TV & Movies

Surviving Jeffrey Epstein Producers Overhauled The Show After Ghislaine Maxwell's Arrest

They're committed to making the docuseries "a continuing story."

Jeffrey Epstein and Ghislaine Maxwell
Patrick McMullan/Patrick McMullan/Getty Images

After Netflix debuted Jeffrey Epstein: Filthy Rich, Lifetime followed up with a docuseries of their own: Surviving Jeffrey Epstein, which further explores Epstein's alleged history of sex trafficking and sexual abuse. Both shows cover similar material, but Surviving Jeffrey Epstein premiered after Epstein's alleged co-conspirator Ghislaine Maxwell was arrested. (Maxwell has pled not guilty to all charges.) As such, producers have hinted that Surviving Jeffrey Epstein could return for Season 2 despite being billed as a limited series. With Maxwell's case ongoing, the creators could reasonably film a Part 2 covering Maxwell's arrest and her impending trial.

As producers Robert Friedman, Anne Sundberg, and Ricki Stern explained to ABC News, Surviving Jeffrey Epstein underwent several changes during filming to keep up with the news in real time. The first time the filmmakers had to regroup was in August 2019, when Epstein died by suicide in his prison cell after he was arrested on sex trafficking charges.

His death “opened up the opportunity to say to their interview subjects, ‘You don’t have to hold anything back. The guy is dead,'" Stern said. "I think had he not been found dead, there may have been more legal maneuvering and careful consideration around."

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But Sundberg also noted that "there was a feeling of real helplessness in the wake of Epstein’s death" and "a sense there will never be any clarity or justice." This is what made Maxwell's recent arrest so important; it's the first step in giving the victims the chance to perhaps one day face their alleged abuser in court.

So the team retooled the fourth episode to focus on Maxwell's alleged crimes, rather than have it be a roundtable with survivors. Maxwell’s arrest just a month before the series' premiere kicked off a race to incorporate all the new information, but Friedman said they were determined to "tell a story basically in real time."

According to the indictment, Maxwell is being charged with enticing a minor to travel to engage in criminal sexual activity, transporting a minor with the intent to engage in criminal sexual activity, conspiracy to commit both of those offenses, and perjury in connection with a sworn deposition. She has not been charged with sexual exploitation or abuse as Epstein was, but the case may evolve as more evidence is unearthed. With Maxwell introducing Epstein to many rich and powerful men like Prince Andrew and Donald Trump, there's been speculation about who else could be implicated in the following months.

"We need [Maxwell] to talk, but she doesn't deserve a plea deal," Virginia Giuffre, who has accused Maxwell of "acting as a madam" for Epstein, told CNN.

Similar to how Surviving R. Kelly debuted the follow-up Surviving R. Kelly Part II: The Reckoning a year later to keep pressure on the accused, so too do the creators of Surviving Jeffrey Epstein intend to keep Maxwell in the public eye. As Friedman told ABC, their intention is "to tell this as a continuing story" as her case plays out in court.