Is The Last Thing He Told Me based on a true story? Laura Dave explains
The author and showrunner unpacks parallels with real-world cases.
The Last Thing He Told Me tells an emotional story of a mother and her stepdaughter working together after they are abandoned in the midst of an earth-shattering corporate scandal.
Hannah (Jennifer Garner) had struggled to bond with Bailey (Angourie Rice) after marrying her father Owen (Nikolaj Coster-Waldau), but this traumatic turn of events leaves them little choice but to support one another.
The series is based on a novel of the same name, which climbed to the top of the charts after being featured in Reese Witherspoon's popular online book club.
While The Last Thing He Told Me is not directly based on a true story, it does have very deliberate parallels with real-world cases of corporate fraud, as explained by author and co-showrunner Laura Dave in an exclusive interview with RadioTimes.com.
The Last Thing He Told Me true story
Previously, Laura Dave has discussed that her primary inspiration for The Last Thing He Told Me was the Enron scandal, in which a US-based energy company was found to have 'hidden' billions of dollars in debt.
The highly publicised saga led to the company declaring bankruptcy, its accountancy firm being dissolved, and new regulations and legislation being introduced to improve the accuracy of financial reporting by public companies.
Speaking to Variety in 2021, Dave said: "I saw an interview back then with Linda Lay, the wife of Enron CEO Kenneth Lay, in which she said, ‘My husband’s done nothing wrong. He’s not guilty.’
"I had no idea if she believed that or not. I started thinking of a woman who found herself newly married to someone that the world is telling her is so paradoxical to her understanding of who her partner is."
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Almost two decades later, another shocking corporate scandal struck when healthcare company Theranos – which claimed to have revolutionary new blood testing technology – was also revealed to be fraudulent.
Speaking exclusive to RadioTimes.com, Dave said: "I think that what those two cases really have in common, and it's one of the things that was really interesting to me about it, is the idea of hubris.
"And there's so much hubris involved with thinking you can get away with embezzlement, with fraud on such a grand scale... What is the story someone is telling himself – or in the case of Theranos, herself – that allows that narrative to go on to the point where there's so much collateral damage?"
She continued: "I'm actually not surprised that it still goes on because, at our very base, it's storytelling. You're either going to invest your life in creating a story that is for the good or – without being binary about it – is for less than good.
"And so you’ve got to be really, really careful about what narrative you're diving into. And in the case of Theranos or Madoff or all the way back to Enron, the common denominator is that people get so invested in a story – their own personal story, their own personal narcissism – that they lose the thread."
Dave added: "And I love trying to find the thread for them and suggest that not everything is all bad."
Co-showrunner and screenwriter Josh Singer interjected that while The Last Thing He Told Me unfolds against the backdrop of a corporate catastrophe, the focus is on the personal impact it has on two individuals – a mother and her stepdaughter.
He explained: "This show is about a woman who is left after that [scandal] has gone down... How is she going to find the strength to become the hero of her own life?
"And that, to me, is what our story is about, which I think is pretty interesting, in terms of these narcissists never see the collateral damage. We're over here focused on one of the small stories that is collateral damage from that."
The Last Thing He Told Me premieres on Apple TV+ on Friday 14th April 2023. Check out more of our Drama coverage or visit our TV Guide and Streaming Guide to find out what's on.
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