HBO Drama Inspired by Real Polygamist Raid

In the season premiere of "Big Love," scheduled to air Sunday, Jan. 18, at 9 p.m. EST, Roman, the prophet of the fictional Juniper Creek ranch, is up on charges similar to those that Warren Jeffs, the prophet or leader of the Fundamentalist Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints, faced last year.

Jeffs was convicted in September 2008 and sentenced to 10 years in prison for being an accessory to rape for coercing a 14-year-old girl to marry her 19-year-old cousin.

"We have Roman up on the same charges as Jeffs had faced," said Olsen. "We embrace that similarity."

And the Roman-Jeffs similarity is only the beginning, said Olsen and Scheffer, who said that they did the research for the show themselves – without full-time consultants – reading everything they find about the subject.

"We're huge fans of anything related to research and accuracy," said Olsen. "When we started out it was a little difficult and we had to dig deep – [polygamy] wasn't exactly on the front pages."

"These days we just have to turn on the news," he said.

Series Aims to Echo Reality of Polygamist Lifestyle

One of the main story lines on "Big Love" involved Nikki Grant, one of the three wives of Bill Henrickson.

Grant, who is the daughter of prophet Roman, takes a job at a local law firm this season, claiming that she's trying to atone for an expensive shopping addiction.

But it's soon revealed that Grant's job at the law firm is not as innocent as it seems. She and other members of the sect have started working on the firm to gather information on the trials of several Jane Doe's who are responsible for putting the compound's prophet, Roman, behind bars.

This story line too, said Olsen, is based loosely on actual events within the polygamist community.

"Is that story line preposterous? Yes," said Olsen. "But is that story line based on fact? The answer to that is also 'yes.'"

"We embroider it somewhat but the was a case where a woman from a sect, Laura Chapman, got a job as a legal assistant to one of the judges in Salt Lake City," he said. "As it turns out, she just happened to be a sister wife from the Kingston clan and the judge she was working for just happened to be hearing a case of one of the Kingston men."

Even the costume designs of the women on the compound in "Big Love" were altered following the Texas raid. Previously, the women on "Big Love" had always worn more muted colors.

"Olsen predicted awhile back when the real thing happened that we'd be faced with real images and also the opportunity to be reasonable and jump off and use those images creatively," said Scheffer.

"We saw those pastel colors that all the women were wearing [during the Texas raid]," said Scheffer. "Now we have a lot of that palette going on the show."

Olsen said "Big Love" will also examine the demeanor of the women on the compound.

During the Texas raid much attention was paid to what Olsen refers to as the "robotic" nature of the polygamist women. Figuring out how to work that into the show has been imperative, the creators said.

"I have to say truthfully we found [the FLDS women] extremely disturbing," said Olsen. "The robotic kind of look and aspect to it was disturbing."

"We brought forward a new character – a woman named Jodean – to play that role," he said. "She mutely nods her head in the first episode."

  • 1
  • |
  • 2
  • |
  • 3
Join the Discussion
blog comments powered by Disqus
You Might Also Like...