“I definitely knew that it was going to be the hardest thing I’ve ever done in my life,” admits Kaitlyn Dever about shooting the Netflix limited series “Unbelievable.” She plays Marie Adler, who is raped but then denied justice after her account of the event is doubted and ultimately dismissed by local police. The story is all the more unsettling because it’s based on a true story, which was previously reported in a 2015 ProPublica article and an episode of the “This American Life” podcast. Watch our exclusive interview with Dever above.
Dever doesn’t consider herself a method actress, but she found herself immersed in her character more fully than she anticipated. “I had put so much pressure on myself because I felt the importance of it,” she explains. “My heart immediately broke for Marie when I read her story, and I just had to do her justice … so when it came time to really get into it I almost felt like I completely forgot about myself because this story felt so much bigger than me.” But she felt “very cared for” during the production, especially when shooting the first episode that depicts Marie’s assault and the dehumanizing process of the investigation.
But she was “bummed” about one thing in particular: the fact that she didn’t get to share scenes with Toni Collette, who made Dever want to become an actress in the first place. The events in the series unfold as two parallel narratives: Marie’s assault and its aftermath, and then a separate investigation by a pair of female detectives (played by Collette and Merritt Wever) into a serial predator who turns out to be Marie’s rapist. So Dever and Collette didn’t cross paths much until the promotional tour for the show.
That’s a minor disappointment, though, compared to the satisfaction of having taken part in the project. “If you are a survivor, I hope you at least feel seen by the show,” Dever says. “And if you have never experienced this, or maybe you know someone who has, I think it’s important to see the show because it really can be eye-opening.” It reveals “how sexual assault really affects someone, not only in that moment but pretty much for the rest of their life … We really have to start listening to each other and believing survivors and not treating them as suspects from the get-go.”
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