to make a point that predominantly speaking, the patriarch is not questioned. And it is important that people be heard especially women.
NANCY GRACE: You know why, Charisma? You just said a word that really rubbed me the wrong way.
CHARISMA CARPENTER: What did I say?
NANCY GRACE: If I hear one more woman referred to as hysterical, I’m going to shoot my foot.
CHARISMA CARPENTER: I mean…
NANCY GRACE: Because that’s exactly how they acted when Alexis tried to tell them her suspicions. They acted like she’s been through too much. She’s hysterical. She was anything but.
CHARISMA CARPENTER: Mm-hmm. Yeah, it’s difficult to be dismissed that way especially when you’re a 100% right.
QUESTION: All right, thank you.
MODERATOR: That is all the time we have today. Thank you, guys, Charisma and Nancy —
CHARISMA CARPENTER: Thank you.
MODERATOR: So much for being with us today. We really appreciate your time.
NANCY GRACE: Thank you.
CHARISMA CARPENTER: No problem, thank you. Good to see you, Nancy.
NANCY GRACE: Likewise.
Based on actual events, The Good Father tells the story of Dr. MacNeill (Scott) and the incredible life he led with his former beauty queen wife, Michele (Carpenter) and their eight children. A pillar of the community, he was respected and loved by all especially by his daughter Alexis (O’Driscoll) who adored him and even wanted to follow in his footsteps to become a doctor. But everything soon changes after Dr. MacNeill convinces Michele to have plastic surgery, ultimately leading to her drowning while on prescription medication. Just a few short weeks after his wife’s suspicious death, Dr. MacNeill brings home Gypsy Willis, a new live-in “nanny” for his children but who is in actuality his mistress. Shocked by her father’s actions, Alexis begins to question everything she has known about him and discovers the depth of his lies, including his bogus medical credentials, falsified military records, and that the man and good doctor she once revered, was capable of murder.
The Good Father: The Martin MacNeill Story is produced by Good Doctor Films Inc. for Lifetime. Nancy Grace and bestselling author Josh Sabarra executive produce alongside Howard Braunstein. Annie Bradley directs from a script written by John Fasano and Abdi Nazemian.
Lifetime Unveils Full Fall Schedule Featuring Top Names All Season Long
LIFETIME UNVEILS FULL FALL SCHEDULE
FEATURING TOP NAMES ALL SEASON LONG
INCLUDING JILL SCOTT, HEATHER LOCKLEAR, SHANNEN DOHERTY, KELLY HU, TOM EVERETT SCOTT, CHARISMA CARPENTER, NANCY GRACE, MEGHAN MCCAIN, SHERRI SHEPHERD, NIA SIOUX, JUDY REYES, GLORIA REUBEN, ELISABETH ROHM, JUSTINA MACHADO,
BARRY WATSON, SKYLER SAMUELS AND MANY OTHERS
August 25, 2021 (Los Angeles, CA) – As summer comes to an end, Lifetime ensures the fall is full of excitement with new premieres every weekend, starting on Labor Day, Sept 6th with the premiere of Harry & Meghan: Escaping the Palace. Presenting stories that entertain, intrigue and inform, the fall slate features top names like Jill Scott and Barry Watson in the Highway to Heaven reboot, to Heather Locklear and Meghan McCain in Don’t Sweat the Small Stuff and Shannen Doherty and Kelly Hu in List of a Lifetime, and more.
Full Fall Schedule and Descriptions Below. All times at 8pm/7c.
Sept 6 Harry & Meghan: Escaping the Palace
(Sydney Morton, Jordan Dean)
Sept 18 Imperfect High
(Sherri Shepherd, Nia Sioux)
Sept 24 Dying to Marry Him
(Only on Lifetime Movie Club)
Oct 2 The Good Father: The Martin MacNeill Story
(Tom Everett Scott, Anwen O’ Driscoll, Charisma Carpenter, EP Nancy Grace)
Oct 9 Dying to Belong
(Shannen Doherty, Favour Onwuka, Jenika Rose)
Oct 10 List of a Lifetime
(Kelly Hu, Sylvia Kawn, Shannen Doherty, Patricia Velasquez)
Oct 16 Don’t Sweat the Small Stuff
(Heather Locklear, Natasha Bure, EP Meghan McCain, Kris Carlson)
Oct 17 Fighting for Her Life
Oct 23 Switched Before Birth
(Justina Machado, Skyler Samuels, director Elisabeth Rohm)
Oct 24 The Fight That Never Ends
Oct 30 Torn From Her Arms
(Judy Reyes, Gloria Reuben, Fatima Molina)
Nov 6 Highway to Heaven
(Jill Scott, Barry Watson)
Lifetime’s popular annual It’s a Wonderful Lifetime holiday lineup will begin following the fall movies.
The Good Father: The Martin MacNeill Story
Premieres October 2 at 8/7c
Based on actual events, The Good Father tells the story of Dr. MacNeill (Tom Everett Scott) and the incredible life he led with his former beauty queen wife, Michele (Charisma Carpenter) and their eight children. A pillar of the community, he was respected and loved by all especially by his daughter Alexis (Anwen O’Driscoll) who adored him and even wanted to follow in his footsteps to become a doctor. But everything soon changes after Dr. MacNeill convinces Michele to have plastic surgery, ultimately leading to her drowning while on prescription medication. Just a few short weeks after his wife’s suspicious death, Dr. MacNeill brings home Gypsy Willis, a new live-in “nanny” for his children but who is in actuality his mistress. Shocked by her father’s actions, Alexis begins to question everything she has known about him and discovers the depth of his lies, including his bogus medical credentials, falsified military records, and that the man and good doctor she once revered, was capable of murder.
The Good Father: The Martin MacNeill Story is produced by Good Doctor Films Inc. for Lifetime. Nancy Grace and bestselling author Josh Sabarra executive produce alongside Howard Braunstein. Annie Bradley directs from a script written by John Fasano and Abdi Nazemian
Celebrating 35 years of entertaining audiences, Lifetime is a premier entertainment destination for women dedicated to offering the highest quality original programming spanning award-winning movies, high-quality scripted series and breakout non-fiction series. Lifetime has an impressive legacy in public affairs, bringing attention to social issues that women care about with initiatives such as the long running Stop Breast Cancer for Life now in its 25th year, Stop Violence Against Women which relaunched in 2018, and Broader Focus, a major global initiative dedicated to supporting and hiring female directors, writers and producers, including women of color, to make its content. Lifetime Television®, LMN®, Lifetime Real Women® and Lifetime Digital™ are part of Lifetime Entertainment Services, LLC, a subsidiary of A+E Networks. A+E Networks is a joint venture of the Disney-ABC Television Group and Hearst Corporation.
Proofread and Edited by Brenda