Alexander Dean Secrets of Playboy
Secret of Playboy courtesy of A&E

Alexandra Dean says her A&E docuseries Secrets of Playboy peels back the layers of Hugh Hefner’s empire like an onion, exposing the “rot” at the core Playboy and the culture of abuse that festered there.

The director and showrunner of the 10-part series was interviewed on a recent episode of the Factual America podcast, which you can listen to above, on Spotify, Apple Podcasts, Google Podcasts, above on YouTube, or right here:

“It’s kind of an onion peeling situation. You’re gonna keep seeing layers of Playboy and its image fall away, and each layer we look at what Playboy was kind of seducing people, what was the seduction of Playboy when it came to the clubs or the girlfriends or the playmates,” says Alexandra Dean. “Then [when] we look at inside the mechanics of it, we really see these patterns where women were often not protected from abuse, or sometimes they seemed almost offered up for abuse. Then we get deeper and deeper into what Hef was really up to himself in the bedroom, and we realize that maybe it wasn’t an accident that all this rot was happening in different parts of the Playboy empire, because this guy at the center of it didn’t seem very worried about protecting women, either.”

The series delves deep into the dichotomy of Hefner’s different personalities.

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“That’s one of the really interesting things about this series — we’re not talking about a character that just does what he says on the tin. It’s not like that with Hefner. There seems to be these two sides to him, possibly more,” Dean says. “But I’m not sure they were talking to each other. I’m not sure that Hef didn’t — I think he completely blocked that darker side of himself when he was outside of the bedroom. He completely inhabited this much more progressive person that people truly loved, and then he had these secrets. He had the secret self, and it unleashed a lot of damage.”

Secrets of Playboy is currently streaming on A&E. Here are the timestamps from the Factual America interview:

00:00 – The trailer for Secrets of Playboy.
04:01 – What the series is all about.
07:14 – How Alexandra Dean discovered the dark side of Playboy.
08:13 – Why she decided to turn the documentary into a docuseries.
09:11 – The persona Hugh Hefner built in American culture.
12:55 – What people will find out watching this docuseries and the abuses revealed.
16:20 – How Hefner promoted women’s sexuality but yet manipulated his ‘girlfriends’.
20:33 – The type of person that was brought into the Playboy world.
22:19 – How difficult it was for the old playmates to talk about their past experiences.
24:20 – What Alexandra learned by going through old documents and footage.
26:11 – What it was like for Jennifer Saginor to grow up in the Playboy mansion.
27:24 – How the employees at Playboy reacted to what happened at the mansion.
32:02 – Why Alexandra was so interested in the Playboy world.
36:44 – The allegations against Bill Cosby during his time at the mansion.
40:30 – The ways women blame themselves for their abuse.
44:56 – The victims that have come forward since the docuseries has been aired.
45:35 – The future projects Alexandra is now working on.
47:04 – Clip from Secrets of Playboy that shows the drug use at the Playboy mansion.

Factual America uses documentary filmmaking to examine the American experience as well as universal topics that affect all Americans. Guests include Academy Award, Emmy and Grammy-winning filmmakers and producers, their subjects, as well as experts on the American experience. We discuss true crime, music, burning social and political topics, history and arts with the creators of the latest and upcoming documentary films in theatres and on the most popular digital platforms. This podcast is produced by Alamo Pictures, a London- and Austin-based production company that makes documentaries about the US from a European perspective for international audiences.

Main Image: Hugh Hefner and some Playboy bunnies in Secrets of Playboy courtesy of A&E and Factual America.