Is Mel From 'The Act' Based On A Real Person? Chloe Sevigny's Character Is Integral To The Series
Hulu's The Act doesn't pull punches when it comes to portraying the harrowing, real-life relationship between Dee Dee Blanchard and her daughter Gypsy Rose Lee. While the series is an exercise in turning a true story into a dramatic series, not every element of the series is based in fact. Actually, one of the show's key supporting characters, Mel, played by Chloë Sevigny, is fictional, as is the character's daughter Lacy, played by AnnaSophia Robb. While the character may be fictionalized, there's a clear correlation between Mel from The Act and a real person featured in the Buzzfeed article that broke the story of the Blanchards to the world at large.
The first season of The Act cites the 2016 Buzzfeed article "Dee Dee Wanted Her Daughter To Be Sick, Gypsy Wanted Her Mom Murdered" as the inspiration for the show, according to Deadline, and the article's author Michelle Dean serves as the show's co-runner (alongside Nick Antosca). In that article, there's one neighbor who is mentioned multiple times as someone whose family had a close relationship with the Blanchards and were among the most shocked to learn the truth about the Blanchard family — specifically, that Gypsy was not as sick as she appeared and was not, in fact, wheelchair bound.
The neighbor mentioned in the Buzzfeed article is Amy Pinegar, was a close friend to both Dee Dee and Gypsy. Dee Dee reportedly told Amy that Gypsy's father was a cruel alcoholic and that they had escaped an abusive household to take care of Gypsy's array of illnesses. Pinegar would also drive the two of them two and from the airport and bring them things from the store to help out. Pinegar told Dean in the Buzzfeed article that she wondered about Dee Dee's mental health at times, being the sole caregiver of such a reportedly ill daughter. After learning the truth, she told Dean, "No one raised an eyebrow. Were they behind closed doors laughing at us?”
Amy's name is not used in The Act, possibly so that the writers could take some liberties with the role of Mel to help bring Blanchard's story to the small screen. It's also possible that the series creators didn't want to bring Pinegar's name into the conversation in such a big way. Pinegar appears to keep off of social media, which is probably a smart move being so close to a case that has captivated audiences again and again.
In any case, Sevigny's character Mel is pretty obviously a stand-in for the skeptical, but helpful, neighbor. And the actresses must have gotten close on set, too. She posted a picture of Joey King, who plays Gypsy in the series, to Instagram with the caption, "Recently had the pleasure and privilege to work along side this young powerhouse. I was continually wowed by her talent, kindness and wicked humor. Don’t miss her heartbreaking turn [as Gypsy]."
While Pinegar herself is not reflected in The Act, her role as key neighbor is representative of not just her story, but all of the Blanchard's neighbors who dedicated their time and energy to the mother of a girl with many chronic illnesses, only to discover the truth.