Based on its trailers and promotional photos, Freeform's new series Guilt looks seriously addictive. Set in London, the crime drama focuses on a wealthy American student, Grace, whose roommate is found brutally murdered in their apartment. When Grace displays strange behavior in the days after the murder, she quickly becomes a suspect in the crime. This plotline undoubtedly sounds quite familiar to anyone who followed the Amanda Knox case — but is Guilt based on a true story? Although the series drew inspiration from real life cases, including Knox's, it's a decidedly fictional show.
In an interview with TV Line, co-creator Kathryn Price noted that “there are things from” the Knox case that influenced Guilt's premise — the most obvious of which is the plot device of a young woman whose study abroad experience takes a majorly unexpected turn when she becomes a suspect in the high-profile murder of her roommate. As reported by the New York Post, Knox was charged with the murder of her roommate in Italy in 2007 and though the was convicted twice, both convictions were overturned and in March 2015 she was fully acquitted. Throughout the case, Knox maintained her innocence.
However, Price also cited a different murder case that many of us may not have immediately associated with Guilt's plot:
“Over the last 10 years – even dating back to the O.J. trial – all these sensational murder cases that have become this international media storm were really interesting to us. We were really fascinated by the idea of taking one case and looking at it from all of these different points of view: the suspect, the police, the defense attorneys and the media.”
In short, the showrunners are far more interested in exploring every angle of a high-profile murder case than basing their series on one specific crime, which has a lot of potential for an interesting series. Furthermore, it's thought-provoking to look at a murder investigation through the eyes of everyone involved, from the suspect to law enforcement to attorneys. But, it looks like Guilt will also throw in plenty of fictional scandal and drama that isn't quite as realistic as other aspects of the show:
In its official synopsis, Freeform describes Guilt as "soapy" and notes that "the mystery will twist through all layers of London society – from a posh but depraved sex club and all the way up to the Royal Family itself." (How in the world did an American student form connections with the Royal Family? I can't wait to find out.) These elements will undoubtedly make the show fun and exciting to watch, but they don't exactly sound realistic. In a positive review of Guilt, The Wall Street Journal summed it up as being "utterly unrealistic" at times, citing law enforcement's handling of the crime scene and the naiveté of a U.S. Embassy official as examples.
So, while the showrunners have been open about the fact that they borrowed elements from real life investigations, Guilt is not based on a specific case and there will be plenty of aspects that are clearly just for TV.