Usually, serial killers are portrayed on television as complete monsters, even if they're so charming you can't help but watch them, but new series Mary Kills People is taking a different angle on the typical TV killer. Because while the titular character does bring people to their deaths, she's a doctor who euthanizes her patients, not a murderer with elaborate rituals, like Hannibal or Dexter. Is Mary Kills People based on a true story? Well, yes and no. Certainly, the issue of euthanasia — medically assisted suicide — is a real one, and has been the subject of political debates around the US and the world, but the characters in this series are completely original. And that makes sense, because the show's approach is a little unconventional for one about a hot-button issue — it's frequently irreverent, and while what Mary is doing is technically illegal, for many of the characters, she's providing a service they believe they have the right to choose.
But according to star Caroline Dhavernas, who plays Mary, the show just so happened to wind up as a trenchant commentary. Dhavernas told The Canadian Press, "It's kind of a happy coincidence because it's already a subject matter that people are interested in, I think." In Canada, where Mary Kills People was filmed and has already aired, assisted dying is legal, within certain parameters, based on a court ruling on June 17, 2016. And Dhavernas thinks Mary Kills People will appeal to US viewers, too. She told The Hollywood Reporter, "I know things are different in America, and that's why they were happy and taken with it — maybe they feel they have a lot to talk about." In the US, physician assisted suicide is legal in Oregon, California, Vermont, Washington, and Montana, according to The Washington Times.
Dhavernas also adds that the show isn't necessarily on the same page as Mary is, and certainly not with her methods. "I was convinced, as Mary is, that it should be a choice that we can make for ourselves. But other characters on the show don't agree. Some will learn to reflect upon the subject and change their views, but I think it's interesting that [creator and co-showrunner Tara Armstrong] has studied it from every angle and didn't really take a position," she told The Canadian Press. Armstrong also explained how the complexity of the issue drove her to write Mary Kills People. "There’s many arguments for and against it, and I think all those arguments are valid and that we should explore them tirelessly. I don’t know that this is something we’ll ever completely figure out because of the complexity of the issue," she told the TV Junkies.
Mary Kills People isn't aiming to adapt any of the real people fighting for or against physician assisted suicide. But it is taking advantage of a real debate to make this series a more complex version of both a medical show and a serial killer drama.