After Ryan Murphy read Reeves Weideman’s 2018 The Watcher story in New York Magazine’s The Cut, he was so taken with the bizarre tale that he immediately tried to buy the rights and make it the subject of his next series. But when he realized those rights were already taken, he offered to write the script for free just to be part of the project.
All of this was revealed in an on-camera conversation between Murphy and the women cast members of his new hit true-crime-inspired drama The Watcher, including Naomi Watts, Noma Dumezweni, Mia Farrow, Margo Martindale, and Jennifer Coolidge, produced by Netflix. You can watch the video above.
It turns out that the person who had snagged the rights to the story was Murphy’s friend Eric Newman (Narcos: Mexico, Spiderhead), who, like the American Horror Story co-creator, is also under an overall deal with Netflix and is also now a producer on The Watcher. Murphy called him up and made his proposition.
“I said, ‘I’m such a fan of this piece and I’m such a fan of this genre that I will write this for free. Just let me write it.’ And he said ‘OK.’ And so that’s how I got involved,” Murphy said. “I got involved as a fan, just because I was very into the story and I deeply related. It was personal, I think it was personal to Ian Brennan, who co-created it with me, as well.”
Murphy — whose other most recent show Dahmer — Monster: The Jeffrey Dahmer Story debuted to much fanfare on Netflix in late September — is a huge fan of true crime, which makes the shockingly true story of The Watcher perfect for him. It’s about a family who moves into a $1.3 million home they’ve just purchased in Westfield, New Jersey. But, in true horror-movie fashion, they soon begin to receive extremely creepy letters from an anonymous neighbor who calls themself “The Watcher” and claims to be part of a long family tradition of watching the house at 657 Boulevard and “waiting for its second coming.” Perhaps the most disturbing part of the original letter was the letter writer’s request for “young blood.”
Murphy found the story relatable.
“I instantly thought of my own family and I think that idea of how we’re living in a world now where everybody all over the world, I guess, seems under attack in some way and that idea of, ‘How do I keep my family safe?’ was something I was instantly motivated by,” he said. “I wrote it on the note card and I put it by my computer when we were writing the scripts.”
Murphy is also behind shows including Glee, Pose, Ratched, American Crime Story, Halston, The Andy Warhol Diaries, The Politician, Scream Queens, and Nip/Tuck.
The Watcher cast also includes Bobby Cannavale, Terry Kinney, Luke David Blumm, Henry Hunter Hall, Christopher McDonald, Joe Mantello, and Richard Kind.
Main Image: (L to R) Terry Kinney as Jasper Winslow, Mia Farrow as Pearl Winslow in episode 101 of The Watcher. Photo Credit: Eric Liebowitz/Netflix.