“The story is essentially one person knocking you off kilter two percent at a time, until over three years you wind up in a place where you just don’t know how you got there,” declares Emmy nominee Jake Lacy (“The White Lotus) about the core themes explored in the unsettling nine-episode limited series “A Friend of the Family.” For our recent webchat he adds, “You wind up making choices that are against your best interests,” he explains. “How do you wind up in that spot? Berchtold, as a master manipulator, stumbled upon the exact circumstances of innocence, naivete and trust. This faith-based family [had] the forgiveness and compassion and all the elements that he could then twist and pull and manipulate into creating space to get what he wanted, which was a sexual relationship with their daughter.” Watch our exclusive video interview above.
In the Peacock original true crime drama “A Friend of the Family,” which was created by Nick Antosca, Lacy portrays Robert “B” Berchtold, a close friend and neighbor of the Broberg family. In 1974, after he kidnaps their daughter at age 12, he relentlessly pursues a relationship with her and shockingly manipulates his way back into their good graces and then kidnaps her again at age 14. The stranger-than-fiction story co-stars Oscar winner Anna Paquin (“The Piano”) as Mary Ann Broberg, while Emmy nominees Mckenna Grace (“The Handmaid’s Tale”) and Colin Hanks (“Fargo”) respectively play her daughter Jan Broberg and husband Bob Broberg. They’re a close-knit family with strong Christian values that prove to be all too forgiving and naive.
Lacy is mesmerizing as a wolf in sheep’s clothing, a man whose warm smile and affable charm hides an insidious and manipulative evil that lurks beneath his “matinee idol” facade. As effective as he is in the role, the actor admits that it took some time to tap into the mindset of an abhorrent and rapacious monster like Berchtold, eventually figuring out another way into the character’s motivations. “He’s a sociopath,” he says. “There’s an inorganic thing in him. The way that you or I would experience the world or move from one moment to the next, he’s like a viper. There isn’t a thing where you go, ‘well, this guy’s sort of violent to this family, so I don’t condone that, but maybe I can find a way to access the pain that he’s experiencing, or his lack of tools for how to process these feelings about himself,'” Lacy explains. “In this case I think what I attached to was, more than finding a way to have some kind of compassion for him, was his completely consuming self-obsession and narcissism. You know, that he was searching for this high, that this thing that he was obsessed with — little girls — was like the ultimate thing for him. To get it and pursue it and have it and keep it a secret. I can find a thing in my life that isn’t pedophilia, but that I also want to get a charge from, or want to get a buzz off of,” he says. “How do I wrap my head around compassion for a predator? Well, I don’t have to do that. If I assume he’s on the hunt as an egomaniac, then there’s some of that in me in a way. How do I latch on and chase that high?”
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