Tonight, Doomsday Mom: The Lori Vallow Story
, premieres on Lifetime as their next film in their “Summer of Secrets” lineup. The story is based on real events and follows Vallow (Lauren Lee Smith), who gained media attention when it was reported her children, J.J. And Tylee went missing. She and her husband, Chad Daybell (Marc Blucas), were part of a doomsday prepper group. The bodies of the children were later found in the backyard of Chad’s home. The film also stars Linda Purl and Patrick Duffy.
Stars Smith, Blucas, Purl, and Duffy recently talked to the media as part of a press conference, in which SciFi Vision took part, to promote the film.
Summer of Secrets Video Conference
Doomsday Mom: The Lori Vallow Story
Stars Lauren Lee Smith, Marc Blucas, Linda Purl, and Patrick Duffy
Wednesday, May 19, 2021
**This transcript was in bad shape, and not transcribed by SciFi Vision. It was edited to the best of our abilities. The video was not able to be downloaded to run through our software. Please excuse grammatical errors, formatting, etc.***
Hi all, our next panel is Doomsday Mom, The Lori Vallow Story.
I'd like to introduce our cast
Lauren Lee Smith, Marc Blucas, Linda Purl and Patrick Duffy.
Hi everyone. Question is for Lauren, how familiar were you with the Lori Vallow case before taking on this role, and what was the most surprising thing you learned about the case that you wanted to make sure was portrayed on screen, and the same to you, Marc?
LAUREN LEE SMITH:
Wow, no, I actually wasn't. It was at a time where I think we were all in full blown lockdown COVID craziness, and I was up here in Toronto with my young daughter just trying to sort of keep sane. There was no TV around, so, I had no idea about this story. It first was brought to my attention through our director, actually, Bradley Walsh. He had reached out to me a couple of weeks before shooting, and we were just sort of catching up, and he was asking me like what I would like to do next. Then, I was like, “Yeah, I'm really looking for something to sort of sink my teeth into and challenge me in a new, exciting way.” And sort of one thing led to another, and then, I found out that that I would be coming to do this with him.
And I think what surprised me the most was just the initial sort of reaction of finding out the story in general and finding out exactly who this woman is and what had happened. I think the initial shock.
How about you Marc?
You know, for me, I had known about it, I guess, in a very peripheral kind of way, and it had been a year since everything had happened. So, you know, the first thing I did, as we probably all do, is you get on the Internet. Boom. [I typed] these two in, and the first thing that came up was the mug shot. To me, two things came to my mind right away when I saw them that really attracted me to the project and taking on the role of Chad, which was when I saw [these] two people, and this is going to sound very shallow at first, but you kind of look at Lori on the surface, and in a very just first glance way, it's like, “Oh, there's a very attractive woman there.” And then you see Chad, and I was like, “Maybe not so much,” and I was like, “What was the initial draw?”And the other thing I thought about that mug shot was that in his face I saw remorse, and in hers, I didn't. And from what I hadrecalled [of] the story and what I just started the research of, it really felt like - and again we have a lot here; we don't have all the answers just yet - but that Chad really started taking Lori down a very committed path, and at some point in their journey, it's almost like she leapfrogged him in the power dynamics or in the commitment of their beliefs. And I just thought that was a fascinating study, not only is as an actor, but as a singular character, but seeing how we could make that relationship evolve, because we already know that the public knows so much. So, what Lauren and I and Bradley had all talked about is like, what we don't know is what happened behind closed doors between these two people. Exploring that to see this journey and how they get to make these decisions that they made, I thought, was an interesting study.
So, obviously these characters are based on real life people, but what I want to know is what part of yourselves did you bring into the roles? LAUREN LEE SMITH:
Well. That's a tough one, but.
Well, I'm a passionate person.
How did you connect to them as people? Maybe that was a better way to phrase it. MARC BLUCAS:
Again, it was kind of said in jest, but…I mean, at the end of the day, these are not great people, and it's our jobs as actors to kind of find how we can like them ourselves and portray something that's three dimensional and real. At the end of the day, I just said it in a way, it's just like, I'm a very committed and passionate person, and I’m about different things that I think that Chad was committed and passionate about, and what he tried to do [in that] he tried to bring people together as a leader, I guess, in this. But you can't question the fact that they had a conviction of what they believed, and I may not be in the same category in what they believed, but having that kind of conviction I could relate to and start there from.
LAUREN LEE SMITH:
Yeah, exactly that's really sort of all you can do with these characters is find exactly that, and then just trying to come and find the little moments [of] humanity. You know, I'm a mother, so trying to sort of find those moments where you could see her love for JJ and for Tylee, I sort of really infused that as much as possible. But yeah, other than that, that wasn't the easiest part of this job.
