- "The Watcher," which premiered Thursday on Netflix, is based on a terrifying true story.
- Naomi Watts, Bobby Cannavale, Mia Farrow, and Jennifer Coolidge star in the thriller.
- Here's the cast of "The Watcher" and who they play.
Watts' character is based on Maria Broaddus, who moved into a beautiful home in Westfield, New Jersey with her husband and three young children, only to discover that a sinister presence was "watching" the property, as detailed in a viral New York Magazine story published in 2018.
Much like her real-life counterpart, Nora Braddock becomes obsessed with finding the author of the terrifying letters.
Unfortunately, the Braddocks' eccentric and mysterious neighbors only make it more difficult to suss out a potential suspect in the neighborhood.
Much like his wife, Dean becomes obsessed with discovering the identity of "The Watcher." Dean is based on Maria Broaddus' real-life husband, Derek Broaddus.
The Broaddus' real-estate agents weren't mentioned by name in the bombshell New York Magazine article that the Netflix drama is based on.
In the show, Karen is not only the Braddocks' real-estate agent, but also an old friend of Nora's. Despite their history, Karen frequently makes the Braddocks feel like they don't quite belong in the well-to-do neighborhood.
Farrow's character, Pearl Winslow, lives near the Braddocks, along with her brother, Jasper (Terry Kinney). Both siblings are middle-aged, and are known around the neighborhood for their kooky antics.
Pearl and Jasper appear to be loosely based on the real-life neighbors of the Broaddus family: Peggy Langford and her adult son, Michael, who are mentioned in the New York Magazine story. Peggy lived next door to the Broadduses with her adult children, and Michael (described as a "Boo Radley" type), was even interviewed by police after the Broadduses began receiving the letters.
Mitch and Maureen appear to be loosely based on the unnamed couple who lived directly behind the Broadduses in Westfield.
Per New York Magazine's article, these neighbors kept a pair of lawn chairs "strangely close" to the Broadduses' home, and at one point, a painter working for the family saw the man sitting and staring directly at the Broadduses' house.
Mantello's character wasn't featured in the original New York Magazine article, but seems to be based on real-life convicted murderer John List.
According to the New York Times, List lived in Westfield, New Jersey in the 1960s and '70s with his family: wife Helen, teen daughter Patricia, teen sons John and Frederick, and mother Alma. In late 1971, police discovered the family, sans List, dead from gunshot wounds in their home. They also found a letter from List revealing that he killed them since he saw too much "evil" in the world.
List evaded capture for several decades, until an episode of "America's Most Wanted" that aired in 1989 led to his discovery, arrest and eventual conviction. He died in 2008.
In real life, the Broadduses hired several experts — including a private investigator and two former FBI agents — to help them determine the identity of "The Watcher." Like Dumezweni's character Theodora, who isn't based on any one real person in particular, the experts the Broadduses assembled tried to keep the investigation going even when police leads led nowhere.