Patrick, Linda anything to add? PATRICK DUFFY:
Well, we have the easier track of these characters. We had to be the sort of calming and rational side of looking at all of these horrific things that were happening. So, you know, we were grandparents. And as a grandparent myself, I know what that feels like, and I then was able to completely support what Linda was doing as really the fire brand of the two characters that we played. She was the relentless one that was in pursuit of justice in an ongoing situation, which is even more difficult in making this film. And I credit everybody, from Karen and Ann, and the actors, Marc and Lauren, and Bradley and everybody, with being able tothread that fine line of fiction that we are doing based on a real story, but keep, especially those two characters, in a humanity arena, so that it does not become…cartoonish in its evilness. Everybody has to recognize a bit of humanity that contains that devilish nature, and we are in control of it most of the time. That, to me, is the interesting part about the script. And the two lead actors were, you know, really tasked with doing [something] amazing. And plus, the fact [that] except for
one little Christmas dinner scene,we never shared the camera with either of those two characters, so we had our own little movie going that you guys didn't even know about.
That's why you said yes to the job, we know.
LAUREN LEE SMITH:
We get it. LINDA PURL:
I think, as Lauren said, and Mark too, that we're all parents, and so it ignites certainly the Mama bear in me. I mean, it's actually unimaginable, thank God, you know, the horror that this tale unfolds, but I think that that unbelievable journey of notknowing where your loved ones are, was interesting to visit.
My question is for Patrick and Linda. It’s nice to see you together, since we know you're together, and I hope that doesn't sound too ingracious, but were the two of you cast a package deal in this? Or was one of you cast first and super suggested the other person? PATRICK DUFFY:
Well, we were driving to Colorado from California when the phone rang and we almost made a U-turn, but we said, “No, we gotta get back to change our underwear and then go back to work.” But I actually think, you know, in deference, I think Linda's name might have been mentioned first in terms of this when I look at the chronology and the phone messages, and then the conversations that all of your people have when you're doing these things, you know, I think the sequence was Linda and Patrick, not Patrick and Linda.
I think it was Patrick and Linda.
But it doesn't matter. It was our first chance to work together, [our] first chance to actually play a husband and wife, and the other thing that Linda keeps saying, and so I'm stealing all of her good lines, that it's the first time as actors we've ever walked to the set holding hands with the person you’re with.LINDA PURL:
It felt weird, but, yeah, I guess, it's okay. At the end of a scene, I guess, Patrick patted me on the bottom and said, “Nice job, honey,” and I thought, “Well, that's the first time that's ever happened.” It was fun.
It was wonderful, and it was a great thing for us, because you never know.
It could have been a disaster.
We could have completely polar opposite ways.
That's how you're gonna do the scene?
Yeah, well, I usually have a drink before every scene.
It was at least reassuring. I was so glad to see you were still together. Are they flying together? Or independently?
Quarantine was the challenge. It was like, “Are we gonna make it through 14 days of quarantine?” But we did. Yeah, it was fun.
…I was wondering, Linda and Patrick, if you could give us any background as to what you think your characters were like before the movie started, and then how they progressed?LINDA PURL:
We don't know that much, really. I mean, just what's available on the on the Internet and what the script gave us, but they seem to be very hardworking, family-oriented people, smart, successful in their careers, and then, suddenly this. You know, they were a very closely knit family would say, right?
And if you're if you're asking the question, personally, what happens to us after doing something like this? Although we weren't in the depths that Lauren and Marc were, but you are affected by it, especially when you have children. And now that I have four grandchildren, and it is inconceivable first of all, to right minded people that these things actually occur, and you enter going into this reading the script, [going], “I'm doing it,” but in the heat of the scenes of which we were together as a couple, it builds and your fascination and repulsion at the same time as to what these human beings have to go through and what they will carry with them for the rest of their lives. And you get just a smattering of it by having occupied their space for a moment, and you look at your children differently, because you know what the potential is, and it does affect you, and it affected me, not deeply in the sense that I'm tormented by it, but I am aware of it in different depth now of what the potential is in the human being. And it's frightening and encouraging in terms of who you look at as your characters in this film.
And Linda, did you have anything to add to that?LINDA PURL:
Oh, thank you.
I don't see how she could.
I thought it was brilliant. It was really. I was in the Grand Canyon with my son, who was then about 8 years old, and I lost him for the ten longest minutes of my life, and it's an out of body electric shock experience that I wouldn't wish on anyone. So, I was able to sort of conjure that up when we're looking for justice when we're looking for the grandkids, or when we know my brother's been killed. But I think, as Patrick says, you just drop to your knees grateful that your family is safe, and it tends to highlight that gratitude in our lives when you walk down, even for a few minutes, the road of these people who have lost so much. I have no idea how you recover from that.
And Lauren, what do you think? How do you think the character, or the real person, however you like to interpret it, how she went from two loving parents to becoming this person who ends up killing her own children?LAUREN LEE SMITH:
Yeah, I mean, that's definitely something that I had to sort of I think play around with in my own sort of interpretation of this character, even though she's very much alive and we know certain facts about her. I think, for me, just on a personal level, to sort of dig into this character and sort of, not justify, but give some sort of back story and create this sort of back story in my own head for her, so, you know, it's very strange. I don't know. It's unimaginable to me how someone can go from sort of being brought up in this loving family, which is what we've been told to believe, to becoming this person who would do these absolutely heinous things. So, yeah, I guess the only way that I was able to sort of come to terms with it is to sort of really come up with my own back story that perhaps her past and her childhood and her personal life and whatever is maybe not exactly what [we’ve] read or seen or believed up until this point, that there perhaps is some major trauma or some major incidents or some whatever it could possibly be to bring her to the point that she was at in her life. I answered it, took it upon myself to do that.
You're being very sweet for not throwing me under the bus. The reality is that when we both got there, we were freaking out. And I had called Lauren immediately, and I said - because that's the big question, right? “How did they go from everydaypeople that we assume, think, and decide have a moral compass in a certain direction, suddenly getting to the point where they're going to kill their kids and then walk around in Hawaii and [act] as if nothing has happened?” And we literally sat there and got Karen and Bradley on the phone after we made our, you know, 4 gigabyte list of questions that we had. This is real, and how do we tackle this, because this is it, and it goes back to what I had said before, a little bit about that kind of like commitment and passion forsomething that you suddenly get so the blinders get on so much, that everything, all the collateral damage that happens you, [you] end up not seeing. And so, it was almost - I give Lauren a lot of credit, because it was kind of a two-part process of creating Chad for me. Like we really kind of had to approach these characters together in a sense as one, because I was in the process of gainingweight, so I kept saying, “Can we meet back at the croissant place?” We kind of kept going to anywhere I could eat massive amounts of food to keep gaining weight for the role and trying to tackle and make sense of that question and going through beat by beat of saying, “Okay, here's the arc of this, when does this moment happen? Where they decide to go beyond the point of no return?” almost.
Thank you. Hey Patrick and Linda, you play characters that are one generation of removed from the central story here.I'm just wondering, when you go into those characters, when you
start thinking about them, did you think of them as people whoshould have felt guilty, should have felt some responsibility, should have would have been in complete denial? I mean, how do you know where you start from on a point with parents of people who are parents of people who are involved with something like this?
Well, I don't think denial, although maybe we missed that, maybe we should have. No, I think that their merit in this story is that they fearlessly sort of faced this possibility and became the champions for truth and protection. And I think that's sort of a cautionary tale maybe to take away from the film, in that in these kinds of situations, don't fail to act. These people did not fail to act, and all their actions and seeking of truth and pushing the police and the detectives, it was too late, but in another instance, itmight not have been. And so, in these kinds of horrid situations any one of us, you know, God forbid we're in it, but you have to be vigilant, and you have to be forceful. PATRICK DUFFY:
Yeah, I think there is an element of self-reflection when this happens. Maybe not regret or denial, but, as a parent, now my children are in their 40s, but when there would be rough patches in their upbringing, where they might do things outside of the box that I thought was [in]appropriate behavior, here is an element in me that says, “Should I have foreseen this? Should I have forestalled this? Was there something I should have or could have or might have said that just would have deflected it enough?” So, for my character in this, although Linda's character was much more doggedly active, my character was written as somewhat more passive and quiet, and I think part of that was that self-reflection of he was the, quote, unquote, chauvinistically sounding, but the bread earner, the man of the family. And yet all of this happened. “How could that happen on his watch?” had to be part of his processing, so that was the only thing that I could say where I might have felt a bit responsible as a character for the outcome, not that I thought the character did anything wrong, but what could he have done, I think, was the divergent point for me of accepting responsibility partially for what happened.
And that's probably human nature too. In any disaster, there's that lovely phrase, magical thinking, and that we all know what on earth, no matter how irrational, what could I have done? How could I have changed things? How could I have missed the signs? I mean, I think we all go through these kinds of thoughts.